Sheet and Pillow-Case Party

The Sheet and Pillow-Case Party was an early tradition at Dana taking place until around 1900 when the New Girls’ Dance took its place.  It was a way to have the incoming class, the sophomores, feel welcome at their new school and become acquainted with their upper classmates.  Today, the tradition of Senior-Sophomore continues in the spirit of the Sheet and Pillow-Case Party.
 
The October 1892 Bonbonnière, the earliest known student newspaper, contains the first mention of the Sheet and Pillow-Case Party in the Archives.  The article mentions that this party is an annual event where “… ghostly figures glided noiselessly through the corridors and down the steps to the gymnasium, where they were whirling about in the dizzy mazes of a waltz … stifling masks were removed … and the dancing and merry-making continued till the unwelcome bell put an end to our evening’s pleasure.”

Florence Mildred Hubbard 1893 wrote to her mother in an undated letter [1892], “Our sheet and pillow case party passes off finely-Three of the teachers come in dressed up and took us all by storm.  They took their parts finely and it was a long time before we found out who they were. 
Miss Sarah [Eastman, Principal from 1881-1899] joined all the fun just as much as any as any of the (other) girls.”

Helen Julia Wheeler 1896

Helen Julia Wheeler 1896

A dance card for the Sheet and Pillow-Case Party is the first item found in the scrapbook of Helen Julia Wheeler Hutchins 1896. On the card is a list of dances, waltz, two-step and caprice, written twice.  Students, mainly seniors, used the small attached pencil to write their name next to the specific dance they wished to have with Helen.  Beneath the dance card Helen wrote, “Sheets and Pillowcase Party, Sept. 29, 1894.”

Margaret French 1899 describes the tradition in the June 1899 Wellesley publication Our Town, “At the beginning of each fall term all interests centre in the ‘new girls,’ and it is the task of the ‘old girls’ to learn their names, dance with them in the gymnasium before evening prayers, and try to keep them from getting homesick.  To help along this good work, on the second Saturday night of the term, a sheet and pillow-case party is given in their honor.”

New Girls' Dance Card, 1911

New Girls' Dance Card, 1911

By 1903 the Sheet and Pillow-Case Party was called the New Girls’ Dance. Helen Ripley Buckingham 1904 wrote in a September 1903 letter, “Last night was the New Girls’ Dance, & I am tired. The new girls seemed to enjoy it, but I don’t see much fun in being so tall that you have to “lead” through a whole evening.  Some of the new girls seem very nice.”

It is difficult to determine exactly when the Old Girl-New Girl Tradition ended and Senior-Sophomore began.  The 1962 Focus mentions the Senior-Sophomore Banquet where the new class song was introduced and, “Each sophomore found herself in the protective custody of an ancient and wise senior … as the sophomore class officially became part of the school.” In Sept. 1962, the ninth grade became part of the Upper School so that the members of the sophomore class were no longer the “New Girls’.”  The first photographs of Senior-Sophomore in the Archives are from 1972.

Bibliography

Buckingham, Helen Ripley. September 1903. MS. Helen Ripley Buckingham Letters. Nina Heald Webber Archives, Dana Hall School., Wellesley.
Buck, Clyde, Helen Marie Wheeler Buck – Family Photo Book. Photograph. January 2010. 14. Print.
French, Margaret. “Dana From the Inside.” Our Town II.6 (June 1899): 6-7. Print.
Hartshorne, Ellen Sahlin. 1911-1913. MS.Ellen Sahlin Hartshorne Scrapbook. Nina Heald Webber Archives, Dana Hall School., Wellesley.
Hubbard, Florence Mildred. Letter to mother. [1892]. MS Florence Mildred Hubbard Letters. Nina Heald Webber Archives, Dana Hall School., Wellesley.
“Sheet and Pillow-Case Party.” Bonbonnière 3.1 (October 1892): 5. Print.
Wheeler, Helen Julia.  September 1894. MS. Helen Julia Wheeler Scrapbook. Nina Heald Webber Archives, Dana Hall School., Wellesley.

 

 

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