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The Lessons of Balangiga Unlearned

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My upcoming book, Sugar Moon, will be firmly rooted in history that I believe every American should know: the ambush of a company of American soldiers on September 28, 1901, in Balangiga, Philippines. Most people have never heard of it. What happened that day in Balangiga—and in the months of American counterattacks afterward—has been overshadowed by other towns that Americans do know, ones with names like My Lai and Fallujah. Had we learned the lesson of Balangiga, though, these two towns in Vietnam and Iraq might never have hit the headlines. In fact, they might not be noteworthy at all.

My photo of fishermen in Balangiga, at the junction of the Balangiga River and the Leyte Gulf. From there, it is not far until you are in the Pacific Ocean.

How did I stumble upon Balangiga? When I started plotting my story about an American schoolteacher and a Filipino sugar baron—the story that became Under the Sugar Sun—I did a lot of research at Ateneo de Manila University, where I read through old issues of the Manila Times on microfiche. (By the way, if you want to entertain me, give me two rolls of that microfiche and leave me there all day. It’s like giving a child an iPad. History is my babysitter.) One of the articles I stumbled across was entitled: “Sister Hunting for Brother: His Name is E.L. Evans and He is Supposed to Be in the Philippines.” From there, I conjured up the idea of a missing brother to bring Georgina Potter to the Philippines. Yes, she was hired by the American colonial government to start a school in the Visayas, but her real motive in coming—and for letting herself get entangled with a jerk named Archie—was finding her brother, Ben Potter.

A character board for Sugar Moon. From left: a Filipina in 1900 who inspired Allegra Alazas; actor Chris Geere, one of my possible “castings” for Ben; a local house; and Mount Suiro on Biliran Island, location of some adventures. Sorry, no more spoilers!

Why was Ben missing? Maybe because he was in a significant battle? Or, at least, a very confusing one? In Under the Sugar Sun, Georgina goes to Army Headquarters in Fort Santiago in Manila to find out, and she lays out all the news articles from a battle in Balangiga. A clerk tries to help her, to no avail:

“Your brother should be in here one way or another.” The clerk put his finger on the article with the list. “Name and rank?”

If it were that easy, she thought, she would not have bothered crossing the Pacific. “Sergeant Benjamin Potter.”

“I see a Ben Cutter,” the clerk said. “That’s probably him.” He sounded sure, as if the Army made such mistakes all the time. Maybe they did. He would know.

Georgie pulled another article to compare side by side. “Half the names are spelled differently from one day to another,” she explained. “Cutter one day, then Carter, then Palmer. And here all of the Boston soldiers are described as dead. All of them! My mother and I bought every paper, every edition, for a month, trying to find a new official list that made any sense. And you know what the Army told us? Nothing! No telegram, no letter, nothing.” She was not normally one to create a scene, but she had come a long way for the truth, and she was going to get it.

The confusion of names and numbers really did happen, which is one of the reasons why I chose this setting for my character. It makes sense that if he survived, he still might not want to be found. Several survivors stayed in the Philippines afterward, much to the chagrin of their families.

So, it was decided: Ben served in Company C, Ninth Infantry, which saw action in China during the Boxer War, and then returned to the Philippines to be stationed in Balangiga. Poor Ben. Poor Balangiga.

Company C occupied this town, and occupation is ugly. It doesn’t matter how you justify it—in this case, blockading the southern coast of Samar so that the guerrillas in the mountains could not be resupplied, a legitimate military purpose. It also doesn’t matter if the occupation starts off peacefully, which it did in Balangiga. It is not going to stay that way. The lesson of occupation throughout world history—no matter whether we are talking about ancient Greek occupation of Jerusalem, Israeli occupation of Lebanon, the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, or the American occupation of the Philippines—things will go downhill.

The Americans called the Filipino guerrillas insurrectionists, and they labeled what happened in Balangiga a massacre, implying that the perpetrators had no just cause. On the other side, Filipinos call their soldiers revolutionaries, and they see the event itself as a just uprising. If you want to avoid all judgment, it was an incident, or more specifically an ambush. I am greatly indebted to Philippine historian Rolando O. Borrinaga and British writer Bob Couttie for their first-hand research and outstanding work on Balangiga. In my version of the story, I have taken some liberties—merging characters to simplify things for the reader, renaming a few people—but I hope that my unwitting mentors will find that I got the big brush strokes right. All errors are my own, of course.

