Alumnae in Action: The History of Mundelein College Reunions and Homecomings

By Anna Kutter, with research assistance from Caroline Giannakopoulos 

Mundelein College reunions and homecomings offered alumnae the chance to revisit their college days throughout the political turbulence of the mid-to-late 20th century. Unlike many contemporary college reunion events & alumnae associations, these events didn’t focus solely on fundraising or seeing fellow alumnae. Instead, the emphasis was on the continuous provision of women’s educational opportunities, even long past students’ formal involvement with the college. 

Figure 1. Mundelein College alumnae attend a presentation at the college’s 1991 Homecoming. 
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Student Publications at Mundelein College

In order to celebrate the 90 year Anniversary of Mundelein College, the WLA applied for and received the Illinois History Digital Imaging grant. The IHDI grant is aimed at digitizing documents of historical significance and making them accessible at the Illinois Digital Archives. I have been lucky to be part of a team that is digitizing items from Mundelein College held at the WLA. We’re scanning and describing thousands of publications, photographs, and other items related to the history of Mundelein College so that they are more accessible to the public.[1]

Mundelein College Skyscraper staff celebrates receiving the All-American Honor Rating by the National Newspaper Critical Service of the Associated Collegiate Press. Pictured are Columnist Mary Anne Pope, Artist Diane Mazza, Contributor Carlotta Serritella, and Contributor Maureen Racine. This photo is from the Mundelein College Collection in the process of being digitized by the WLA. (1962-05-22)] [2] [ mc_student_pubs_0052].

Throughout the digitizing process, I’ve been fascinated by the rigor with which students published journals, newspapers, and pamphlets. Mundelein College students maintained a rich tradition of self-published literature of their sixty-year history. They collected articles and essays, cropped and captioned photos, and folded thousands of pages. The resulting, now digital, volumes demonstrate Mundelein College students’ work and the joy with which they performed it.

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Ladies’ Night: The Bars that Shaped Mundelein College

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Figure 1. A group of students celebrate their coming graduation at the annual “100 Days Party” at Hamilton’s Bar and Grill.

College campuses are complex organisms. They are made up of students, staff, faculty, halls, arenas, and libraries. The college experience is comprised of classes, organizations, student jobs, and groups of friends. For many students, the bars, clubs, and restaurants play a large part in not only their college experiences, but also of the college environment at large. Socialization is an integral part of college and one of the major factors that perspective students consider when choosing an institution. This was just as true for the students attending Mundelein College as it was for any student at any other university. While conducting interviews for the Share Your Story: Student Life at Mundelein Oral History Project, Mundelein alumnae often reflected on their experiences in these public social spaces as some of the most memorable. Local bars and restaurants like Hamilton’s and The Red Garter, while gone, live on in the memories that were made there. Mundelein yearbooks are filled with joyful pictures of these locales and the events and parties that went on there. From “Ladies” Night” to the “100 Days Party,” Mundelein students understood the importance of balancing academics with social activities. In remembering Mundelein College, we must accept a truth that where college students attend classes, they also attend parties, bars, and clubs.

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New Feminism in Chicago: The Feminist Voice

By Chris Mattix


This post is part of the WLA blog’s 2022 series written by guest writers. These writers are graduate students in the Public History program at Loyola University Chicago. Each visited the archives during Fall 2021, delved into the collections, and wrote about a topic not yet explored here. We are excited to share their research and perspectives!


On August 26, 1971, The Feminist Voice, a magazine “published in the interest of women” was first released in Chicago. Four years earlier, in 1967, the first “new feminist,” later known as “second wave feminist,” group in the United States was formed and released a regular newsletter, Voice of the Women’s Liberation Movement. It was from this Chicago Women’s Liberation Union newsletter that The Feminist Voice drew inspiration to report on the rise of new feminism in Chicago and the larger nation. The date of the first issue, August 26th, was of key importance to the writers of the magazine as it was the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment which recognized women’s suffrage nationally, a victory that inspired Second Wave Feminists.[1]

Figure 1. Cover page of The Feminist Voice vol 1. no, 1 August 1971.

