A Voice for Themselves: The Lavender Woman and the Lesbian Community in Chicago

When we decided to write a piece in honor of Pride Month, I will confess that I was rather apprehensive as I was not familiar with LGBTQIA+ history and did not want to mis-represent the community unintentionally. However, I also felt that delving into unfamiliar territory and learning more about it was better than remaining in the dark so I decided to do some sleuthing around in the WLA’s holdings to see what I could find.

Keep on reading!

One Graduate Assistant’s Perspective on Working from Home

Although our physical archives in Piper Hall remain closed due to Illinois’s shelter-at-home order, there is still plenty of work to be done. The week before the issue was ordered, the Women and Leadership Archives began preparations to work remotely. Graduate Assistants working on digitization projects began mass scanning the Mundelein College Photo Collection to create work for them to do remotely. The Director and Assistant Archivist began meeting to discuss what projects could be available for the Assistants. They also contacted researchers to try and find a way to make collections accessible during the closure. And so many more things happened in that week.  

What about now? 

Keep on reading!

Women Worldwide Protecting the Environment

The young environmental activist Greta Thunberg has gotten the world’s attention in the past year for her great passion and bold actions to fight climate change and persuade everyone to do their part. At 16 years old, she was the youngest to be named Time Person of the Year and was included in Forbes list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women in 2019. Wow! That’s quite an impact for one young woman to make. 

Keep on reading!

Nearly Ninety Years of Mundelein College

With the spring semester, my role here at the WLA changed, and I became a Sesquicentennial (150th) Scholar. To mark Loyola’s 150th anniversary, the other Scholars and I have been researching and creating a timeline of 150 years of student life at Loyola and Mundelein College.* What seemed like a straightforward task has had me digging through files of every kind at the WLA in search of a dynamic photo, a newspaper clipping, or a good story from Mundelein’s past students.

Continue reading

Graduation Reflections: Mundelein Commencement Through the Years

WLA graduate assistants and Master’s in Public History Angela, Rothman and Emily Muszynski, pose with fellow graduate Matt Labbe before their Commencement ceremony on May 7, 2019. Rothman and Muszynski each earned a Master’s in Public History and Labbe earned a Master’s in United States History.

It’s graduation time at Loyola University Chicago, and I’ve enjoyed looking back at commencement photographs from the collection of Mundelein College. Mundelein College, founded and operated by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM), provided education to women from 1930 until 1991 when it affiliated with Loyola University Chicago.

I helped reprocess the Mundelein College Paper Records and wrote the collection finding aid alongside Project Archivist Caroline Lynd Giannakopoulos. We arranged, described, and housed archival objects for patron use. The Women and Leadership Archives, in Piper Hall on Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus, holds the many, many boxes of processed materials from the Catholic women’s college. Today, Mundelein’s skyscraper building is known as the Mundelein Center for Fine and Performing Arts. The Women and Leadership Archives preserves the college’s memory through a variety of records.

Continue reading

A Few of My Favorite Things: Kate’s Top Collections

Over the course of my two years at the Women and Leadership Archives (WLA) I’ve had the privilege to work with a lot of the collections we hold. From academics, artists, homemakers, social justice activists, women religious, nurses, politicians, business leaders – almost any vocation or subject you could name we’ve got a collection in which a woman or group of women were involved and rocking at it. Though I’ve yet to come across a collection that didn’t engage me, I have to admit that I have my favorites. What follows is my “hit parade” of my favorite collections at the WLA:

Continue reading

A Haunting of the BVMs

With the start of October comes many changes; cozy sweaters, hot chocolate, pumpkin spice, and, of course, Halloween.  There is nothing more appropriate for this month than a good scary story, and luckily, here at the WLA we have one in our very own collection! There is an account told by Sister Mary Ernestine, BVM* of stories she heard from Sister Isabella Kane** of strange happenings experienced by her and other sisters. Here is that story:

Sister Isabella Kane was about fourteen years old when she entered the BVM Community and having experience with piano, she was sent to teach music. She was a natural and enjoyed her time teaching, but especially loved painting in the music room after night prayers when it was empty. One night Sister was painting when the door suddenly flew open. Thinking it was one of the sisters trying to mess with her, she paid it no mind and shut the door. She settled down to continue painting when the door flew open again. After checking the hallway and finding it empty, she ran to bed.

