Investigating Sustainability through Archaeology: A Project Review

Over the past few years various CAP fellows, including myself, have examined sustainability at MSU. In contrast to modern sustainability research, which has focused exclusively on the present and future, CAP has examined how past practices functioned and how these have changed over time. Through the use of both archival and archaeological evidence, how past people used food can be evaluated. These various food practices, and changes within them through time, can point to practices in sustainability.

As has been previously discussed in past blog posts, the Campus Archaeology Program has established time-based periods for the Michigan State University campus. Each one of these periods can be linked with physical and social changes, including those involving and affecting sustainability, both on campus and the neighboring community. These phases consist of:

The Early Years (1855-1870)
A Growing Community (1870-1900)
World War I Era (1900-1925)
The Depression and WWII (1925-1955)

Saint’s Rest Dormitory - ca 1865

Saint’s Rest Dormitory – ca 1865 – courtesy of MSU Archives

It is during the Early Years (1855-1875) of the University (then Michigan Agricultural College) that all of the students lived on campus in dormitories. These students, who were all male at the time, were an integral part of MSU, as in addition to studying they maintained the campus, took care of the livestock, and worked the campus agricultural fields. As an agricultural college, students grew their food locally, serving the dual purpose of teaching and providing them with their own food. The students often grew their own food nearby their dormitories, as at this time it would have been difficult to get fresh food to campus. CAP excavations of Saint’s Rest dormitory, which was the first dormitory on campus, built in 1857 and burned down in 1876, provided evidence of food practices as seen by faunal remains, ceramics, and glass found in trash pits. Historical documents from the time also demonstrate that students were raising, butchering, and consuming their own meat, as well as purchasing additional amounts of meat as a supplement.

Serving Food in the Union Cafeteria - 1941

Serving Food in the Union Cafeteria – 1941, courtesy of MSU Archives

The second period of MSU (1875-1900) saw an increase in enrollment, due to the acceptance of women to the college in 1870 and the development of a women’s program in 1896. In order to feed an increased number of students, dining clubs were established on campus. Much of this food was still produced locally, both from on campus farms and from local, off-campus sources.

 

Victory Garden - 1943

Victory Garden – 1943, courtesy of MSU Archives

As the enrollment dropped during World War I, garden clubs were started on campus during the third period in order to supplement food resources. It was during the fourth period, and specifically World War II, in which the number of these gardens increased, now called Victory Gardens. Much of this produce was canned on campus in order to build up a supply of food during the war. Also due to the dramatic drop in male students, female students were now required to maintain the agricultural work on campus. The Women’s Land Army was one program that was established nation-wide in which women replaced male farm workers who had left to serve in the army. MSU also supported this effort on campus by offering a short course to teach women these skills.

Food production at MSU continues to this day, as can be seen in examples such as the Dairy store and the Meat Lab. From this review of food practices, it is clear that many of these early sustainable food practices continue on today. MSU also still values campus produced food, as seen in their hierarchy of food use, in which food produced on campus is considered first, then local, then regional, then responsibility produced products.

Football Team Drinking Milk - 1937

Football Team Drinking Milk – 1937, courtesy of MSU Archives

The Second Annual Apparitions and Archaeology: A Haunted Campus Tour

You may also have seen some of the Campus Archaeology Program Fellows featured on MSU’s Snapchat story last week in which we were telling stories of MSU’s haunted past. These were clips from a preview our Apparitions and Archaeology Tour that we gave for MSU’s Communication and Brand Strategy team.

Apparitions & ArchaeologyThe Campus Archaeology Program, in conjunction with the MSU Paranormal Society, will be hosting the official second annual Apparitions and Archaeology Tour this Thursday. You may or may not have attended the tour last October. But, after the positive response we received from attendees last year, we decided to do it again this Halloween!

The tour will run very similarly to last year; however, there will be new additions. At each location, Campus Archaeology Fellows will discuss the history of some of the important landmarks on campus. We will also talk about what has been done and found archaeologically in the area, both prehistoric and historic, and what this tells us about MSU’s history.

