Before there were Wimmin’s dances in the 1970s in the Valley, there were turn-of-the-century “Freshman Frolics” at Smith College, as elucidated here by Smith alumni Stacy Braverman, who was a student when she wrote this piece for the original chapbook. The Freshman Frolics ended in 1939 and it appears to me to be one of the changes incurred when the College reacted defensively to the invention and popularization of the concept of the homosexual as a perverse identity.
Crushes at Smith by Stacy Braverman
In the early days of Smith College, there was a strong tradition of “crushes” between first-year students and upperclasswomen. A 1900 article entitled “Unwritten Laws at Smith” details the rules: First-years were expected to have older crushes, and run errands for, bring flowers to, and compliment them at every opportunity. Rumors spread with great velocity about who had a crush on whom.
From approximately 1890 to 1915, the Freshman Frolic, which had been held since 1879, became centered on the crush relationship. Older students would invite first-years to the dance, and serve as their escorts for the evening. They serenaded their guests, presented them to the student body, and danced with them. After the dance, students ate dessert in their escorts’ bedrooms and then rushed home for their 10pm curfews. By the 1920s, parents began attending the Frolic and the crush aspect disappeared. The Frolic itself ended in 1932.
While having a crush was an important part of a Smith student’s first year, it was not expected to become a truly romantic relationship in the modern sense. Nonetheless, the crush was disdained by many outside of Smith. A 1904 article in the Smith College Monthly depicted a typical student’s first trip home from Smith. When she told her aunt about her crush, her aunt described Smith College life as “unnatural.”
__ Braverman, Stacy. 2004. One of a series of pieces on Smith College’s LGBTQ history written for this project when it was to be a chapbook published for Northampton’s birthday. Stacy was the archivist for the SC LGBTQ group and with another student is responsible for preserving and making available a collection of material from that group.
__Graphic in Crush folder at College Archives (in the Magic File). Pamphlet called “The Babies’ Own Journal” page 4, “The Lady from the Lodge.” Humorous magazine produced by the Class of 1908, describing crush customs. Courtesy Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton MA.
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This is a hoot – thanks
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