About Women and Leadership Archives

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.

May Crownings, Mundelein College, and Mid-Century Women’s Catholicism

The May Crowning ceremony originated in the 16th century as a papal tradition and spread as a form of public veneration for the Blessed Virgin Mary until the mid-20th century, where it reached peak popularity in the United States.i The ritual was often celebrated in schools and parishes concurrently with Mother’s Day or First Communion ceremonies to celebrate the role of women in the Church.ii Young women were chosen from among their peers as most deserving of the honor of placing a crown of flowers atop a statue of Mary. The ‘May Queen’ and her attendants would dress in white and process around the campus or church grounds while other students, teachers, and parents gathered to watch and sing devotional hymns.  

Figure 1. Sodality prefect and May Queen Joan Haron crowns a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary with attendants Mary Agnes Moran and Marilyn Cuccio at Mundelein College’s 1954 May Crowning. 

May Crowning ceremonies were celebrated at Mundelein College* from the early 1930s through the mid-1960s. A 1942 planning bulletin concludes, “Remember that Coronation is an act of RELIGIOUS HOMAGE… And be dressed becomingly”.iii While in some years, Mundelein College students elected the worthiest representative from their peers to serve as the May Queen and her attendants, other years the prefect of the Sodality Club, the school’s lay religious group, was given the honor automatically.  

Students would process from the Skyscraper building to the steps of the library (later known as Piper Hall), with the May Queen and her attendants leading the procession, all wearing white or light-colored dresses, and the seniors processing behind them in graduation caps and gowns.iv In later years, the ceremony moved to the auditorium to eliminate possibly inclement weather.v 

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Mercy for the Devil: The Later Career of Mercedes McCambridge 

I am a huge fan of the horror genre and one of my all-time favorite films is 1973’s The Exorcist directed by William Fredkin, based on William Peter Blatty’s novel of the same name (also a personal favorite). Recently, I was tasked with working on updating the WLA’s collections page when I made an amazing discovery: our archives held the collection of a major star of this film. 

Figure 1. Photo of Mercedes McCambridge from the Mercedes McCambridge Collection, undated.

Mercedes McCambridge, who often felt more comfortable being addressed simply as Mercy, is perhaps the most famous graduate of Mundelein College*. Many students who take classes in the Mundelein skyscraper today do not realize that the building’s auditorium played a crucial role in the education of an Oscar-winning actor. A few years ago, my colleague Nathan recounted the impact of Mundelein College on McCambridge’s career in another post on the WLA blog titled “Acting Up: Mercedes McCambridge and Sister Mary Leola Oliver.” At the WLA, we often speak about McCambridge’s Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, awarded in 1949 for her role as Sadie Burke in All the King’s Men. I have, on several occasions, had reason to hold her Oscar in the course of research and am always amazed by the oddly heavy trophy. It was not until I was rewatching the 1973 horror classic that I realized that I had heard Mercy’s voice before I even knew what the WLA was. This discovery sent me on a journey of researching Mercy’s storied life. 

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“A Community Dream:” The Extended Evolution of Chicago’s Broadway Armory Park

Solitary man in the enormous gymnasium of the Broadway Armory Park. In the 1980s, the massive structure was retrofitted into the city of Chicago’s largest indoor recreational facility. Photograph housed here at the WLA. Courtesy of Friends of the Parks.

When exploring the Edgewater neighborhood on Chicago’s north side, one would have a hard time failing to notice the Broadway Armory. This ornate, gigantic structure—first built as an ice-skating rink in 1916—takes up an entire city block. Repurposed as an armory in response to WWI and race riots in Chicago, by the 1970s and 80s the building was falling apart and barely used. What was to become of this gigantic building?  

Historical photograph of the Broadway Armory Park, located in Edgewater on the corner of Thorndale and Broadway. Courtesy of Edgewater Historical Society. https://www.edgewaterhistory.org/ehs/local/slideshow3 – 5th image of slideshow
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Wearing Red and Gold: College Apparel and the Mundelein Spirit

Collegiate apparel is a booming industry, reported by Forbes in 2015 to be worth a whopping $4.6 billion dollars. Donning spirit-ware is a rite of passage for many college students, as they rush to buy new gear the moment they commit to their school of choice. This phenomenon is a continuation of a long history of representing your favorite university on your clothing, a tradition that Mundelein College* students participated in for decades. Journey through forty years of history as we ask the age-old question: who are you wearing?