Members of MSU’s Paranormal Society will also be present in order to tell the stories about MSU’s haunted past, including some famous haunts. The Paranormal Society will also be bringing out some of their equipment in order to demonstrate how they detect paranormal activity.

Stops along the tour will include Mary Mayo Hall, the most well known and possibly most haunted location on campus; Beaumont Tower; and Saint’s Rest, which was the first dormitory on campus, among others. You will also get an opportunity to learn about Campus Archaeology’s field school that took place over the summer and the cool, and somewhat creepy, artifacts that were found.

The Apparitions and Archaeology tour is free and family-friendly. It begins on Thursday, October 29th at 7 pm at Beaumont Tour. The walking tour is at your own pace, but should take around 30 minutes, so it is suggested that you arrive before 7:30 pm.

If you want to find out more about MSU’s haunted past, there is a YouTube video from MSU Today. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yq2mYNBNgjk

Agriculture in the Time of War: The Women’s Land Army at MSU

MSU Women’s Land Army milking cows, 1944. Courtesy of MSU Archives.

MSU Women’s Land Army milking cows, 1944. Courtesy of MSU Archives.

My goal for CAP for this semester is to continue to research sustainability in food practices at MSU. Previous blog posts have discussed some of these topics, including the role of women and the entire local community during World War II in programs such as Victory Gardens. These types of activities supplemented the community’s and MSU’s resources by providing local food that could be sold inexpensively or canned for future use. These acts and large-scale participation also encouraged a sense of community in itself, especially during a time of nation-wide stress.

World War II had other significant impacts on MSU’s campus; one of which was the depletion of male students who had left to serve in the war. Looking through course catalogues from the same time period, it is clear how large the impact was on the number of students enrolled in the college. For example, the class numbers listed for the 1942-43 year consisted of around 521 men and eight women in the agricultural department alone. These numbers dropped dramatically in the following academic year, with a total of 93 men and ten women enrolled in the agricultural department.

Florence Hall, chief of the Women’s Land Army. Courtesy of MSU Archives.

Florence Hall, chief of the Women’s Land Army. Courtesy of MSU Archives.

Because much of the work that was required for agricultural majors required not only laboratory work, but also manual labor, including farm and dairy work, this lack of enrollment, especially in the agricultural department, required alternative solutions to maintain these industries on campus and also across the nation. In order to keep up with demand for agricultural products, many institutions turned to women to fulfill these duties, much like what was also done for industrial needs (i.e. Rosie the Riveter).

Therefore, in addition to activities such as victory gardening, other programs were created that were aimed at supplementing the loss of male farm workers. One of these programs was the Women’s Land Army, which was established in the United States during WWI and was based on programs that were already in existence in other countries, such as in Great Britain. This national program consisted of women who replaced the male farm workers who had left to serve in the army. Interestingly, during WWII the program was headed by Florence Hall, a 1909 home economics graduate of MSU, who had taught school in Lansing, MI and worked at the Department of Agriculture under the Bureau of Dairy Industry after her graduation.

In order to support this effort, MSU offered a short course for women in order to train them to work in “dairy, poultry, and general farming”, which took place on campus during the fall of 1943. This course was “designed to give women opportunity to obtain good training to fit them for patriotic service in agriculture”. Instruction during the course consisted of a heavy workload of six days per week, six to eight hours per day for a total of four weeks. Women enrolled in the course learned many skills including care of animals, milking, making cheese, and use of machinery. The cost of the course, including room and board, was provided to the women enrolled.

MSU Women’s Land Army training course brochure. Courtesy of MSU Archives.

MSU Women’s Land Army training course brochure. Courtesy of MSU Archives.

MSU Women’s Land Army training course brochure. Courtesy of MSU Archives

MSU Women’s Land Army training course brochure. Courtesy of MSU Archives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, this program had a dramatic effect on agricultural production during the war, while also demonstrating that women could efficiently work in the same types of industries that were typically attributed to men.

