A Year of Digitizing Mundelein History: Students Reflect on the Mundelein at 90 Project 

Throughout the last academic year, a talented group of graduate students have worked at the Women and Leadership Archives as part of the Illinois History Digital Imaging Grant project. These Digitization and Metadata Assistants, all pursuing degrees in Loyola’s Public History master’s program, have worked diligently on digitizing materials from the Mundelein College* Collections, writing transcriptions, and creating metadata for the Mundelein at 90 digitization project. As their time at the WLA came to a close, they each shared a little about their experiences engaging with the Mundelein College Collections and archival work. The images and digitized materials in this post will be added to the Mundelein College Collection on the Illinois Digital Archives.

Mundelein students attend Winter Weekend, undated. Mundelein College Photograph Collection.

I immensely enjoyed being a part of the IHDI grant for the better part of this year. I’ve had the opportunity to scan and digitize numerous photograph collections, transcribe student publications and scrapbooks, and re-folder collections to make them more accessible to the public. Working on each of these projects has allowed me to see the project from many angles. Thus, the experience has been well-rounded and fulfilling. I encountered a variety of archival work which in turn exposed me to a potential career path. The Mundelein at 90 collection is extensive and impressive. The vast number of items displays a full picture of Mundelein’s history, which is enjoyable to behold as a student worker and as a member of the public. Through my time with the IHDI grant, I gained a great appreciation and understanding for Mundelein College.  

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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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