Mother Superior Mary Isabella Kane, BVM

That wasn’t the last time Sister Isabella would experience strange occurrences.

Sister Isabella and the other sisters rented a large three story double house to be used as a school as well as house the sisters. The sisters living in the convent complained of noises: banging on doors, knocking of wooden beds, and other demonstrations of what they believed was “the Evil One.”

One sister was thrown off her bed, another was unable to control violent trembling as night approached, and one more found as she headed down the stairs, two fireballs appeared in the landing. Though the superior was not convinced of any haunting (and believed it to be all coming from the sisters’ active imaginations), she agreed to move from that home for everyone’s health.

Though we have no way to be sure if it truly was “the Evil One” haunting the sisters, the mystery still persists. So Happy Halloween everyone, hope it’s a spooky one!

*BVM stands for Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a religious order out of Dubuque, IA.

**Sister Isabella later served as Mother Superior of the BVMs from 1919-1931.

Tina Figueroa is a Sesquicentennial Scholar at the WLA working to highlight Mundelein in the upcoming 150th anniversary of Loyola. She is currently working on her masters degree in Digital Humanities. Tina is a reformed ice cream hater and is a fan of the flavor Savannah Buttermint at Jeni’s.



Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Throwback Thursday: VHS Edition

I started at the WLA in January as an undergraduate volunteer intern and was very happy to be asked to stay into this summer as well. I am now going into my senior year and my work in the archive has taught me a lot about how history can be much more recent than I may have once thought.

For the past several months I have been working on processing a collection from the Cook County Treasurer, Maria Pappas. Maria Pappas has been a part of Cook County government since the early 1990s and started off that Cook County-based career with a PhD in counseling and psychology from our very own Loyola University Chicago. Pappas’ longevity in office has been documented not only in news articles, but in TV and radio appearances, which, wouldn’t you know it, have been preserved on VHS, a novelty for this 21 year old intern. Like many bygone technologies, like the CD player, Walkman, Nokia phones, and even an original iPhone, I thought VHS and audio cassettes were a thing of the past that would never cross my path again. Imagine my surprise when the first box that I went through from Maria Pappas’ donation contained nothing but VHS tapes, and not only that, but they were still watchable!

Although I knew what archives involved, in my imagination it always meant that I would be carefully handling decades, if not centuries old, journals and pictures. With this idea in mind, going through VHS tapes and CDs, objects from my childhood that now seem far outdated, has shifted my perspective of archives, and of history as a whole. With Maria Pappas’ progression through her career, the technology used to preserve her experience also progresses and changes, shifting from U-Matic tapes, cassettes, and VHS to CDs and MCRW discs. Being able to physically see a progression of time, not only in the contents of these media forms, but also in the media forms themselves adds another level to the understanding of how quickly history and technology can change. Most notably, it was surprising to come across technologies in the Pappas collection that I knew nothing about, like U-Matic tapes and MCRW discs. These technologies evolved and became outdated quickly, and were used in such small niches that their usefulness was quickly replaced by another form of technology.

Media found in the Maria Pappas papers.

Media found in the Maria Pappas papers.

With the physical evidence of the longevity of Maria Pappas’ career in front of me in these different types of multimedia, actually going through the documentation and reading about her career and outreach programs over the years made the extent of her career seem more emphasized. Maria Pappas began as a member of the Cook County Board of Commissioners in 1990, then ran for Cook County Treasurer in 1998, a position she has held since then, and is the current incumbent for. Maria Pappas is credited with reorganizing the Cook County Treasurer’s office, which had been losing checks and improperly documenting interactions and notices for years before Maria Pappas was elected to the position.

