Established in 1994, the Women and Leadership Archives (WLA) collects, preserves, and makes available permanently valuable records of women and women’s organizations, which document women’s lives, roles, and contributions. The WLA grew out of the need to care for the records of Mundelein College and expanded to collect papers of women leaders and women’s organizations. Collection strengths include the subject areas of activism and women’s issues; authors; education; environmental issues; public service; social justice; women religious; and the fine, performance, and visual arts.
The WLA is part of the Gannon Center and Loyola University Libraries and serves a wide variety of users, ranging from students and scholars to the general public. The WLA makes records available at the Archives in Loyola’s Piper Hall, offers remote reference services, presents programs, and provides online resources. Staff include a Director, Assistant Archivist, and graduate assistants from Loyola’s Public History Program.
The phrase “Home Ec” conjures scenes of students crowded around stoves, struggling with sewing needles, or caring for imitation babies. Middle and high schoolers, usually girls, learning basic life and housekeeping skills. Something of a dying art in our modern world, it’s rare to see Home Economics programs at secondary schools, and rarer still to see them at the collegiate level, but there was a time where Home Economics was a thriving field and popular choice for undergraduate study. Mundelein College was no exception. In fact, Mundelein just so happens to have had one of the best programs in the country. But what does an undergraduate program in Home Economics look like? I explored some of the WLA’s records from Mundelein College to learn more.
The WLA’s collection features photographs, oral histories, and department and faculty records that tell the story of a Home Economics program that, over the years, enriched the lives of students, empowered them to seek out fulfilling careers, and pushed the field forward. In the early years of Mundelein, there were a variety of subjects that fell under the umbrella of Home Economics. From department reports from the 1930s, we can see that the program offered courses on dietetics and nutrition, cooking, fashion, cosmetics, home management, personal finance, and interior design. Many of these courses take a scientific, historical, or market research approach to the subject at hand, providing not only manual training, but also a thorough understanding of the how and why behind the work. Coursework in nutrition was especially robust and was a common specialization for Home Economics majors to choose.
This post was updated with new research and republished in April 2023. It was originally published in January 2023.
The 1960s were a tumultuous time for college students. The decade saw a surge of activism led by students across the United States. Between the war in Vietnam and the growth of the Civil Rights Movement, it is difficult to find a college student who did not take part in one activist cause or another. Mundelein College was not exempt from this student activism. The campus saw huge demonstrations against the war. The October Moratorium of 1969 saw 85% of Mundelein’s campus participate in anti-war activities . When reviewing the Women and Leadership Archives’ collection of this period, especially the Mundelein Voices Media Portal, it is difficult to ignore the prevalence of anti-war involvement on campus. However, finding evidence of the activism of Black students at Mundelein can be more difficult.
The 1960s were brimming with national Black student activism. Organizations like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the Black Panther Party helped to shape a growing Black student movement, which reached its zenith during the decade . By 1968, many universities had Black student organizations. By the beginning of the ’70s, many of these organizations were using their power to make themselves heard. Universities such as the University of Kansas and the University of Wisconsin at Madison were rocked by strikes led by their respective Black student unions . Mundelein was not immune to the wave of Black empowerment that led to vocal activism. In the fall semester of 1969 Black students at Mundelein formed a group to work collectively for their goals.
It was the place to be. In the first half of the twentieth century, when summertime arrived in Chicago, the scene at the Edgewater Beach Hotel never ceased to amaze. Beneath the moonlit sky, visitors flocked to the hotel’s beach front to dance the night away under the stars. The parties and concerts held here were legendary, stories of which spread across the nation through the wonders of radio. Cherishing the cool breeze emanating from Lake Michigan, visitors joyously swung to the rhythm of the greatest Big Band jazz orchestras of the day, celebrating the opulence of the Roaring Twenties atop the only outdoor marble dance floor in the country.
One of the key features of the Edgewater Beach Hotel was its beach walk, pictured here on a night in 1948. Dancing would run late into the evening, spurred on by jazz orchestras playing in the ‘Band Shell.’ Courtesy of the Edgewater Historical Society.
Nothing says “Happy Holidays” quite like a party! Each of us hold age long traditions and precious memories close this time of year, no matter how we celebrate. The winter season allows us to slow down our regularly scheduled lives and join together in good will. As Catholic institutions, both Loyola University and Mundelein College celebrated, and still celebrate, the tradition of a vespers service as a way to offer prayers of thanksgiving and receive blessings during Advent as a community. This year’s Vespers was held on December 3rd in Coffey Hall, a former Mundelein building, but how did this honored tradition start here in Rogers Park?
Mundelein College affiliated with Loyola University in 1991 and took up the Mundelein tradition too. Although the evening prayer service is centuries old, this was the first year it had taken place in the way we still understand it today within our community. When first started, the event was held entirely in the Skyscraper building as an open house, welcoming Mundelein College alumni, former staff, and friends to join together to celebrate Advent, including our very own Sister Jean!
This jovial turtle named Terry, dressed here as Santa Claus going down a chimney, served as the mascot for the Mundelein College Terrapin Club. Founded in 1931, the Terrapin Club was the competitive swimming club of the all-girls school until the club dissolved in the early 1980s. The activities of the club throughout the years were documented in two scrapbooks recently digitized as part of the Mundelein at 90 project. The calendar year of a Terrapin didn’t start during the holiday season; from fall to spring, these swimmers had a packed calendar, starting with tryouts early in the school year.
