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Dames, Graduate Club (circa 1932-1964) | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections

Name: Dames, Graduate Club (circa 1932-1964)
Variant Name: University Dames Club
Fuller Form: Purdue University Graduate Dames Club


Historical Note:

The Purdue University Graduate Dames Club was a social and philanthropic group for the wives of Purdue graduate students.  It included an executive board that met regularly for meetings as well as several special interest groups in which women could electively choose to participate.  These groups included bridge, sports, child development, decorating, etc. and changed frequently over the years as interests shifted.  The Graduate Dames started in 1932 after the founding members thought it a good idea to separate from the more general University Dames Club which was also inclusive of the wives of undergraduate students.  This separation came largely as a result of the large number of participants in the combined club and the resultant inability to function efficiently.  The tradition of University Dames at Purdue started much earlier, however; Dean Carolyn Shoemaker was a founding member and sponsor of the Dames from their inception in 1918.  Shoemaker remained a strong supporter of and advocate for all University Dames until her death in 1933.

The tradition of University Dames Clubs began with the development of the first such group at Harvard in 1896.  As Harvard Dames moved on to other parts of the country they would start new chapters at the next university with which they were affiliated.  These clubs were devoted to creating a sense of community between the wives as well as a source of social and intellectual development and philanthropic endeavors.  The National Association of University Dames was founded in 1921 to address the growing need to better facilitate transfer of members among chapters and foster a sense of cooperation and communication between them.  Due to the fact that individual chapters were quite small and with extremely limited resources, the possibility of annual conventions was unlikely; thus, the founding committee of the national association decided that the responsibilities of the national chapter would be carried out on a rotating basis by the officers of local chapters.  Purdue Dames held the National chairmanship for two years (1931-1932, 1933), ostensibly due to the division of the undergraduate and graduate groups.

The Purdue Graduate Dames took on a number of philanthropic projects over the years and contributed significantly to university culture.  Some of the groups they supported include: the Agapai, the County Farm, and the **** School, among others.  They also hosted several events a year, some for members only, others for members and their spouses, and occasionally events that were open to the public.  These events were generally formatted around a dinner dance concept or card games, but the Dames were well known for their annual fashion show and crafts bazaars.

The Graduate Dames reverted to their original title of the Purdue University Dames in 1964, when they reabsorbed the Undergraduate group.  It is unclear at this time how long the club continued to operate after this since the records end abruptly in 1965 (but with no indication that the club was disbanding).  Later records in the collection indicate that the Dames maintained a cooperative relationship with the Purdue Women’s Club as well and it is possible that the two could have merged.

Sources:

MSP 146, Graduate Dame records, Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries

Board of Trustees Minutes, Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries

Note Author: Virginia Pleasant





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