 

References:
MSU Archives
The M.A.C. Record; vol. 48, no. 03; May 1943

For more information about the Women’s Land Army and Florence Hall: https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1993/winter/landarmy.html

CAP at the Cultural Landscapes and Heritage Values Conference

This May, the Campus Archaeology fellows will be presenting our research projects at the interdisciplinary Cultural Landscapes and Heritage Values conference held at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The goal of this conference is to bring together scholars from multiple fields in order to discuss a variety of relating themes regarding issues of social justice and power, authenticity and integrity, tangible and intangible heritage, and sustainability in cultural landscape management.

Our symposium focuses mostly on the latter themes and is titled “Universities as Examples of Cultural Heritage Planning, Understanding Landscapes, and Being Sustainable.” The papers given will discuss the major research projects that CAP has recently worked on. Much of this research has been featured in various blog posts, but these papers will offer a much more broader view on each topic. This first paper describes how Michigan State has integrated sustainable food practices throughout its history through the examination of food production and choices over the course of MSU’s history. Women on campus are also related to changing landscapes through the creation of gendered spaces and the creation of a predictive model. Concepts of authenticity are employed in regards to the “sacred space” on campus and the perceived views of the undisturbed space. And finally, the prehistoric past on campus is explored and how this has shaped further historical developments on campus. All of these presentations will demonstrate how archaeology can benefit and enhance archival materials to help understand our historic past. They also demonstrate the impact and importance of Campus Archaeology to Michigan State University.

As this is not a typical archaeological conference, this will give us an opportunity to interact with scholars from other fields. It will allow us to demonstrate our broad impact on cultural heritage to a wide audience and gain insights on how it is approached and managed in other disciplines. We are also proud to announce that the Heritage Values Interest Group of the Society of American Archaeology has sponsored our session, which is a great honor.

Listed below are the titles of our papers and our abstracts, starting with our symposium abstract:

Universities as Examples of Cultural Heritage Planning, Understanding Landscapes, and Being Sustainable

Organizer: Lynne Goldstein

Land Grant institutions in the U.S. represent places that were originally oriented to educating and training farmers, but even in their growth and expansion, have always been places of reform and experimentation. In that context, this symposium looks at landscape, cultural heritage, planning, and sustainability of one of the pioneer land grant colleges: Michigan State University (MSU). In particular, we use the lens of the MSU Campus Archaeology Program (CAP) to demonstrate how archaeology can contribute to current conversations on major issues of today. CAP uses the past to make the University better stewards, but also to experiment with new approaches, integrate archaeology into planning and training, and bring students and the broader public into discussion of larger issues of heritage and sustainability. Each paper in this session represents one of Campus Archaeology’s major projects.

Created Landscapes, Managing Heritage, Being Sustainable, and Learning from the Past: A Land Grant University and Its Campus Archaeology Program

Lynne Goldstein

The Michigan State University (MSU) Campus Archaeology Program (CAP) has existed for fewer than 10 years, and although we conduct archaeological work prior to University construction, we do much more. We have convinced MSU that it needs to be better stewards of its past, and the University has agreed. We do archaeology prior to ANY campus construction, whether it is a new building or planting a new bush. In addition to acting as stewards of the campus’ past, we focus on training students, engaging the broader community in the importance of the past to the present, and conducting independent research on the past. In 2014, we realized that although we had been well integrated into the university infrastructure system, we were not being included in the planning process. I offered an intensive class on Cultural Heritage Planning, and as a group we drafted a cultural heritage plan for the campus. The possibility of our success was realized when the Planning Office agreed to consider integration of our plan into the new University Master Plan. This paper outlines the process of this planning and some possible broader implications.

How the Michigan State University Campus Archaeology Program Has Examined Sustainability Through Time.

Nicole Geske, Lisa Bright, and Amy Michael

The role of universities in sustainability and cultural landscape management has largely been ignored. However, sustainability can often be studied more effectively at the university level, where there is a microcosm of greater society and its issues. To examine these questions, archival records and archaeology can be used to identify sustainable practices throughout the past using accepted benchmarks of energy, food, and transportation. To demonstrate the utility of this approach, we focus on sustainability of food systems at MSU through time.