Two outstanding scholars on the Balangiga Incident, Rolando O. Borrinaga and Bob Couttie. Bottom right is my photo of the monument to the attackers in Balangiga town.

As we will see in Sugar Moon, at first things went okay. Uneasily, but okay. An American officer played chess with the parish priest. The man Sergeant Benjamin Potter is based on studied martial arts with the police chief. Individuals got along. But here’s the rub: if the townspeople became too friendly with the Americans, they would face retribution from the revolutionaries up in the mountains. So the town tried to play it cool, stay neutral.

The southern coast of Samar is not the easiest place to patrol. This is the Cadacan River near Basey. Image courtesy of Iloilo Wanderer on Wikimedia Commons.

But the Americans noticed some strange things happening—like sweet potatoes planted in the jungle for the guerrilla soldiers, or townspeople not cutting down banana trees that could provide the guerrillas cover—and the Yanks thought they had been betrayed. They ordered the town to cut down essential food sources, to “clean up” the town. If the town complied, not only would they need to destroy their own property, they would also endanger the understanding they had with guerrillas. I think you probably see where this is going. The reality of a town like this during occupation is that it will be caught in between two armies, and if neither army can truly protect the civilians against the other, the people must try to play one off the other. That is a dangerous game.

Company C doubled down. They imprisoned the town’s men in conical tents that looked like Native American teepees. These Sibley tents were supposed to sleep 16, but were each jammed full with over 70 men and boys, who had to sit on their haunches all night. They were not fed dinner, and in the morning they were forced to cut down the food their families depended on. This went on for several days.

Several African-American Union Army Teamsters rest on a Sibley tent in 1865, giving some sense of their size (and age). It is a crowded sleep for 16 inside, let alone 70 or more. Winslow Homer’s The Bright Side, is in the public domain. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Americans did not see the town turning against them. They only saw their own frustration: they felt alone, vulnerable, on the edge of a hostile island, a day’s travel away from the nearest garrison. Yet they did not expect the ambush. My character Ben will narrate the whole debacle through his flashbacks, which starts with him trying to court a local woman. He’s a proper gentleman, don’t worry, but he’s smitten. This, by the way, is based on a real possible romance between an American sergeant and the local prayer leader of the town.

On Sunday, September 28, 1901, the morning after the town fiesta, a church bell rang. Nothing unusual about that—until men dressed as women streamed out of the church with machetes. The American soldiers were eating breakfast. Dozens would die immediately and gruesomely. A little more than half would manage to escape, but several of them would die along the way of their wounds or from other attacks. In total, 48 of 77 Americans would die.

One of many wonderful dioramas designed by the Ayala Museum and now viewable through the Google Cultural Institute.

Americans blamed the Filipino revolutionaries for streaming out of the jungle to attack the town, but the truth Borrinaga and Couttie uncovered is that the town actually planned the attack themselves. They may have borrowed some men from villages outside Balangiga proper, and they may have coordinated with the revolutionaries, but this was a town fighting back against the soldiers who had imprisoned them.

After that, all hell broke loose. If there is something more violent than the rising up of an occupied people, it is the revenge exacted by a conventional military force armed to the teeth. The American commander in Samar ordered his men to turn the entire island into “a howling wilderness” by striking down all men and boys capable of carrying arms, which he defined as all those over ten years old. (That’s not legal, by the way.) His men made a special trip back to Balangiga to burn down the town and kill anyone in sight. Months of revenge resulted in the deaths of thousands on Samar, maybe as many as 15,000, according to Borrinaga.

Another of the many wonderful dioramas designed by the Ayala Museum and now viewable through the Google Cultural Institute. Also included are a photo of General “Hell-Roaring Jake” Smith and the New York Journal editorial cartoon of his order. Both are in the public domain and are found on Wikipedia.

This was the My Lai moment of the Philippine-American War, and it was just as explosive to the American public as that incident in Vietnam was. For the first time, with the advent of the trans-Pacific telegraph cable, the American public could follow events with an immediacy that had been previously impossible. The excesses of the Army now blanketed newspapers and magazines Stateside. Though military authorities tried to censor the press by controlling the telegraph lines out of Manila, reporters got around this by traveling to Hong Kong to wire their stories. The courts-martial of several American officers made daily headlines, and Senate hearings began on the issue of American atrocities in the Philippines.

