Yearbooks from Mount Mary College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s oldest four-year women’s college, are now available through Recollection Wisconsin. This digital collection includes fully searchable issues of Arches, the college yearbook published from 1930-1970, and EXIT, a smaller publication focused on graduating seniors, published between 1971 and 1995. The digitization project was funded by the Mount Mary College Alumnae Association and is made available online by the ResCarta Foundation.
The history of Mount Mary College goes back to 1850, when the School Sisters of Notre Dame established St. Mary’s Institute, a Catholic school for girls, in Milwaukee. A second branch of the Institute opened in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin in 1872. In 1913, the Institute at Prairie du Chien was officially chartered as a four-year college, and in 1928, construction began on a new school building in Milwaukee, renamed Mount Mary College.
132 students enrolled at the newly completed school in September 1929, and the inaugural yearbook, dated 1930, documents the first year in the life of the new college. Much of the 1930 yearbook is devoted to celebrating the new facilities and remembering the school’s history. One alumnus, Kate Kershaw, chronicles her experiences as a boarding student at St. Mary’s Institute and catalogs the changes that the new Mount Mary College would bring. Kershaw writes fondly of forbidden late-night dormitory tea parties. She laments that new students will miss out on this tradition thanks to Mount Mary’s new “tea rooms, with kitchenettes for tea parties,” because “tea brewed and drunk surreptitiously has a flavor that no ‘openly’ made tea can ever possess.”
Kershaw also comments on the expanding educational opportunities available to women as St. Mary’s Institute transitioned to Mount Mary College:
The Institute covered English, French, German, music, art, domestic science, government — sufficient to meet the requirements of the field of employment for women, which was teaching. In those days the business world was man’s exclusive domain. Woman has invaded the sacred precinct and today her education covers such subjects as medicine, law, engineering, politics, and what-not. Mount Mary is equipped to fit her students to take up any and all subjects that men may dare to tackle.
Learn more about the history of Mount Mary College in this historical timeline.