As a land grant institution with a focus on agriculture, MSU incorporated food systems into the physical and cultural landscape since its inception. Sustainability in food practices was a large part of this effort, as it was required in order to maintain the campus. This self-reliance on food continued until the student population and surrounding community expanded to the point where it was no longer practical to be the sole producer of food. This change also mirrored larger societal trends where artificial and canned foods became preferred to those grown on campus. The University’s long tradition of food system sustainability allows the connection of historic data to modern trends creating holistic views of changing landscapes.

Understanding and Predicting Gendered Space on the Historic Campus at Michigan State University

Amy Michael and Josh Burbank

Although women were present on the historic campus, they were essentially an appendage to a male-dominated landscape focused on agricultural education. Females were officially admitted by 1870, though geographic isolation and lack of dormitory space ensured that enrollment was low until 1896 when the Home Economics course was created. Historical records demonstrate that during 1900-1925 there was a rapid rise in visibility of female students. Cultural norms of the time were at odds with these “co-eds,” as women were absent from home and pursuing education independently. Writings from memoirs and literary clubs illustrate tensions between the university and females as the administration enacted rules to maintain order on the increasingly integrated campus. Student council records reflect the desires of women to govern themselves, while journals detailed the gendered constraint felt academically and spatially.

We explore questions related to the building, maintaining, and fissioning of gendered space on the historic campus during 1900-1925. Further, archaeological correlates and material culture linked to changing gender roles and expectations will be explored. The combined archival/archaeological approach will allow for the creation of a predictive model of a historic gendered landscape that can inform future excavations by the Campus Archaeology Program.

What Does it Mean to be Sacred? Campus Archaeology, Authenticity and the Sacred Space of MSU

Katy Meyers Emery

Michigan State University’s campus began as a small grouping of buildings within an oak opening, and since the 1870s, when the College President decreed that no further construction was allowed within this central wooded area, it has been known as the “sacred space”. The Campus Archaeology Program has worked diligently since 2005 to investigate and protect the archaeological integrity of this historic portion of campus, and much of our work has been located within this ‘sacred space’. The ‘sacred space’ is perceived as the last historic and authentic feature of MSU’s campus, which has led to the it being discussed as a static preserved landscape- a perception that we too as the archaeologists on campus have perpetuated to some extent. However, despite being ‘sacred’, construction and reconstruction of the space has continued at a steady pace throughout the over 150 years of campus life. This paper investigates the manner in which the ‘sacred space’ has been treated and perceived in the past and today, the authenticity of its modern description and perception, and how we as archaeologists promote the protection and integrity of the space, while also addressing the changes of this living landscape, both the tangible and intangible.

Reading between the Lines: How MSU Campus Archaeology Evaluates the Past

Blair Zaid and Kate Frederick

This paper investigates both the tangible and intangible heritage of Michigan State University’s campus. The priority of historical heritage at MSU creates a silence of the multiple influences of the development of the campus, specifically the ‘Sacred Space.’ The ‘Sacred Space’ a designated area in the oldest part of campus now set aside for its aesthetic charms, has evidence for a prehistoric site dating to 3000 B.P. This paper posits that prehistoric and early historic land use by Native American populations over time influenced how the ‘Sacred Space’ was formed during the construction and protection of the space.  Using archaeological, geological, historical, and ethnohistorical information, this paper aims to interpret elements of the prehistoric landscape to better understand the multiple influences that helped shape the ‘Sacred Space.’ This project will ultimately help the MSU Campus Archaeology Program construct a Cultural Heritage Management Plan for the University and ‘unsilence’ the overlooked contributions of prehistoric Native American populations to the changing landscape of MSU.

Campus Archaeology and Outreach: MSU Science Festival

My previous posts this semester have focused on Campus Archaeology’s involvement in community and educational outreach and the pros and cons of these types of activities.

East Olive students playing the "Old or New" game

East Olive students playing the “Old or New” game

Last Friday, members of Campus Archaeology gave an in-school presentation for MSU Science Festival at East Olive Elementary in St. Johns. There were two sessions for fourth and fifth graders, with kids split into groups of four or five for each. We modified many of our previous activities to function as mini-stations in order to better fit with learning objectives and the structure of the event. Overall, this outreach event was a success, and gave us a better idea of how to approach these types of community engagement and what events we should be focusing on.