The survivors of Balangiga in April 1902. Photo in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

But how do you criticize the methods of occupation without questioning the whole endeavor to begin with? You can blame a few “bad apples” to satisfy the public, but is it enough? The general in Samar received a slap on the wrist from the court-martial that followed, and though popular outcry in the US later forced President Roosevelt to demand the general’s retirement, the punishment still didn’t fit the crime. The general retired with a full pension. The American lieutenant in command at My Lai, convicted of murdering 22 Vietnamese civilians, served only seven months of house arrest and then was pardoned.

A military hospital in Manila. Photo in the public domain.

My character Ben tried hard to be better than the rest, but what happened in Balangiga tortures him. You are not supposed to have liked him in Under the Sugar Sun, and he does not like himself much, either. He suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, something that two of my very best friends share with him. Soldiers with PTSD struggle with guilt, depression, substance abuse, anger management, insomnia, and other health problems. I am greatly indebted to these friends for letting me put some of their worst fears on the page. I hope they will also appreciate the redemptive journey Ben goes through and the healing power of love that he finds. They would tell me this is far too simplistic a cure, but I think they want Ben to have a happily-ever-after, so it’s okay.

George Santayana wrote in 1905: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It is fitting he said so at the outset of what was later called the American Century. The vigorous debate about the use of military force abroad—and it’s aftereffects like PTSD—are familiar to people today. But they were not really a part of American discourse until the Philippine-American War. America’s professional army was born out of this war. Before 1898, the entire US Army was smaller than today’s New York City Police Department. Most of the Spanish-American War had to be fought with state volunteers whose enlistments lasted only a year. When hostilities broke out in Philippines, Congress promptly doubled the size of the regular army once, and then doubled it again. For the first time in its history, America had a significant standing army stationed far from its borders. And yet no one learned from Balangiga.

Maybe it is not good enough to just remember the past. You should experience it yourself. That’s the garden where empathy grows. That’s where you get all the feels. I hope Sugar Moon helps.

Photograph of an American reconcentrado camp, the exact tactic we blamed Spain for in Cuba.

This essay is cross-posted at my own website under the title: Sugar Sun series location #7: Balangiga.

Cover Reveal – Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of World War I

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I’m so happy to take part in the cover reveal for my fellow Fall of Poppies authors, Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb’s upcoming novel, Last Christmas in Paris!

Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of World War I

New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor joins with Heather Webb to create this unforgettably romantic novel of the Great War

August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris.

But as history tells us, it all happened so differently…

Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?

Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him…

Pre-order today!

Amazon | Amazon UK | Indiebound | Powell’s | B & N

Visit them on the web:

Hazel Gaynor – Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Heather Webb – Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

How College Girls Lived During the Gilded Age

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Ladies Home Journal (June 1913) - illustrated by Harrison Fisher

One of the startling social changes of Gilded Age America was the increasing number of young women who attended colleges and universities. Though the most elite were the “Seven Sisters” established in the Northeast–Smith, Vassar, Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, Bryn Mawr, Barnard, and Radcliffe–dozens women’s colleges sprang up across the United States by the turn-of-the-century with the aim of providing middle-class young women with the necessary education for earning a living. These colleges were aware of the skepticism of higher education for women, as well as the burden of graduating young women who would prove the skepticism wrong, and operated much differently than traditional men’s colleges and even co-ed universities.


The difference between life at girls’ and at men’s colleges is just the difference between girls and young men. It is not the difference in curriculum, or lecture-room, or gymnasium, or team and track athletics. It is a difference in tone, and this tone is the effect of two causes:–

First. The seriousness with which the college girl regards her course.

Second. The thoroughly feminine consideration with which she regards her fellows.

Regarding the former, nine-tenths of the girls at college are there for the purpose of fitting themselves to earn a livelihood. They are aiming to become professors, tutors, lawyers, doctors, litterateurs. They are not, generally, the daughters of wealthy parents. These go to a finishing school, and study the limitations, rather than the possibilities, of society. The female college students are mostly drawn from those medium walks of life wherein ambition is given impetus by necessity. The college girl does not give up four or five years of her life for the purpose of being called “college-bred,” as many of her brothers do; nor to gain admittance to an exclusive university club, or those circles to which a college education is the open sesame; nor “to humor the governor,” at a large cost per annum for indulging his whim. The college girl takes up her course because she loves it, and because it is the means to a much-desired end.