The Feminist Voice collective was composed of a diverse group of women; married women, divorced women, women with and without children, lesbian and heterosexual women, politically organized women, and “loners” [2]. While they shared little philosophically, the collective shared a few key beliefs that the magazine would be used to address. The first editorial column published in The Feminist Voice made their central cause clear: “We know that the liberation of all women must become women’s number one priority. We will not be talked into fighting for another’s cause as our sisters in the 1920s and 1960s were when they fought for the civil rights of other people. We have learned that fighting for the rights of others keeps us from facing our own oppression. We believe that people must free themselves from forces that oppress them [3].” The Feminist Voice would serve as a place for these women to express their “reasoned rage” in alternative to the “male-dominated press” and a space for self-discovery [4].

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Sister Coffey: The Woman Who Made Mundelein a Reality

By Noah Kelly


This post is part of the WLA blog’s 2022 series written by guest writers. These writers are graduate students in the Public History program at Loyola University Chicago. Each visited the archives during Fall 2021, delved into the collections, and wrote about a topic not yet explored here. We are excited to share their research and perspectives!


Figure 1: Sister Mary Justitia Coffey, BVM [13]

One of the most important figures in the history of Mundelein College was Sister Mary Justitia Coffey, BVM, one of its founders and the first president of the women’s Catholic college in Chicago. Revered by her students and colleagues, Coffey was instrumental in building Mundelein as one of the cornerstones of Catholic education in the Midwest. The mark she left on the school and her peers is unmatched. “She had great gifts,” wrote Mundelein College upon the announcement of her passing in 1947. “She had an ideal of Catholic education, uncommon in her time, and she found and used well the vast opportunities that opened before her. She pioneered for higher education for women…her efforts and those of her associates have opened to religious women an unparalleled opportunity for study and research under Catholic leadership” [1].  

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‘Con-Cur’ at Mundelein: A Community’s Journey in Radical Educational Reform

By Willow Tomkovicz


This post is part of the WLA blog’s 2022 series written by guest writers. These writers are graduate students in the Public History program at Loyola University Chicago. Each visited the archives during Fall 2021, delved into the collections, and wrote about a topic not yet explored here. We are excited to share their research and perspectives!


Figure 1: Con-Cur Flyer

During the tumultuous 1960s, Mundelein embarked on a curriculum reform experiment that the Chicago Sun-Times called both “perilous and courageous” [1]. Through the Conference on Curriculum, or ‘Con-Cur,’ the students issued a series of proposals to radically alter their education with input from the “TOTAL Mundelein College Community” [2]. Led by the determined co-chairwomen Sister Kathleen O’Brien and Sister Cathleen Stieber, students made their voices heard, successfully securing lasting change [3]. On the whole, this momentous event in the college’s history brought together the entire Mundelein community to ensure each student could “realize her potential as a human being” through an education rooted in “openness, creativity, and the freedom to inquire” [4].   

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A Century of Activism: The Archival Collection of the Polish Women’s Alliance of America

By Kordian Koc


This post is part of the WLA blog’s 2022 series written by guest writers. These writers are graduate students in the Public History program at Loyola University Chicago. Each visited the archives during Fall 2021, delved into the collections, and wrote about a topic not yet explored here. We are excited to share their research and perspectives! 


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Members of the PWAA attending a dedication ceremony for their new headquarters (in Chicago?). 
Photo URL Link: https://luc.access.preservica.com/uncategorized/IO_aabc534b-ebed-4eb3-afe0-6144a8509cd9/ 

Featuring an assortment of different primary sources that researchers and historians of Polish American history can utilize, the records of the Polish Women’s Alliance of America held within the Women Leadership Archives (WLA) are a substantial tool that may help to uncover new histories about the work that Polish American women did for the Polish American community, during the 20th and Early-21st centuries. Donated in 2006 by then President and Treasurer of the PWAA, Virginia Sikora and Barbara M. Miller respectively, the records that the WLA possesses offer a variety of perspectives into an organization that has long stood as a voice for many Polish immigrants that have resided within the United States over the course of the last century [1]. Not only do the PWAA records offer a cultural, economical, and social look at Polish American society and the PWAA’s work between 1900 and 2006, but they furthermore provide a broader view into the experiences that Polish American Women went through to represent Polish Americans within American society during this time period. Altogether, this collection has the potential of serving as the base for a variety of political, social, and cultural historical works focused on Polish Americans and Polish American women. 

