Muriel Simonson at Jackson College 1924-1929

Social Life at Tufts

Muriel, who was known affectionally as 'Mac,' and her classmates organized and participated in an astounding number of social events on campus reflecting a time when young women were more involved in breaking everyday gender barriers and participating in social events than in organizing politically.

In the 1920s, formal dances were fashionable and were organized by classes, dorms, sororities, fraternities, or faculty wives as were dinners, teas, bridge-parties, and class events.

Hazing and Initiation Rites

While university initiation rites started in Europe in the Middle Ages -- called fagging in Great Britain - the first incidences of hazing in the U.S. can be documented back to Harvard in 1657. From the 1850s onward, sophomores hazing freshmen became more prevalent in eastern, particularly Ivy League schools. Class hazing was to create class and school spirit and to put freshmen in their place. Women colleges were no exception to these rites.

From about 1900 to the 1950s, hazing at Jackson College took the form of annual baby parties. Muriel's sophomore class in 1925 was probably the last one to dress up as Ku Klux Klan members roving around campus "keeping order with every mop-handle the Hill afforded. ... The Frosh, all dressed as babies were guided, blind-folded, through the locker aisles of the gymnasium, here each babe received her due ... Whether it was tar and feathers, paddling, drenching, or just plain scaring, the poor relations, the Juniors, and their venerable grand-parents, the Seniors, could not make out from their seats in the balcony." (Tufts Weekly, May 13, 1925)

1924 was the year when the Ku Kux Klan reached its pinnacle in the U.S. with about 15% of eligible men being clan members nationwide. After 1925, the year the clan experienced major financial and moral scandals and began to rapidly lose members, Ku Kux Klan hazing at Jackson stopped.

Sports and Student Organizations

Next to her academic and theater achievements, Muriel was also a member of Sigma Kappa (1925-1929), Omicron, and the Pan-Hellenic Association of Jackson College. She served on the Student Council in 1929 and was in the Freshmen Field Hockey Team and Class Athletics in 1925/26 and a member of the Varsity Field Hockey Team in 1927.

Political Involvement

Direct political involvement and activities appear to have been rare for Jackson College students in the 1920s. As explained previously, having gained the right to vote in 1920, young women now focused on breaking everyday gender barriers in sports, hairstyle (bobbed and short hair), dress favoring the waiflike boyish look created by wearing either short, waist-less outfits or corsets hooked to a garter, and previously outlandish behaviors such as drinking, smoking, dancing, and going to parties. The so-called 'flapper' was born.

However, politics were not completely absent in the lifes of some Jackson students. Virginia Call, a friend of Muriel, kept a meticulous scrapbook that included one political petition for which Virginia collected signatures from her roommates in Richardson House, the same dorm where Muriel lived. Virginia's petition was from the Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee, trying to appeal Sacco and Vanzetti's indictment for murdering two men in South Braintree, Massachusetts in 1920. Eventually, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed in 1927.