It is this consideration for the feelings of others that gives to the girls’ colleges their distinctly feminine tone.

From the raw, self-conscious days of the sub-freshman to the passing out of the senior, the girl collegian finds cordial greetings and ready sympathy every where.

The “honor system” of self-government is in force at Vassar and several other colleges. According to this system, rules and regulations are abolished, and each girl pledges herself to retire at ten, with three exceptions each month if necessary; to attend chapel every day, and to take at least one hours’ exercise.

In all the large colleges, there are committees appointed to take charge of the new arrivals, each girl meeting her protegée at the railway station, at t e n d in g to the details of her luggage, and not leaving her until she has seen her safely settled in the new quarters. The seniors usually have first choice of rooms, preferring to be located along the senior corridor, into which no lower classman dares venture, unless accompanied by a senior. Rooms are divided into suites of four sizes: fire walls, consisting of four bedrooms and parlor; parlors, consisting of three bedrooms and parlor; doubles, with two bedrooms and parlor, and singles, consisting of one room.

 Anna Powers and Umeko Tsuda in a Bryn Mawr College dorm room
“Anna Powers and Umeko Tsuda in a Bryn Mawr College dorm room”. Bryn Mawr College. circa 1890. College Women. Web. Accessed March 19, 2017. https://www.collegewomen.org/node/13576

When three or four girls who are congenial occupy a suite, their college association can be made most pleasant. Fitting up her quarters will be regarded by the freshman as the most serious work of the term’s beginning. She will catch glimpses of senior rooms, disclosing revelations on art from the college viewpoint— which has nothing to do with art by any other standard. Her own rooms—the bedroom containing bed, bureau, table and chair, the parlor a “parlor suite”—will look woefully barren; but she soon realizes how little is required to gain the popular effect—a few outré posters, inexpensive etchings and prints in dainty frames, flags of men’s colleges, class colors, field pennants, tennis rackets, riding-whips, foils, orders of dance, college cushions, a tabaret, an India seat, a tea-table, couch, spirit lamp and chafing-dish. All these things may be purchased at a shop in the college town whose proprietor can tell the wants of the freshmen better than they can themselves: or there will be advertisements on the bulletin-board, for sale or exchange.

Often the members of the graduating class leave their room furnishings with “self-help” girls, to be disposed of on commission to incoming freshmen, who are very glad to get bargains. Meanwhile the freshman has chosen her hours for lectures and recitation—usually not more than four out of the eight hours, with two hours more for study. The hardest work of the college course comes in freshman year. Still there is time for relaxations and the forming of friendships. In September, or the early part of October, the sophomores formally welcome the freshman to college social life. The form of this entertainment varies at the different colleges.

At Bryn Mawr the year is opened by a series of informal teas in honor of the freshmen, which give good opportunities for new acquaintances to the girl socially inclined. Next after these comes the “Presentation of Lanterns.” This fête has become a tradition at Bryn Mawr, and is a very pretty one. Each freshman is presented with a lantern to light her on her way through college, and some of the presentation speeches are very clever and full of local wit. Six weeks later the freshmen reciprocate, entertaining the sophomores with return speeches and toasts, and singing their class song, which until this time ‘has been closely guarded. It is on this occasion that the freshmen are mentally and socially engaged by the older fellows, who are looking out for worthy acquisitions to their societies.

Wellesley’s “Floral Sunday” is an eloquent goodwill offering to the freshmen. The first Sunday after her arrival, each freshman finds at her breakfast plate a bunch of fragrant blossoms, tied with ribbons of the sophomore class color, with an accompanying card bearing the inscription, “Love one another, ” or “God is love, ’’ or whatever like theme has been chosen for the chapel address. On this morning the chapel is fragrant with flowers, the decorations being the result of sophomore effort and good will.

