Room Five

A Place of Their Own

During the 1890s, graduating seniors began a new tradition that became known as the Senior Pilgrimage. Senior students would walk around the campus to listen to speakers at places that recalled their college days. Women, who walked separately from the men, usually wore white dresses and carried white parasols for the occasion, as in this picture from 1912.

Senior Pilgrimage women, 1912
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Senior Pilgrimage women, 1912
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Some social activities during the school year were men-only. Here is a picture of a Smoker Rally held in the old Harmon Gymnasium. Note the thick haze of cigar smoke! These rallies typically took place before athletic events, and featured male students and speakers. Many Cal men in that era were fond of quoting poety from Rudyard Kipling, including the line "A woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke."

Smoker Rally
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Smoker Rally
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In addition to the Women's Day festivities during the 1911-1912 academic year, other women's activities included a Sports and Pastimes Masquerade in Hearst Hall on November 4, 1911. The Prytanean Fete, a campus dance organized by the leading women's honor society also took place on February 10, 1912. At the masquerade, "the gymnasium was transformed into a model playground," skits were performed by women, and the "women's orchestra furnished music for dancing, [while] the Refreshment Committee in the guise of hokey-pokey men served ice cream cornucopias."

Prytanean Fete
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Women admiring "elephant" used to publicize Prytanean Fete
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Begun in 1912, the Partheneia became an annual spring pageant entirely conceived, written, planned, and acted by hundreds of women students. Each year there was a competition to write the winning script and play the leading parts, bringing considerable prominence to the women on campus. The performances were held outdoors, usually in Faculty Glade, and continued annually through the early 1930s, when both financial resources and interest in elaborate pageantry declined.

The Awakening of Everymaid
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"The Awakening of Everymaid," Third Partheneia, April 15, 1913
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At the end of the 1890s, Phoebe Hearst rented a house in Berkeley to be closer to campus, where many of her philanthropic interests were now centered. She commissioned architect Bernard Maybeck to build a large social hall out of redwood right next door to her, on Channing Way just below Piedmont Avenue. The building was eventually dismantled and moved when Hearst donated it to the campus. It stood about where the south wing of Wurster Hall rises today.

The building became the center of women's student life, education, and social activities. The complex included a swimming pool, changing rooms, a fenced basketball court, and large indoor multipurpose spaces where women could take physical education classes. There was also a kitchen and dining facilities for social gatherings. When Hearst Hall burned in 1922, the loss was much lamented, but it was replaced within five years by a much larger and more elaborate Hearst Gymnasium for Women.

Hearst Hall
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Hearst Hall on its campus site, circa 1902
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In 1910, the Associated Women Students asked well-known architect and Cal alumnus Julia Morgan to prepare plans for a rustic women's gathering place. President Wheeler lent his support and the Regents granted a site at the far east end of campus, just south of the Greek Theatre.

Floor plan of Girton Hall, trace drawing by architect Julia Morgan
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Floor plan of Girton Hall, trace drawing by architect Julia Morgan
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The building opened on November 23, 1911, as an exclusive gathering place for women students. A simple, one-story structure, most of its interior is taken up by a large central hall, with a brick fireplace and built-in wooden benches around the perimeter. The original plans included an attached porch, a kitchen, dressing room, and a water closet. Women across campus contributed everything from the dishes to the draperies. In 1970, the building was converted to a campus childcare center, and remains in the same use today.

Opening of Senior Women's Hall
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Opening of Senior Women's Hall
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