Academic journal article American Educational History Journal

Article 4: She Was a Sweetheart: The Sweetheart Symbol and the Formation of Feminist Roots in Campus Culture from 1945 to 1970

Academic journal article American Educational History Journal

Article 4: She Was a Sweetheart: The Sweetheart Symbol and the Formation of Feminist Roots in Campus Culture from 1945 to 1970

Article excerpt

In 1954, the Aldepheon, the newsletter of Alpha Delta Pi, dedicated three pages to highlight the election of a campus queen from their Alpha Kappa Chapter at the University of Tennessee. The student body at the university had elected a young woman who not only reflected the utmost qualities of a campus beauty but also had a name to match her title. Barbara Queener, affectionately known on campus as "Queenie," was crowned "Miss Tennessee" for the 1954 school year (Anderson 1954, 16 & 19). The article described her as a characteristic "beauty queen" who had the adoration of the campus, saying she had earned "the love and respect of everyone connected with the University of Tennessee" (Anderson 1954, 16 & 19). Her accolades were numerous, including multiple sweetheart and queen titles on campus from the "Tennessee Cherry Blossom Princess" to the "ACE Queen of Hearts" (Anderson 1954, 19). She also adamantly participated in social activities on campus, partaking "on the committees of every campus event," which even included "chairman of the Aloha Oe" (Anderson 1954, 19).

Queenie was the epitome of femininity. She was not only beautiful and popular but also a member of a prestigious sorority. Yet, the Aldelpheon chose to emphasize a number of Queenie's attributes and college achievements that conflicted with conventional notions of femininity during the decades following the Second World War. The article, presumably written by one of her sorority sisters, concentrated on a number of her activities and aspects that were not recognized as tenets of femininity--particularly for campus women. She was an intelligent woman who had the highest scholastic average in the senior class at the university--a 3.93 (Anderson 1954, 16 & 19). Queenie had been a member of both the "freshmen honorary" and "senior honorary" as well as the "Pi Lambda Theta, [the] education honorary" (Anderson 1954, 19). Furthermore, she obtained multiple scholarships and awards for her academic achievements, including the "freshmen faculty scholarship" as well as a number of sorority related honors (Anderson 1954, 19). As a member of the newspaper business staff, student government, and a "Torchbearer"--an award that recognized the eleven most exemplary students at the University of Tennessee--Queenie was much more than a campus woman who only focused on social activities and her aesthetic appearance; she was a dynamic leader at the university holding authority positions within typically male-controlled organizations (Anderson 1954, 19). Remarkably, the Aldelpheon discussed Queenie's vocational pursuits and her life after college. She wanted to be a "good teacher" and be able "to mold [children's] character[s], to develop their minds, and to make them into good citizens" (Anderson 1954, 20). It seemed her future would be more than a husband, a family, and housework.

A year later, in 1955, the Ball State News, the newspaper at Ball State University, documented the election on campus of the "Cherry Blossom Queen," a junior named Barbara Moser. In stark contrast to the description of Queenie in the Aldelpheon, the paper depicted Barbara as a typical coed at Ball State during the middle of the twentieth century. Describing her as "blond" and "blue eyed," the paper emphasized physical characteristics, such as her height, which stood at "five feet, seven inches" tall (Ball State News 1955, 1). The piece detailed her campus involvement, including her sorority affiliation and membership in the "Kallista Art Club" (Ball State News 1955, 1). The article provided very little information to describe Barbara's academic career while at Ball State--besides her class rank--and made no mention of vocational aspirations. It might appear that Barbara never went to class. Her profile aligned with the normative image of campus women--those who joined sororities, partook in campus courtship and placed an importance on their aesthetic appearance--found in both campus and popular culture following World War II. …

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