Katy explaining stratigraphy to East Olive students

Katy explaining stratigraphy to East Olive students

For this event Kate, as Campus Archaeologist, began with an overview of what is archaeology and what archaeologists do (“think humans, not dinosaurs or fossils”). This introduction proved useful for many of the students, as it got them to think about the artifacts as more than just being “cool” but to view them in terms of past people. This was evident from many of their thoughtful answer when we asked them questions about the artifacts.

We modified our “match the old and new artifact” game to give only a few examples, and have them identify old and new and then brainstorm reasons why artifacts would change through time and how archaeologists use this knowledge to help answer questions about the past. Our stratigraphy map and sticky tape artifacts demonstrated how archaeologists find artifacts and how they interpret them in terms of chronology.

We also had an “artifact assemblage” station, using artifacts that were found on campus in order to explain how archaeologists identify past human behavior through artifacts. The assemblage included a horseshoe, brick fragments, test tubes, and faunal remains to represent the Old Vet Lab on campus. The students then hypothesized why these items would be found together. Many used their knowledge gained from other activities, such as the stratigraphy game, to think about how the story would change based on where the objects were found in the ground. There were so many creative answers and students seemed to enjoy that they could come up with so many options!

Nicole showing East Olive students the assemblage game

Nicole showing East Olive students the assemblage game

Finally, we used the “garbage game”, which consists of sifting through modern trash in order to hypothesize who the person was who created the trash. We asked if the kids could figure out if the person was male or female? What they liked to eat? What the persons hobbies were, etc…? We got a lot of “crazy cat lady” as an answer, which may say something about me, since it was my trash.

Overall, it was agreed that this event functioned much more smoothly than past outreach opportunities. This is because it was much smaller groups, in a set amount of time, and with multiple activities that challenged their thinking. Additionally, because the participants were all of the same age group, it was much easier to alter activities to fit their age range. We now have a better idea of how to approach these types of outreach opportunities in the future.

Thanks again to East Olive Elementary!

MSU Science Fest will take place on campus April 15th-19th. For more information visit: http://sciencefestival.msu.edu

Discovering Campus Through the Creation of an Exhibit

For the past few months Amy Michael and I have been working on preparing an exhibit for Chittenden Hall, which is soon to be the home of the new Graduate School. This upcoming exhibit will highlight the origins of research at Michigan State University, with a focus on Laboratory Row.

Chittenden Hall, courtesy MSU Archives

Chittenden Hall, courtesy MSU Archives

The display in Chittenden Hall will feature artifacts and photographs of the early buildings of Laboratory Row, as well as of the students and faculty who occupied these structures. Located on the north side of campus, Laboratory Row contains some of the oldest buildings on campus; all pertaining to the College’s original research focus: agriculture. These buildings include Agriculture Hall, Cook Hall, Chittenden Hall, Eustace-Cole Hall, Marshall-Adams Hall, and Old Botany, all of which are on the State Register of Historic Places.

Research for this exhibit began with the University Archives in order to find historical documents and photographs that pertain to these buildings. Through the examination of these records we were able to find the history of the buildings, including their original uses and how their functions changed over time. Chitttenden Hall, specifically, was originally constructed in 1901 as to house the Dairy Department, which even received a commercial license to operate a dairy facility. The building later became home to the Forest Department, as the name on the frieze above the entrance suggests, until it was mostly vacated in the 1960s.

Campus Archaeology offers us a unique chance to pair MSU’s history with artifacts that have been found through archaeological operations on campus.

Laboratory Row, courtesy MSU Archives

Laboratory Row, courtesy MSU Archives

These artifacts are stored and curated and pertain to the activities that took place on the early campus. We now have the opportunity to put some of these objects on public display in order to teach the community about this important area, which represent some of the beginnings of research at MSU.

