There Is Nothing Like a Dame: The Wives of North Carolina State University, 1919–2009

Saturday, January 8, 2011
Ballroom C (Hynes Convention Center)
Amy H. Mittelman , independent scholar
There is Nothing Like A Dame: The Wives of North Carolina State University 1919-2009.

Amy Mittelman, Ph.D.

Poster Proposal AHA 2011

This poster will be a presentation of material from my manuscript, Dames, Dishes, and Degrees: Women and Men in Academic Communities 1890-2009. Dames, Dishes, and Degrees is a social history of academic communities from 1890 – 2009, focusing on faculty wives. Faculty wives and their organizations are a central part of my story because they embody the changes in woman’s roles in academic communities over the last hundred and ten years.

Dames’ organizations on college campuses seemed to have started around the same time as hereditary societies, such as the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), and originally were the wives of students and graduate students. Some academic institutions, such as Yale had two organizations, Yale Dames and a faculty wives group, Yale University Women’s Organization. Both co-existed through the 1980s.  At other places, there was only one organization. Students’ wives, faculty wives and staff were all Dames.

The Dames Club originated in 1896 at Harvard University. In 1921, Dames organizations from various academic institutions met and ratified a national constitution for the National Association of University Dames. Members and associate members primarily consisted of the wives of graduate students, faculty members' wives, and married female students.

NAUD was a unique organization, which had no headquarters. Both officers and headquarters rotated on a yearly basis, determined by when a branch ratified the constitution.

This poster will present material from the three different organizations that existed for over ninety years at North Carolina State University. The school had a faculty wives club, the North Carolina State Woman’s Club, a branch of the National Association of University Dames, and States Mates, an organization for wives of undergraduate students. Faculty wives acted as sponsors and mentors for both student wives organization. The three organizations hosted a variety of teas, dinners, dances, and barbeques. There was a yearly Mrs. North Carolina State pageant. The faculty wives club published three different cookbooks.

The women who comprised the memberships of faculty wives clubs and dames associations are not famous. Even their own records most often called them, Mrs. Husband’s Name. However, like the worker bee in all volunteer organizations, for much of the history of their particular organization, they were hostesses for institutional functions, and provided student aid in the form of loans and scholarship, as well as companionship and friendship. For both fledging and established institutions of higher learning, they met college needs that would not have been met without them. In this way, they were invaluable. In general, the historical narrative has ignored these women. This poster as well as my book, Dames, Dishes, and Degrees, will restore these women to their historical place.

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