Before printing your alma mater on your t-shirt came into vogue, Mundelein students found other pieces of memorabilia to show their school spirit. This group of ladies waved their goodbyes and their Mundelein pennants as they boarded an Eastern Airlines flight in 1960.

Mundelein College students smile and wave from the steps of a large airplane reading “Falcon Super Coach”. 1960, mc_travel_0158, Mundelein College Photo Collection
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Mundelein College Goes Digital!

On hand for the first print-out from Mundelein’s new computer system were (l. to r.) John Bisaha, director of planning, Susan Rink, BVM, president, and Mary Brenan Breslin, BVM, vice president for business affairs, 1977. Image and caption from Mundelein Now, May 1977.

After renting a computer system for three years, Mundelein College* finally purchased its very own computer in February 1977. Mundelein Now, a combination college events/alumnae newspaper, announced the news with pride. This first computer was used to transfer student data from the admissions office to the registrar once a student was enrolled. After graduation, the information would be transferred to the alumnae office. This replacement of physical records helped eliminate potential duplicates and made making changes to student records easier. It also allowed professors to access accurate lists of students registered for their classes. The lone computer was shared not only by admissions, the registrar, and the alumnae office but by the financial aid department and business office, where it would handle payroll, accounts payable and receivable, the general ledger, and personnel records. This paved the way to increased computer usage at Mundelein.  

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The Mundelein College Economics Club: History in a Scrapbook

During their time in college, students can participate in various activities, clubs, and extracurriculars. The number of options can be overwhelming. Extracurriculars can be a welcome invitation to expand the horizons of one’s interests or let students apply their education into real-world examples.

Figure 1: Sister Mary Gregoria Fogarty, BVM. Mundelein Colelge Records Box 29, Folder 4.

The Economics Club at Mundelein College gave students the opportunity to plan on-campus events and a chance to connect their faith within a larger framework. A scrapbook that was digitized during the Mundelein at 90 project highlights the work of the Economics Club throughout the 1940s and 1950s. The scrapbook includes newspaper articles, letters, meeting notes, and yearbook photographs.

During the 1940s, the Economics Club at Mundelein College thrived under the leadership of Sister Mary Gregoria Fogarty, BVM, the head of the Economics Department. In addition to teaching business and geography, Sister Mary Gregoria participated in several panels and wrote articles about business education for the Catholic Business Education Association (CBEA). She served as the secretary-general for the CBEA and chairman of the Executive board of the Midwest contingent. In 1947, the Midwest unit held the regional meeting on Mundelein’s campus. Public events like this exposed students to professionals in the field and introduced them to the work they could consider after graduation [1]. Presenters included business managers of local companies, administrators from university commerce departments, and bank vice-presidents. They discussed the role of Catholics in the business world and how students can be best prepared for the ”real-world”.

Figure 2: Invitation to the Dad-Daughter Discussion. Scrapbook 5, page 45-46.

Alongside these kinds of professional developments, Sister Mary Gregoria and the Economics Club organized economic-related events for the campus community and the general public. Some of the campus activities included Father-Daughter discussions on hot topics in economics, toy drives connected with local charities, and collaborative meetings with the Economics Club at Loyola University Chicago. The intersection of academics and faith seems to be a significant one for the Economics Club. Debates considered how to navigate labor-management dynamics and how best to settle worker disputes. Many of these discussions highlighted the role of the Catholic church in economic issues.

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A Brief Look into Home Economics at Mundelein College 

Figure 1: Home Economics class showing off their handmade cakes. View in Digital Collection

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.  

Figure 2: Two Mundelein Home Economics students working with sewing machines. View in Digital Collection

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.  

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“Young, Gifted, and Black”: MuCUBA and Black Student Activism at Mundelein

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 [1]. 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.

Figure 1. MuCuba Members. 1970 Mundelein Yearbook, page 18. View the Yearbook in our Digital Collections.

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 [2]. 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 [3]. 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.

Figure 2. Lane Tech High School African Ensemble singing at a Mundelein College Black History Month event. 1991.  View in the Illinois Digital Archives.
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“Dancing the Evening Away:” Mundelein College and the Edgewater Beach Hotel 

Postcard depicting the Edgewater Beach Hotel complex in its heyday. Originally consisting of three buildings, the one on the far right is the Edgewater Beach Apartments, still standing today and on the National Register of Historic Places. Courtesy of the Edgewater Historical Society.

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.

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Christmas at the Mansion : A Mundelein Gathering

Christmas Tree, Mundelein College Photo Collection Box 17, Folder 8

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!

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