After organizing the Cook County Treasurer’s office, Maria Pappas began her Treasurer’s Outreach Program and Services, in which she published property tax brochures in several languages and reached out to many different cultural communities in Chicago and the surrounding areas in order to make property tax payment information more accessible. Cook County is an incredibly diverse area and one that has $12 billion in property taxes collected annually. With this diversity in mind, Maria Pappas has ensured that she has efficiently informed all of the community members, displaying her understanding of the importance of progress and helping people in what some may see as atypical ways. Her impressive career and record is well documented, on paper, on VHS, and online, displaying the progression of a well-rounded career, as well as the advancement of technology and the advancement a community along with that career.

Amela Kalezic is an intern at the WLA and has been working with the Cook County Treasurer, Maria Pappas’ collection. She is an undergraduate majoring in History and Environmental Science at Loyola and is an avid dog lover who sadly does not have one of her own yet, but will not let you walk past a cute one without letting you know.


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.

Mundelein College and Prince the Collie


The Art Deco Skyscraper building under construction in 1930.

Mundelein College was founded in the same year that the stock market crashed. In 1929, while the American economy was crumbling, Mundelein College and its unique home, the Mundelein skyscraper, was rising. It took an indomitable person to see that it was done, and the college’s co-founder, Sister Justicia Coffey, BVM, was just such an individual. Sister Justicia had a vision which included a superior Catholic education for young modern urban women. The skyscraper was the setting for that vision, but Sister Justicia knew that an excellent education required exceptional teachers. Sister Justicia approached the construction of both the building and the faculty with equal vigor and procured whatever either task demanded. While blueprints and the careful inspection of steel beams were imperative for the building, the teachers required a rapid accumulation of graduate degrees and for the elevation of their spirits, Prince, a tri-color collie.

This summer, my colleague, Nathan Ellstrand and I have been building “Voices from Mundelein,” a web media portal which highlights the staff, alumnae, and faculty of Mundelein College. It includes oral histories which feature the earliest years of Mundelein College. In her rich oral history, long-time Mundelein faculty member, Sister Irma Corcoran reflects fondly on memories as wide ranging as Sister Justicia Coffey’s unique style of leadership and the college’s pet collie, Prince.

In her 1997 audio interview, Sister Irma Corcoran, BVM, claims that she was a member of the college community for the entirety of Mundelein’s sixty-one year existence. Sister Irma arrived as a faculty candidate in 1929 when the skyscraper was dedicated and left in 1991 when Mundelein affiliated with Loyola University Chicago. She recalls that Sister Justicia created a significant portion of her coterie of faculty members by gathering young novitiates of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) who had completed college degrees, a rare commodity indeed. She then sent them to distinguished universities to complete their graduate studies with an injunction to return to Mundelein and disseminate their new-found knowledge. Sister Irma was one of those novitiates. She was sent to Columbia University to study English, one of the few women, and the only sister in the student body. Ultimately Sister Irma returned, taught, and became a renowned Milton scholar.

When Sister Irma first arrived, the skyscraper was not yet completed and she and her fellow graduate school headed novitiates were quartered in what she calls “the little green house” next door. As did all of the founding faculty members, Sister Irma wore many hats and in addition to teaching, she served as a general porteress for the college. She brokered purchases from coal to eggs and dealt with contractors, visiting clergy, and what she calls insistent BELLS. She especially remembers her fellow porter of the canine variety, Prince. Sister Irma reports that the black and white collie pup had a bark that “would intimidate an army.” Prince took his responsibilities seriously, and guarded the little green house assiduously. One time, Sister Irma recalls, he barked “terribly” and she went to the front door and found the postman pinned to the porch railing with his heels in the air.

Photos of Prince are featured prominently in the Mundelein College Yearbook of 1931.