One goal of Campus Archaeology is to better understand MSU’s history, both academically and socially, and to disseminate this information. By placing this exhibit in the soon to be renovated Chittenden Hall, visitors of the Graduate School will be able to learn and better understand the history and transformation of Laboratory Row and how these buildings have impacted MSU’s long history of research.

This project has been a learning process for both Amy and me on how to prepare an exhibit. It has also taught us a lot about the history of campus that we otherwise would not have known. We encourage you to visit Chittenden Hall upon completion in order to learn more about these buildings and Campus Archaeology’s mission.

Taking a Stand: The Struggles of Title IX at MSU

Campus Archaeology rarely enters the realm of documentary detail – we use MSU Archives extensively, but we are generally looking for documents and images that help us to better interpret the material remains we find. This week, we take a bit of an exception to this pattern, primarily because it provides us with the context to better understand how MSU Athletics has grown, as well as the importance of the very beginnings of women’s athletics.

Exploring this week’s theme of women in history, I wanted to highlight women on campus in the past who have paved the way for women today. One of the clearest and best documented examples of women’s impact relates to Title IX legislation and the MSU women’s varsity basketball team. These women – not all that long ago – took a stand against the unfair treatment of women in athletics. Historically, prior to Title IX, women had participated in athletics at MSU since 1888; 18 years after the first large group of women were admitted to the university.

Title IX (passed in 1972) prohibits any university that receives federal funds from discrimination on the basis of sex or gender. In terms of athletics,  universities must provide the funds to give each sex equal opportunities. Although the passage of Title IX was a step forward for women in both academic and athletic contexts, the implementation and acceptance of the law was not immediately felt. It was difficult to determine how to make changes and what met the definition of “equal opportunity.” Overall, however, Title IX paved the way for equality in sports, although many inequities remained.

1932 Women's MSU Basketball Team. Courtesy MSU Archives

1932 Women’s MSU Basketball Team. Courtesy MSU Archives

Some women on campus did play basketball as early as 1889. But, it was in 1919 that physical education for women was formally established on campus. Physical education at that time primarily consisted of non-contact sports and calisthenics. Women were not allowed to compete in intercollegiate games until much later. And it wasn’t until the 1960s that changes to athletics on campus dramatically increased the number of women in athletics .

After the passing of Title IX in 1972, the law was met with opposition, especially from the athletic departments across the country. Full compliance of the law was not required until 1978, which allowed appropriate time for universities to make adjustments in budgets, recruitments, and scholarships for women. Still, many universities, including MSU, did not meet these requirements by the deadline.

In April of 1978, Mary Pollock, the Director of Women’s Programs and the Title IX Coordinator, brought informal allegations to the attention of Clarence Underwood, the Assistant Director of Athletics, regarding Title IX violations.

Title IX complaint letter from MSU Women's Basketball Team. Courtesy MSU Archives

Title IX complaint letter from MSU Women’s Basketball Team. Courtesy MSU Archives

Underwood wrote a letter to Joe Kearney, the Athletic Director, regarding Pollock’s claims, stating: “the major complaint was that in using the men’s intramural gymnasium for competitive games, the floor is warped, lockers are inadequate and no hair dryers are present.” He later states: “Ms. Pollock impressed me as a person who is trying to make a professional name for herself by using athletics as her culprit” and that “I was not particularly fond of her disposition in our discussion and told her that I personally did not appreciate her threatening manner. My personal opinion is that she is full of bluff.”

These comments by Underwood have to be taken in context. While they may shock or surprise us today, his remarks were quite common and accepted at the time.

Due to these grievances, members of the 1977-78 women’s varsity basketball team brought a complaint a few weeks later on April 25, 1978 for violations of Title IX. After no action was taken, the women put forth an official complaint later that year. Their complaint outlined 12 points regarding unfair treatment in comparison to the men’s team. They stated that they were “seeking an immediate remedy for unhealthy, and grossly unfair practices” concerning safety, health, and general fairness. And although budget differences were extreme ($116,000 for the men and $13,500 for the women), they strategically chose not to address inequality of funds so that these other complaints could be quickly resolved.