Smith’s “Freshman Frolic” is a very pretentious affair. The dance is held in the “gym,” which has been transformed by boughs and blossoms, palms and vines, national flags and college emblems. Each soph constitutes herself a cavalier for the freshman to whom she is assigned. She sends her flowers, calls for her, fills her order of dance, introduces her partners, fetches ices and frappés between dances and takes her to supper. The whole method of procedure is apt to impress the freshman ludicrously at first, except that the soph fulfils her duties with so much dignified seriousness. Nor does the new order of things stop with the close of the dance. Every soph sees her partner home, begs for a flower and changes orders for souvenirs, and if the freshman has taken advantage of the opportunity and made the desired hit, there are dates for future meetings and jollifications, and a good-night over the balusters, as lingering and cordial as any the freshie has left behind her. And if the gallant soph who lives in another hall runs away from her shadow on the way back to her own dormitory, it’s nobody’s business but her own. Her duties in knight-errantry are at an end.

At Vassar the girls go a step farther, those who fill men’s parts at the dances affecting bloomers, sack-coats disclosing a wide expanse of shirt-front, white lawn ties and buttonhole bouquets.

A chorus at the Barnard College Greek Games in 1908
Beals, A. Tennyson (photographer). “Greek Games Chorus, 1908”. Barnard College. 1908. College Women. Web. Accessed March 19, 2017. https://www.collegewomen.org/node/13620

By the time the freshman festivities are over, the upper classmen have judged the new stock, and desirable acquisitions are sought for the societies. These are legion, and they are the most fascinating phase of college life. First, but least exclusive, are the athletic societies; then the debating, literary, Shakespeare, dramatic, musical, historic, Greek letter;and, last but not least, the eating clubs.

These last are the most exclusive societies at the girls’ colleges. They are purely social, and no one is admitted unless thoroughly desirable and unanimously elected. If a new girl is popular, several of these societies will try to get her. Hence there is considerable electioneering at the beginning of the term ; dining-rooms, recitation-rooms and class corridors become stamping-grounds for fair lobbyists, and the more persevering become regular little ward heelers.

At the close of the first term, every one is located, and social life is at full blast. On Sunday evenings the dining-rooms are deserted, and the eating clubs hold sway. Alternately in the rooms of their members, the Nibblers, the Grubbers, the Epicureans, the Swallows, the Gobblers, the Friars, the Munchers, do wonderful things with spirit-lamps and chafing-dishes, accomplishing results delicious, savory, and more or less digestible. These Sunday evenings are dear to all college girls. At Wellesley, Monday is set apart as a holiday; but there is no record to show any connection with the eating clubs.

The curriculum in girls’ colleges is not complete; but the ‘‘higher education” is still in its infancy. Meanwhile the natural womanly instinct asserts itself, and the chafing-dish holds sway over all small entertainments. No book-shelf is complete without a cookbook, and the natural rivalry between hostesses encourages experiment. The cozy dormitory quarters give an added flavor to fudge, rarebits, newburgs and afternoon teas, the last being the most popular.

There is little work during the late afternoon hours. Between four and five-thirty the dormitories hum with gossip, and the tea-kettles make a lively tune. It is the general hour for relaxation, for the college girl arises early. The usual hour for the first bell is six-thirty, with breakfast from seven to eight.

At Mt. Holyoke the girls care for their own rooms, and in several of the dormitories at Smith’s and Wellesley the girls devote an hour each day to this sort of work in part payment for their board. At eight-thirty recitations begin, and the mornings are invariably busy. The day is divided into eight ‘‘hours,” and engagements made for first, second, third hour, et cetera, the time never being mentioned. Luncheon is usually from twelve to onethirty, after which the tension relaxes. During the afternoons the upper classmen find plenty of time for recreation.

All the girls’ colleges have splendid gymnasiums, but they are not popular. Open-air athletics are greatly preferred, and there is no time in the year when some outdoor sport is not available. During the winter there are skating, tobogganing and long tramps, with basket-ball practice necessarily confined to the gymnasium. As soon as the frost is off the ground, however, the basket-ball teams revel in field practice, the rowing-machines are forsaken and the shells launched with a glad hurrah, and running records are broken and made on good turf track. College girls are very enthusiastic athletes. Basket-ball is the universal favorite sport, and there is a general struggle to get on the teams.