Terrapin tryouts were open to any student at Mundelein College, even if they were not in the swimming class. The group consisted of two skill levels, the Junior and Senior Terrapins. Any student with a successful tryout became a pledge of the club until initiation a week later. The most important part of pledge week was playful humiliation. Through the years, pledges had to engage in peculiar tasks such as collecting signatures on bathing caps, greeting Terrapin members with the phrase “I am a poor fish”, and even walking around the halls of Mundelein wearing a swim cap, swim shoes, and a life preserver around their neck while carrying either a fish or a turtle. Luckily for the new members, the initiation ceremony at the end of the week put a stop to the madness.
Wildcats, Phoenix, and Dragons aren’t the only valid mascots for universities in Chicago, and while the LU Wolf follows the theme, Mundelein has experimented freely and creatively with mascots over the years. From a spunky turtle named Terry to the façade of Mundelein itself, join me in looking back at some of Mundelein’s most iconic representatives.
And make sure you stick around till the end where I’ll show Mundelein’s most intriguing attempt at a university mascot.
Like many universities, Mundelein has deep roots in sports and competition. Ping pong, tennis, swimming, horseback riding, and even football make up just a portion of the physical activity offered to the young women at Mundelein. Mundelein students don’t appear to need help representing themselves, and plenty of photos exist in the collection that underscore the importance of sport to these college students. Uniforms, Mundelein signs, and posing with sports equipment replace a unified mascot across campus.
Figure 2: Mundelein College Horseback Riding Club raise hands while posing on horses at the Parkway Riding Academy during the MC Riding Club Annual Horse Show, 1940.
This is part two of a two-part post in which graduate students examined how Mundelein College students wrote about World War II in The Skyscraper student newspaper. This post spans the years 1942-1946, covering immediately after the U.S. enters the war and continuing a year after Japan’s unconditional surrender in September 1945, as the world works to rebuild and recover. Read Part One here.
Following the United States’ entry into World War II, Mundelein student’s coverage of events in the student newspaper, The Skyscraper, strongly centered around college women’s civic duties to aid the war effort. For young Catholic women attending school, these daily activities were bolstered along by spiritual practices of prayers as well as being driven through more physically tangible support. Their focus was to educate themselves to be independent, responsible thinkers who were civically active. With the uptick of the war, focus was also placed on personal sacrifice by way of responsible consumption and rationing. Fewer Cokes and candies purchased each week meant a few more dimes sent to the war effort.
Mundelein students were active in partnering with the Red Cross, whose standard courses certified over 200 faculty and students in first aid. Numerous drives were held from 1941 through the war’s end to generate funds and materials for the war effort. Mundelein students sold war bonds, invested in War Stamps and gathered scrap metal. Many of these drives were for a specific goal of supplying the US Army with Jeeps. By the end of May 1943, students at Mundelein reported raising a total of $17,232.15, which including inflation as of July 2022, equals around $295,149. By December 1945, the Skyscraper reported their total drive efforts to be “well over $100,000” since 1942. With inflation, that total reaches nearly $1.82 million. Both inflation calculations are from US Inflation Calculator based off the latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) from the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor in July 2022.
This is part one of a two-part post in which graduate students examined how Mundelein College students wrote about World War II in The Skyscraper student newspaper. This post spans the years 1937-1941, covering the time leading up to the U.S. entering the war following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Read part two of the series HERE.
The period in the late thirties leading up to World War II, the United States was marked by the stirrings of conflict abroad. While still reflecting upon a world changed by World War I, students became increasingly aware and concerned about the trouble brewing in Europe and particularly with Japan and China. The January 22 edition of The Skyscraper in 1937 urged students to “re-arm [their] soul[s] for another year in conflict.” Many of the articles written around this time placed much of their emphasis and message on spiritual resilience, and the duties of Catholics to uphold and promote peace. Students participated in peace marches and attended lectures on how peace could be obtained through social reform.
I am so grateful for my experience at the WLA over the last few months. As a recent undergraduate, this summer has been both a thorough introduction to the day-to-day practices of archival work and an engrossing delve into the history of Mundelein College.
As a metadata and digitization assistant for the IHDI grant project, I spent a lot of time this summer with the Mundelein College Photograph Collection, writing metadata for photographs I scanned. For context, metadata is often referred to as ‘information about information’; for example, the metadata for a single photograph in a WLA collection includes the date it was taken, its dimensions and format, a description and transcription of what’s happening in the photograph (which often requires outside research), and organizational tags for both the archive’s internal system and external researchers – as well as several other categories.
Compiling metadata is a slow and repetitive process which requires careful attention to method and detail. It’s a very different way of processing information than academic research or personal interest. Learning to contextualize the details of these individuals’ college lives was honestly more fun than anything, but it came to feel primarily like an act of care – care for the memory of the students who were grateful to have opportunities which they understood as rare and remarkable, and care for the institution they were heartbroken to see disappear.
Outside of photo scanning, there was also the review of Mundelein student publications, which was often “difficult” work, if only because of the constant impulse to stop counting pages or checking for scanning errors and instead read a super weird poem (I say this with so much affection) or reflect on a piece of literary criticism for a novel which I and a student in 1950 apparently had a very similar experience with.
After several years of voluntary archival work, my first official appointment as a Digitization and Metadata Assistant at the Women and Leadership Archives came at the perfect time. At the tail end of my graduate education in Public History and Library Science, I gained incredibly useful knowledge and experience in a field I wanted so badly to be part of while working with a rich and compelling collection. With only brief and tangential previous archival experience, I felt nervous about my ability to do this kind of work well. Not only did my time at the WLA confirm my ability to do archival work well, but it has also reassured me that my career is absolutely headed in the right direction.
The digitization process for the Mundelein College Photograph Collection required me to tap into my problem-solving skills. I love this aspect of archival work. As I worked out the idiosyncrasies of digitizing this collection, I was asked to make updates to the written scanning instructions used for this project, a small but concrete contribution I would leave behind.