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An Inescapable Shadow: Stalin’s Daughter and Her “Purely Personal Search for Truth”

[1]

By Alex Friedlen


This post is part of the WLA blog’s 2022 series written by guest writers. These writers are graduate students in the Public History program at Loyola University Chicago. Each visited the archives during Fall 2021, delved into the collections, and wrote about a topic not yet explored here. We are excited to share their research and perspectives! 


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Svetlana Alliluyeva at her first American press conference at the Plaza Hotel in New York City in 1967 [2].

On April 26, 1967, Svetlana Alliluyeva captivated the world with her eloquent and charming performance during her first American press conference at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Svetlana had arrived at JFK airport five days earlier to a crowd reportedly larger than the one waiting for the Beatles in 1964 [3]. Perceived as a moral blow and international embarrassment for the Soviet Union, the American arrival of Svetlana, Stalin’s daughter, was one of the Cold War’s most public and symbolic defections. Svetlana rode in on a wave of flashing lights, interviews, and book deals. She handled herself so well on the public stage that the head of her PR team told reporters, “She is an intellectual exhibitionist. She needs an audience,” [4]. But the audience would soon lose interest. Over the next couple of decades, Svetlana would navigate a series of setbacks on her circuitous journey for self-realization and spiritual fulfillment, a journey that would take her through the halls of Mundelein College.  

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Watch Me Grow: Mundelein Laboratory Preschool and Kindergarten

By Lauren Steinkoenig


This post is part of the WLA blog’s 2022 series written by guest writers. These writers are graduate students in the Public History program at Loyola University Chicago. Each visited the archives during Fall 2021, delved into the collections, and wrote about a topic not yet explored here. We are excited to share their research and perspectives! 


For 15 years Mundelein College offered Preschool and Kindergarten classes. Students of employees of the College and Rogers Park residents received an excellent early childhood education until the school’s sudden closing in 1987.

Figure 1: Children and Teachers at Mundelein College Laboratory Preschool and Kindergarten
Figure 1: Children and Teachers at Mundelein College Laboratory Preschool and Kindergarten [1] 
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The BVM Habit: From Coffin to Revolution

By Abbie Reese


This post is part of the WLA blog’s 2022 series written by guest writers. These writers are graduate students in the Public History program at Loyola University Chicago. Each visited the archives during Fall 2021, delved into the collections, and wrote about a topic not yet explored here. We are excited to share their research and perspectives! 


For more than a century, the habit worn by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (the BVMs) remained the same, and their cornette (headdress) was unmistakable. A brimmed hood extended in front of each sister’s face, creating blinders. Within the perfect right angles of the veiled hood, each face was framed—and obscured—by a horseshoe-shaped cap. The distinctive style has been described as a covered wagon, a Conestoga wagon, a cigar box, and more ominously, a coffin. 

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Figure 1. Sr. Ann Ida Gannon, BVM, is pictured in 1957 when she was president of Mundelein College in the BVM headdress worn by her religious congregation for 125 years, before the habit was altered in 1959. (Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago. Mundelein College Photograph Collection. Accessed online.) 

When Patricia Mary Jane Gallagher first saw the BVM habit as a transfer student to Mundelein College in 1942, she was dismayed. She and her mother had departed Iowa one July day on a train called The Land of Corn and by the time they walked up the Skyscraper building to ring the doorbell, their dresses were wrinkled in the humid air [1]. A nun greeted them with “all smiles,” but in Gallagher’s “dream of living in Chicago” she didn’t envision sisters wearing the same habit they wore at the college where she was dissatisfied for two years—Clarke College in Dubuque. “Another fantasy diminished,” she later wrote [2].  

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