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Leave the radio at home: Dana Hall student rules in the 20th century

Every year, all Dana Hall students are required to sign a form stating that they’ve read the newest code of conduct. Every year, the code of conduct is updated, with some rules being newly instated, and some rules disappearing. The 20th century makes up the biggest portion of Dana Hall history, a 100-year span. Throughout the 20th century, the student conduct rules have changed drastically, along with social norms and expectations within society. Which rules may seem strange and outlandish now, but were just common expectations within society at the time? Let’s dive deep into the Dana Hall Archives for answers, and let’s take a look at some old rules from the 1900’s that you might find interesting. 

1900’s:

  • Students must be awake by 6:45 A.M. Prayers are done at 8:20 A.M., and then again at 6:45 P.M. Lights out at 9:45 P.M.
  • Students are not allowed to participate in dressmaking during normal school weeks. Students can only dressmake during vacation.

1910’s:

  • Each pupil is expected to take at least two hours’ exercise in the open air daily.
  • For many years, there was a “diet table” in the dining hall reserved for Dana Hall students who were deemed to be at least twenty pounds overweight. Dana girls were weighed on a scale, and permitted to sit at the diet table if they met this criteria. At this table, non-thick soups and a variety of vegetables were served, accompanied by fruit for dessert. 

1920’s/30’s

  • Only fruit, plain crackers and cookies are allowed in the dorm rooms. Candy sent to the school must be kept in the permission office and eaten there, not in the bedrooms.
  • Students are not permitted to talk to young men on the phone.
  • Dancing and card playing are not permitted anywhere in the school on Sunday. 
  • Curling irons and electric flat irons are forbidden. 
  • No knitting is brought to the auditorium or to progra ms where there are outside speakers. 

1930’s/40’s

  • Church attendance is required every Sunday. Each student is expected to attend the church of her family’s preference, or the college chapel. (Yes, even students who weren’t Christian or Catholic.)
  • Hats are always worn in the village (presumably around Wellesley). 
  • Students may not have radios or victrolas in their rooms.
  • Men callers whose names are on a written list sent by the parents may be received in the main building on saturday afternoons and evenings. When male callers are expected, the permission office should be notified before Saturday morning at 10 o’clock.
  • Day students are not to wear lipstick when they are wearing the Dana hall uniforms. 
  • Juniors and Sophomores must not ever dance in the living room. They are to use either the gym, or the little gym. 

1960’/70’s:

  • Every date must be introduced to the house director. Dating privileges are subject to the approval of a student’s parents and of the school (meaning the school and your parents made a collaborative decision on whether or not you were allowed to date). 

1990’s:

  • Students are asked not to use walkmans in the Dining Center; bare feet, pajamas, and rollerblades were not allowed either.
  • No cellular phones allowed on campus.

These old rules demonstrate how American society strived to control young women’s lives, and limit their freedom of expression through dance, music, and religion. Throughout the 20th century, Dana Hall made it a goal to strictly prohibit religion, dancing and music outside of school setting, and food. In this compendium, this is best shown through the heavy control of students’ allowed access to music all the way up to the 90’s, with radios being prohibited in earlier years, and later, walkmans being prohibited in the dining hall.

We see almost none of these rules strictly prohibiting Dana Hall life now, with students allowed to listen to music, dance whenever and wherever they please, and eat food that best suits our interests. We are certainly allowed to own curling irons on campus, and dressmaking is now highly encouraged, as it’s a creative practice. Creativity is more encouraged within the school setting than ever before. Dana Hall students aren’t required to attend church service, and are supported to practice their own religion, as the school provides spaces to students of different religions, as major societal shifts gave way to Dana Hall students being allowed to express themselves more freely. As more freedom for women became socially acceptable in the United States, as did the flexibility of Dana Hall student life. 

All information and images are from sources in the Nina Heald Webber ‘49 Dana Hall archives.

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