Guarding the porch was not Prince’s only function, it can be inferred from Sister Irma’s interview that he walked the sisters each day after breakfast, in the company of Sister Justicia Coffey. Sister Justicia made it a point to get acquainted with each new novitiate and the latest to arrive was always the chosen companion for the daily morning walk. They would walk the city streets from Kenmore to Rosemont to Sheridan, and finish by looking over the lake and then turn toward the skyscraper which Sister Justicia inspected with a gimlet eye assessing the days’ construction. Often, Sister Irma recalls, Justicia would chat with the workers, whom she knew by name, inquiring about orders and making suggestions.

Sister Irma’s memories conjure up the image of two habited sisters, one middle aged the other, young, pausing on a Chicago street corner, engaged in deep conversation, perhaps about construction, teaching, or the persistent BELL with Prince tugging at his lead, distracted by the prospect of the postman’s anticipated daily arrival. Sister Irma reveals that Justicia understood the importance of foundations whether they were made of steel or of individual characters. She knew that both required a detailed understanding that springs from the constancy of daily rituals like a brisk morning walk with Prince.

An image of Prince guards the final page of the Mundelein College Yearbook of 1932.


More information about Sister Justicia Coffey and Mundelein College is available online through the Loyola University Libraries Digital Special Collections or in person through a visit to the Loyola University Chicago Women and Leadership Archives.

Bruce, pictured here, is the current canine porter and guardian of the door for the author of this blog, Janette Clay. Besides being an inveterate daily walker, Janette is a PhD student in the department of history at Loyola University Chicago and member of the summer staff at the WLA.


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.

What’s a Dink?

When my husband and I refer to ourselves as dinks and high five, we are celebrating the fact that our status as a “Double Income No Kids” household means we can spend a little more time and money on our current whims  and less worrying about finding affordable rent in a Chicago neighborhood with good schools (is this even possible?). When I found the term “dink” on an old green song sheet in the Mundelein College Records, I was pretty sure that the students of the 1940s meant something different.

This song sheet from the 1940 Freshman Initiation event features many songs referencing “dinks”.

The songs written and sung for a freshman initiation event hint at the meaning of “dink” and its significance in introducing new students to college life. However, a search of the Mundelein student newspaper, The Skyscraper, failed to bring up a single article giving me more information.

Naturally, I turned to Google to see if this strange term was used in other colleges of the time. I soon found many articles about an interesting tradition that I had never heard of.

Dinks Across the Country

A dink on the 20th century American college campus referred to a beanie cap, often green, worn by freshmen to distinguish them as the newbies. An article on the Penn State University website says that upperclassmen voted in 1906 to require freshmen to wear their dinks at all times on campus and at school events. Freshmen were expected to tip their green caps to upperclassmen and could be subjected to embarrassing hazing if caught without their dinks. Similar antics occurred at many schools in the East and Midwest. In most cases, women on co-ed campuses were not included in the dink tradition, at least at first. Female students at Penn State wore green ribbons in their hair before donning the dink with their male peers in 1954.

The Ohio State University Archives created a fun digital exhibit dedicated to the various freshman beanie traditions found in the colleges of the Big 10. In theory, the beanie was intended to promote school spirit and bonding among freshmen. However, it seems like the real bonding of Ohio State freshmen may have come more from a shared fear of being caught without your beanie by the group of juniors authorized by the Student Senate and the President of the University to throw beanie-less freshman into a nearby lake. It is obvious the beanie did not represent camaraderie to the wearers, as students gathered at the end of their freshman year for the annual “Cap Bonfire.”

In most cases, the cap customs came to an end in the 1960s. However, the tradition lives on in a more benevolent form at Hood College in Maryland. Each class at Hood is given a different color beanie so that the caps are used beyond the initiation period to proudly distinguish each graduating class.

At Hood College, junior students in yellow beanies welcome freshmen students of the class of 2020 by presenting them with blue beanies at the 2016 Convocation. Photo courtesy of Hood College.


