My decision to have children came at a time when my graduate career as an archaeologist started to move forward. I had successfully defended my dissertation proposal and I wrote several dissertation research grants in a very short timespan. I also had high hopes of …
Hello MSU! And hello followers of this blog. Since I fall into the former category, it’s very cool to be asked to share a little bit about what has become a fairly all-consuming obsession project: TrowelBlazers. If you don’t know us, please come be our friend. …
Michigan State University began admitting women in 1870, just 15 years after the inception of the college. For some twenty-odd years, female students participated in the same courses as men with few exceptions. However, because there was no womens’ dormitory on campus, students were tasked with finding accommodations with permanent campus faculty or making the arduous trip from Lansing in stagecoaches. Following the systematic admission of women and implementation of a Womens’ Course near the turn of the century, as well as a dedicated space for female residents at Abbott Hall, enrollment of students increased. Before these changes, women were essentially an appendage on the college campus, making their archaeological presence somewhat ephemeral.
Historical records and photographs demonstrate that women were indeed present and accounted for on campus in those early years, but little archaeological evidence has been discovered that can be specifically linked to gendered space. Certainly social codes of the time, residential divisions between the sexes, and specialized curriculum resulted in areas on campus that could be wholly female domains. Why can we not find these gendered spaces in the archaeological record?
There are likely several answers to that question. First, many CAP excavations are guided not by a research question (e.g. “How did female students utilize the campus landscape?”) but more by necessity (i.e. ground is being disturbed by construction projects, so CAP is on hand to monitor for archaeologically sensitive materials being exposed or disturbed). Secondly, and more to the point, we are not sure where to dig to answer questions about women’s space on the historic campus. Enter: The University Archives!
As often discussed in CAP blog posts, the University Archives are a fantastic resource. We believe that memoirs composed by female alumni may offer some insight into how women used the landscape. Prior to 1900, women’s voices at Michigan Agricultural College were largely not present. Women’s memoirs and recollections of experiences on campus can help us to identify spaces that were uniquely female in addition to overlapping gendered space shared with males. A number of memoirs from the late 1800s illustrate that women often felt like (and were treated as) intruders or interlopers at their own college. We can reasonably assume that if female students were constrained socially on campus, their archaeological signature may be difficult to locate.
To address these questions, a predictive model may aid in determining where to dig to identify the material correlates of women’s space/experience/work. Predictive models rely on covariates to predict the probability of a particular outcome. The historic memoirs and scrapbooks compiled by women can be used to generate a list of locations on campus that were used exclusively by women, cooperatively by men and women, and exclusively by men. Narrowing down the locations on campus that were likely used by female students in the past will greatly improve future excavations driven by problem-oriented research questions.
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 …
At Campus Archaeology, we are very passionate about what we do: archaeology. That passion inspires us to share our love of archaeology in all of its forms with you, our readers, and while we love sharing information, we also love engaging with all of you …
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.
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.
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.
Hello all! So far my experience as an undergraduate intern for Campus Archaeology has been an incredibly rewarding experience. I know it sounds cliché, but there are so many things I’ve learned about archaeology, research, and even myself that other experiences may not have brought …