A week ago, I had the opportunity to visit a very special place in the Boston area. A very historical place to be exact. Last week I went to Roxbury…
If you take a history course with Professor Drachman, you will most certainly end up in the Tufts Archives. What is the Tufts Archives? The Tufts Archives is a room in the basement of Tisch library which holds the records of Tufts University and Jackson College. Down there, you can find old school newspapers and yearbooks, student scrapbooks and letters, and my very favorite part of the archives, the archivist, Pam Hopkins, who is potentially the most helpful person you will ever meet.
Every class Professor Drachman teaches takes a trip to the archives, and this year was no exception; however, this “trip” took a virtual form. A few weeks ago, Professor Drachman welcomed Pam Hopkins onto the Zoom call for my class, Gender and Containment Post-WWII. Pam showed us how to use the digital archives to find any sources we may need in order to write our final paper.
The prompt for our final paper was to find two sources in the Tufts Archives from the 1950s, compare and contrast the sources, and then place them into the context of the 50s. I chose the theme of dating, and I found two columns from the Tufts Weekly, the school newspaper in the 1950s, to support my claims.
Before I explain my sources, I need to explain a little background on Tufts. Tufts was historically an all-male institution, until 1892, when the first female students were accepted. These first female students faced intense discrimination and ostracization on campus. Many of the male students and alums pushed back against this decision to admit female students, and so, a separate school for females was founded. In 1910, Jackson College, the Tufts version of Harvard’s Radcliffe, or Columbia’s Barnard, opened.
Jackson College had strict rules for its female students. The dorms were separate and had different rules than the Tufts boys’ dorms. They had matrons in the dorms to chaperone the female students, and male students could only “call” at certain hours. One of my sources, from 1951, asked Jackson women and Tufts men if the dorm rules were too strict. My other source was another column from 1951, which asked Jackson women and Tufts men whether it was appropriate to kiss on the first date.
I framed these two sources with the sexual double standard which prevailed in the post-WWII world. While women were expected to date and marry early, they were also expected to tame their sexuality. This meant that they were expected to satisfy male’s sexual desires in order to keep them interested, yet pull back to preserve their feminine purity. Clearly, this societal pressure was conflicting; thus, the sexual double standard made women walk a fine line in the world of 1950s dating.
The women’s answers in the Tufts Weekly on dorm rules and kissing reflected this double standard. The favored stricter dorm rules and did not find kissing appropriate on the first date—these ideas show the pressure they faced to appear chaste and hide their sexuality. However, one of the girls said that if a boy really insisted on kissing her, she would cave, which shows the other side of the sexual double standard that encouraged women to cater to men’s desires. This discussion formed the premise of my paper entitled, “The Dating Dilemma.”
It will surprise you to hear that women were not actually accepted into Tufts University again until 1980, and women who graduated from Tufts still had Jackson College written on their diplomas until 2002. Although women now attend Tufts University, remnants of Jackson College are still found on campus—our dance gym is still called Jackson Gymnasium and our all-female a cappella group is called The Jackson Jills. If you find this kind of historical research as interesting as I do, my Emma’s Advice of the day is to take advantage of your school’s archives, wherever you choose to go!