In 1926, the Faculty Wives Club at Northern State Normal School was formed. Ethel Carey, then Dean of Women at the school (Carey Hall, now torn down, was named after her) helped to form the group. The records of this club’s existence are now being processed at the Archives.
The club stated its purpose very plainly in its constitution:
The objects of this organization are social and educational; to preserve and strengthen friendship among its members; to assist any committee of the Northern State Normal School in carrying out such activities as shall be deemed by a joint committee to be a co-operative function; and to foster a true spirit of service in the community.
Membership in the group was limited to “the wife of any member of the Northern State Normal School Faculty.” The wives of former members of the faculty could become honorary members with a two thirds vote by secret ballot of the active membership.
In 1970, the group, then known as University Wives, amended its by-laws to include female faculty and professional staff members and honorary memberships for the wives of retired faculty and professional staff and retired female faculty and staff. By 1985, the group had changed its name to Northern Michigan University Women and included wives of faculty and professional staff as well as female faculty and professional staff. Emeritus membership was granted to “all wives of retired or deceased members of the faculty or professional staff, retired faculty women or women on the professional staff upon their retirement.”
The organizational meeting was held on March 18, 1926, at Ethel Carey’s home and during that meeting, officers were elected. The first regular meeting of the group was on March 24 at the home of Mrs. J. Lautner. (The mother of famed architect John Lautner). Presiding over the meeting was the group’s president, Mrs. McClintock. In the early years, official club records only recorded a member’s last name, with “Mrs” firmly attached to the front.
In 1927, the February meeting was particularly well received as stated in the minutes.
We owe the hilarious time we had today to a very able committee and a very charming hostess; Mesdames Lowe, Ebersole and Mattson, committee; and Mrs. L.A. Chase, hostess. Many unusual stunts and tasks were set for the members, who agreed that the price of ten pennies was too small and entrance fee for such a fine afternoon. No business hampered the meeting or the afternoon’s enjoyment.
Members did help out at some school events. The minutes of April 4, 1926, record that “many good suggestions were made to aid Miss Carey in carrying out the plans for the Open House tea to be given for the women of Marquette.” In May of 1926, the group lent assistance to the picnic at Presque Isle for the annual Northern State Normal (N.S.N) Rush Day and the group would continue to assist with other school functions. Service activities, particularly sewing projects first show up in the 1936-1937 directory. In 1937, February’s activity was a sewing project for the hospital.
Most meetings were in the afternoon but there were several evening meetings scattered throughout the year, including an event with member’s husbands that included a meal and an evening tea for the female faculty members. In 1934, the first children’s party was held in the J.D. Pierce gym and in following years there was either a party in May or a picnic in June. The group did not meet much during the summer, although there was almost always an outing to someone’s camp.
Many of the meetings had a program with speakers, games, music, and more. In 1928, the group published its first membership directory, listing the officers and the schedule of programs for the year. The November 14 meeting featured Travel Talks by Mrs. W. F. Lewis and on February 13, Miss Mildred Magers talked about her experiences in China. Miss Magers was a French professor at Northern, and in 1944 became the first female professor to earn a PhD. She also had a residence hall named after her.
The cover of the 1937-1938 directory.
The inside title page.
While the first few membership directories were handwritten, the later ones were typed. The directory for 1937-1938 has a printed photograph on the front, maybe of Presque Isle and on the inside, a dedication to Laila Bottum, who died in 1937 from breast cancer. It also features a complete list of members, numbering only 28. (Faculty size in 1937 was 54) 1938-39’s membership directory featured a photograph of a vine covered Kaye Hall, another dedication – this time in memory of Margaret McCollom and a membership list complete with phone numbers.
Kaye Hall. From the cover of the 1938-39 Faculty Wives Club directory.
The collection’s last membership directory is for 2007 and lists only 55 members, a sign of the changing times. Membership directories for the 70’s and 80’s had longer listings but by 2007, many of the faculty wives worked outside the home. Organizational meeting minutes end in 1994. The collection also has financial information, meeting agendas, constitutions and more. There are gaps in many parts of this collection, but it gives a glimpse into a nearly forgotten piece of Northern Michigan University’s history. The collection is still being processed. Upon completion, the collection finding aid will be available on ArchiveSpace, the Archives’ collection management system.
This post was written by Karen Kasper.