One of the major points outlined by the team regarded the duties of the coach. The men’s team had one head coach, two assistant coaches, and a manager, while the women had only one head coach and assistance from the junior-varsity coach, who was a 1/4-time graduate assistant. Additionally, the women’s head coach also had to hold a teaching position at the university, requiring her to split her time.

Coach Karen Langeland and the 1979 Women's Basketball Team. Courtesy MSU Archives

Coach Karen Langeland and the 1979 Women’s Basketball Team. Courtesy MSU Archives

Additional complaints regarded the unfair, unequal treatment for the women’s team, such as lower per diem rates, inadequate facilities, limited supplies, and unequal transportation and lodging.

From this formal complaint, MSU President Edgar L. Harden formed a committee, and ordered a legal audit to determine if the Athletic Program was in compliance with Title IX. Additionally, the judge  assigned to the case immediately ordered that MSU provide the women’s team with the same per diem and lodging as the men’s team. Still, by 197, little had been accomplished to correct these deficiencies. In a subsequent letter to the judge, two members of the women’s varsity basketball team made it clear that the team alone was involved in suit, not their coach or any other individuals. The university had already terminated Mary Pollock and the team did not want further consequences.

Formal complaint from the MSU women's varsity basketball team. Courtesy MSU Archives

Formal complaint from the MSU women’s varsity basketball team. Courtesy MSU Archives

The legal audit determined two main areas of deficiency: the grant-in-aid program and an inequality of facilities. The Title IX committee agreed, stating that although MSU had rapidly increased the number and amount of scholarships for women, additional funds should be allocated to improve facilities and scholarships for women athletes. Further inequalities, such as better locker space, a refurbished basketball floor, equal per diem and lodging, and a full time women’s equipment manager were also eventually met.

Title IX has been in effect for over 40 years, but discrimination on the basis of sex and gender is still exists, extending beyond athletics. While it can be uncomfortable to hear about less than wonderful parts of MSU’s past, we can be thankful for women who chose to take a stand. We are also thankful for the MSU Archives who has kept all of this documentation.

Women at MSU: The Themian Society

As a new member of Campus Archaeology I have begun my research in the University Archives. Looking through the keepsakes of Irma Thompson with Amy Michael, one document specifically stood out to me: a booklet about the Themian Society. The booklet, published in 1922, commemorates the society, which was the second social organization for women at Michigan State University, then the Michigan Agricultural College. The booklet features information about the society, the school, and letters to the national chapter from faculty members, including the Dean of Women, who praise the accomplishments of the local chapter.

Booklet from Themian Society

Booklet from Themian Society. Courtesy MSU Archives

The Themians were a literary society for women on campus founded by eleven women in January of 1898. One of the founding members, Irma Thompson, was one of the main efforts in the establishment of the society and was the first secretary. Irma and her family moved to the area while she was in high school in order for her to attend college. Here she majored in the Women’s Course and participated in many campus activities, including the Themian Society.

The name of the Themian Society was chosen after Themis, the Grecian goddess of justice, as the society was dedicated to help in societal matters and “cultural advancement”. In order to become an active member in the society, the women were required to have an average grade of eighty or above and they needed to participated in at least two campus activities of their own choosing. Additional societal events took place throughout the year, including a formal banquet named the Themian German, a ball, and faculty teas.

In 1900 after the construction of Morrill Hall, the women’s dormitory on campus, the Themian Society was given a room specifically to hold its meetings, which was still in use at the time of this booklet’s publication. The Themian Society later became nationally known as Kappa Kappa Gamma, with MSU’s local chapter of Delta Gamma, which is still active today.

Rules for the Themian Society

Rules for the Themian Society. Courtesy MSU Archives

Also included with the booklet was a document called the “Themian Themes”, which outlined the constitution for the Themian Alumnae Association. Here it states that the annual dues for the National Association of Alumnae were one dollar, which included a subscription to the “newspaper”.

As an officer for a women’s group on campus, Graduate Women In Science, it is interesting to discover the history of this group on campus and how it differs from societies and sororities for women today. I hope that through my work through Campus Archaeology I will be able to continue to research the experiences of women here at MSU.