Dinks at Mundelein

Finding details of the use of the “dink” at Mundelein College was more difficult than my Google search. Although I found a few signs of dinks and beanies being worn by freshmen, the scarcity of information leads me to believe that this was not a continuous tradition at Mundelein. I found a few photos of students wearing the little caps, often at freshman events. However, most photos of freshman picnics and orientations show bareheaded young ladies, so the requirement to wear the cap must have been a rare and unenforced ritual.

Analyzing the songs from 1940 gives us a good bit of information about what the dinks meant at that time. The green hats were worn at all times by the freshmen for some period of time at the beginning of their first semester. Freshmen were expected to give a salute when encountering upperclassmen and perform other tasks. Getting caught without your dink would cost you 2 cents. No wonder the freshmen are singing of how glad they are to remove their caps..

Members of Big Sisters chat at Mundelein College in the 1950s. Are the two students in beanies their freshmen “Little Sisters”?

Most references to the freshman beanie at Mundelein are in connection with the Big Sisters organization. The Big Sisters were nominated sophomores and juniors who took on the job of welcoming and mentoring the incoming freshman class, adopting “Little Sisters” to guide individually. Another song sheet from the Big Sister’s Mardi Gras Tea on February 25, 1941 refers to the green dinks that the “Freshies” wore in their first semester.


“Remember the days—
You were but Freshies green,
And dinks you wore
Which made you quite serene.
Freshies, then and still—
But now Sisters too,
My pledge I renew- faithful to you—
I give you my word.”

Whether or not the young pupils actually felt “serene” in their beanies, the records of the Big Sisters point to good intentions of the upperclassmen to use the beanies to identify and offer friendship to new students. An article in the Skyscraper from 1965 mentions that freshmen were given their “traditional red beanies” by the Big Sisters at a reception during orientation week. This description of the red beanie matches up with the one real piece of evidence we have that was recently donated to the collection. By this time, the beanies seem to be more about school spirit and a welcome to the community than about calling attention to the “greenness” of the freshies.

This felt “dink” in Mundelein College colors is the only one in the collection and was likely worn in the 1960s.

The top-ranking freshmen of 1966 pose in their Mundelein beanies. This is the only photo we have of a group of freshmen all wearing their caps.

I found one other way that the green dink impacted life on the Mundelein campus and it relates to the boys next door. From 1949 to 1961, freshmen students from Loyola University and Mundelein College came together at the beginning of the fall semester for a mixer they called the “Beanie Bounce.” The dance, sometimes hosted by Loyola and sometimes planned jointly by both student activities councils, officially introduced the new freshmen to their neighboring students. In early years of the dance, each Loyola boy would give his beanie to a Mundelein lady in the course of the night, but a Skyscraper article from 1960 describes how the game evolved over the years.

Loyola freshmen Joe Doody and Jim Whiting demonstrate the Beanie Bounce tradition, passing their green caps to Mundelein freshmen twins Rita and Louise Kozak at the 1953 dance.

A Skyscraper article from October 19, 1960 recounts the activities of the “Beanie Bounce” on Loyolas Campus.

A 1984 photo of Mundelein College freshmen at orientation shows three students wearing white and red beanies, a sign that the love for the little hats continued in some form for many years.

Three Mundelein College freshmen proudly sport little white caps at freshman orientation in 1984.

I remember being a scared freshman and can’t imagine the added anxiety associated with the dink hazing traditions. However, when used as a symbol of welcoming the next generation into the college community, its hard not to get nostalgic for the chic little freshmen caps.  I vote school bookstores add the vintage felt beanies to their shelves of sporty caps.

Did you have a dink at your alma mater? Are you a Mundelein alumna with a memory of the beanies? We would love to hear your stories and see your photos!

Caroline Lynd Giannakopoulos is a Project Archivist at the WLA currently processing the Mundelein College Records. She is a graduate of the Public History Masters Program at Loyola University of Chicago. Caroline has a talent for looking good in almost any hat, but always forgets to wear them.


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.