Social Status

Although Union College was a school for men, women were not entirely absent from the campus, and they carefully curated their appearances so that they would be models of decorum. Anne Perkins, a contemporary of Julia Benedict and well-known woman in the college's history, is one such example. You can view a wonderful project devoted to her. As is often the case with archives and special collections repositories, much of the materials donated to the department come from individuals of relative wealth and status, so these are the women whose lives we hold the most evidence about today. 

Anne Perkins lounges in her garden, 1898. Photograph courtesy the Picture File, SCA-1026, in the Department of Special Collections, Schaffer Library. 

Mrs. Tayler Lewis, wife of alum (UC Class of 1825) and faculty member Tayler Lewis. The Lewises had a daughter named Margaret, who went on to a position at the college. Image courtesy of the Picture File, SCA-1026, in the Department of Special Collections, Schaffer Library. 

Emily Landon, undated. Emily Landon was the wife of Judson Landon, who was the acting president of the college from 1884-1888. Photograph courtesy of the Picture File, SCA-1026, in the Department of Special Collections, Schaffer Library

Tea service from the Perkins and Hale Family Ephemera (SCA-1044). Courtesy of the Department of Special Collections, Schaffer Library. 

Faculty Women's Club

In the 1920s, a Faculty Women's Club, sometimes referred to as a Faculty Wives Club, was formed. The wives of faculty members were part of a genteel class, and they had social expectations to maintain an air of decorum, propriety, dress and behavior that reflected their class status. In his Encyclopedia of Union College History, Somers tells us, "The social world of the Faculty Women's Club when it began in the 1920s was closer to the ways of 1795 than to 1995. Despite the 'modern' inventions that would seem to have changed the way they lived—telephones, flush toilets, central heating, and the automobile—the role of the wives of faculty members was controlled and restricted in a manner that is now unimaginable."14

14 Somers, 276.
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