Mount Holyoke Class of 1899 Basketball Team
“Mount Holyoke Class of 1899 Basketball Team”. Mount Holyoke College. 1899. College Women. Web. Accessed March 19, 2017. https://www.collegewomen.org/node/13450

There are many other sports, and all have their devotees—tennis, golf, lacrosse, swimming, riding, cycling, vaulting, highjumping and running events. Tramping, too, is a favorite pastime, and in many of the colleges “Mountain Day” is set apart for this purpose. At Mt. Holyoke the girls are great equestrians, and the objective points of their “little jaunts” and “constitutionals” are located eight and ten miles from the college-grounds.

As the Vassar and Smith girls look back to Chapter House dances and “Phil Proms,” so the Mt. Holyoke graduate cherishes tender memories of the Bluffs, the Larches, Titans’ Pier, the Pass of Thermopylae, Paradise, and Bittersweet Lane. “Field Day” at the colleges is the culmination of the year’s athletic work. It is always a gala day, and class spirit runs high. Vassar’s “Field Day,” occurring in May, is the most exciting event of the year. She has always maintained high records in track events, and the record-breakers of “Field Day” are exalted and fêted by their colleagues.

At Bryn Mawr the annual tennis tournament takes first place. It occurs early in the autumn, and lasts a week. The whole college is decked in festive attire. Pennants, class colors and flags float from the windows, the lawns are gay with teaparties; and class calls and the new cries of the freshmen are drowned in the general:

Hooray! Hooray for the gray!
Hooray! Hoorah for Bryn Mawr!

which is the favorite college cry, having been dedicated to President Taylor, who belonged to the Society of Friends.

Besides these annual athletic celebrations, there are regular fête-days observed by every college. At Vassar there are “Founders’ Day” and “‘Philolethian Day,” terminating with formal dances in the evening, and there is the annual trip to Lake Mohonk, a treat provided by “Uncle Fred” Thompson, one of the trustees.

“Float Day” is a fête peculiarly Wellesley’s own. The festivities begin at sunset, with the coming out of the floats decorated and fashioned in quaint design, sometimes suggestive of class jokes, sometimes bearing upon the eccentricities of the faculty, sometimes carrying out a theme in history or drama. Smaller craft follow the floats, until, as twilight deepens, Lake Waban is covered with a gay flotilla, hundreds of colored lights on the boats adding beauty to the scene. On shore, scores of lanterns hung in the trees transform the place to a veritable fairyland. The grounds are filled with guests, refreshments are served, fireworks make things brilliant, and then, in the first lull, the Wellesley college songs break out over the moonlit stillness, and “Wellesley, Our Alma Mater,” floats over the hills, eight hundred voices strong. The “Freshman Banquet” is the event of the year at Wellesley College, the “Junior Promenade” at Smith’s, and “Mountain” is sacred to Mt. Holyoke, when the whole college takes a holiday, the seniors monopolizing one of the mountain inns, where grinds and prophecies are read, old books burnt, toasts drunk over the bonfire in deep flagons of lemonade, and a pair of fiddlers engaged for a dance that lasts until midnight.

After the beginning of the second term, the seniors come into prominence. Preparations for commencement and class day exercises are put under way; farewell entertainments are given by the under classmen; the year’s dramatics, which have been a very popular part of the entertainment— and sometimes dangerously fascinating—are drawn to a close, and the seniors prepare to leave their alma mater. Almost invariably they are sorry to go, for the association of four or five years must result in ties and bonds not easy to break.

The senior supper, which is the last event of college life before the public exercises, is intended for a huge jollification; but it puts lumps in girls’ throats not so easily swallowed as the goodies specified on the menu. Here speeches are made which, despite the bright quips and witty allusions to incidents of college life, strike chords of deep feeling. In some of the colleges it is the rule for engaged girls to “own up” and receive the congratulations of their classmates; in others souvenirs are exchanged which will always remain treasured tokens; and at Bryn Mawr it is the custom of the lower classmen, who refuse to allow the occasion to be steeped in tears, to gather underneath the windows and sing class songs and shout class calls, until the seniors soften and pass out goodies through the windows.

Then come class day and commencement exercises, with their attendant excitement and pleasure—the receiving of degrees, with a justifiable flush of pride and satisfaction; the parting with chums and familiar landmarks, with the inevitable gulp and struggle for self-control; and then Stern reality.

–“A College Girls’ Life” by Lavinia Hart, Cosmopolitan (1901)