This is part of a series The Miami Student is running about the University Archives. All information in the following article was obtained from the University Archives with the help of University Archivist Bob Schmidt.
When students come to college, they experience a good deal of newfound freedom. This is widely accepted to be a rite of passage among young adults. However, young adults, particularly young women, didn’t always have the level of freedom we experience today. In fact, a Miami University group used to publish a rulebook called “For Women Only” that gave the girls of Miami tips on how to act like a young lady.
The “For Women Only” handbook was mentioned last week in an article on the “M” Books in The Miami Student. The “M” Book was a pocket-sized handbook with an “M” emblazed on the cover telling first years everything they needed to know about college life. “For Women Only” was a similar sort of handbook published by the Women’s League. Many editions featured a Native American girl on the cover and throughout the book.
The League, a division of the Miami campus government, called the handbook “a social and administrative bluebook.” The books laid out university rules on campus government councils, curfews, guest policies and interactions with men, to name a few. The books also gave tips on dress, beauty and etiquette.
While the rules laid out in the “For Women Only” books may seem strict to Miami women today, the Women’s League seemed to think rules had gotten too lenient at the time.
“We’ve grown away from strait-laced corsets, but if we also grow away from some of the other old and mellow customs we’ll lose much of the charm of living,” proclaimed the introduction of the 1947 “For Women Only” book.
Some of the “old and mellow customs” previously mentioned included keeping perfectly made up and quaffed at all times. The 1947 handbook insisted that women should keep their makeup and clothes perfect at all times.
“There’s that old line about beauty being only skin deep, but how far under the skin does one get on a first interview or date?” the book said.
The handbook also gave guidelines on acceptable behavior for the consumption of liquor and on interactions with men that are quite different from the accepted social norms today. The handbook stated that even though Oxford was a dry town, “inebriated students are found occasionally.”
The book also chastised any woman who was to drink during her stay at Miami.
“Every time a student’s actions stray from the accepted social patterns it reflects unfavorably on the reputation of Miami,” the book said. “It’s just plain selfish for anyone to pull down the value of his or her own and 5,000 schoolmates diplomas to have a ‘good’ time.”
At that time, women were expected to be pleasant hostesses and dinner guests at all times, and the book laid out 34 etiquette rules girls were supposes to follow at all times.
While the Women’s League informed women of all the rules they were supposed to follow, it also informed girls of the fun they could have. The 1947 book mentions a dance called “The Gold Digger’s Ball” where women were to ask their date to the event. The book told readers, “Once a year women should have a chance to repay their big moments or to trap a man who won’t take more subtle bait.”
“For Women Only” ran consistently from 1947 to 1969. The 1968-1969 handbook is the latest one the University Archives has on file.