Good Girl goes to Bible College, 1960

by Elouise

It’s September 1960. I’m 16 years old and 150 miles from home. I’ve just arrived for my first year of college. My orientation packet includes a student handbook and a handbook for women only. Am I ready for this? According to the handbooks,

I’m expected to
Submit to those in authority over me.
Keep the rules—all of them.
Have my feet on the floor by the time the 2nd bell, a warning bell,
rings a few minutes after the 1st bell at 6:00am.
Be sitting at my desk, not on my bed,
ready for a half hour quiet time of reading my Bible and praying
when the 3rd bell rings at 6:30am.
Go to breakfast when the 4th bell rings at 7:00.
Have my room ready for inspection and be in my seat
ready for class to begin when the next bell rings at 8:00am.
Live by bells for the beginning and end of everything:
Meals, classes, chapel, dates, required rest on Sunday afternoon,
evening study hours, women’s lights out.

I’m expected to get permission
from the Women’s Dean’s Office to
Ride in cars.
Date during prescribed hours and in permissible places.
Eat in someone else’s home.
Miss any meals in the cafeteria
except Friday evening and Saturday morning.
Announce my engagement.
Spend vacation time with anyone other than my immediate family.

I’m expected to
Sit in assigned seats in all classes and in chapel
so that my attendance can be monitored.
Report to the Women’s Dean’s Office when I’ve used
one of my precious few late nights to study for one hour
beyond the prescribed bedtime for women students, 10:15pm.

Most important of all, I’m expected to be modest.
Wear only skirts and dresses unless I’m in gym class.
Make sure skirts cover my knees completely
and aren’t too tight or provocative on the platform.
Cross my ankles, not my legs, when I’m sitting on the platform.
Wear blouses with sleeves in them
when I’m on the platform
or speaking in public.
Wear a girdle so that nothing jiggles from behind,
and a bra that doesn’t reveal the fact that
my breasts are anything but smooth all over.
Wear stockings every day of the year.
Wear a hat to church as a sign of my submission to the authority of men.
Use makeup moderately and avoid too much jewelry,
so as not to project a come-hither look.
Accept responsibility for ensuring that
the thoughts and desires of men’s hearts are calm and chaste.
Refrain from touching men, including the man I will marry,
and keep men from touching me.
Be charming and friendly with men
without encouraging significant friendships with any men
except those I might marry.
Have significant friendships with women.
Avoid spending too much time with any one woman.
Avoid touching or being touched too much by any one woman.
Abstain from dancing, movies, playing cards and mixed ‘bathing’ aka swimming.

Finally, I am expected to
Accept the spiritual authority of men.
Confine my leadership to offices that don’t suggest
I might be in any way in authority over men.
Understand I may be president of the women’s dormitory council,
but only secretary or treasurer of all other campus organizations.
Know enough about theology to listen intelligently to men
as they discuss theological issues,
but not enough to look like I’m trying to usurp the role of men
as the theologians of the church.
Exercise fully my spiritual authority over other women.
Observe my sisters as a member and president of the women’s dormitory council,
acting as an extension of the ever-watchful eyes of the Dean’s Office.
Confront and report my sisters
if they don’t keep all the dormitory rules.

* * * * *

Despite all this, I was happier in Bible college than I’d ever been in my life.  I didn’t gripe about the rules. In fact, I scarcely noticed most of them. With a few minor exceptions I was a Very Good Girl. My parents trained me well.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 March 2015