2019/12 News from The Sunflower Initiative



December 2019

Why I Support TSI:

Wellesley students “step-singing,” i.e., serenading
Photo ©2018 by Wellesley College, used by permission

Songs and Lanterns
Meredith Minter Dixon, R-MWC ’84


“Where the river
Winds through blue mountains….”


On special occasions throughout the college year, Randolph-Macon women gathered to sing to their sister class in a serenade, or to sing defiance to their rivals at a Skeller Sing.  Wilson College students, too, gathered as Odd and Even classes to sing the songs of their classes, and Wilson alumnae still do.  And the classes of Chatham College competed in a yearly Song Contest, at which each class sang all or part of the lyrics of the college’s alma mater to the tunes of popular songs.  


At Wellesley College, students still stand on their chapel’s steps twice a year to sing together, 

“Some think it worth their while to go to college,
And so do I! And so do I!
Some think that only men are fit for knowledge,
But not so I! Oh, no not I!….”


Sweet Briar students do likewise, with each class singing four songs, one in praise of their own class and the others, more or less complimentary as sister-class status warrants, directed at each of the other classes.  All classes praise the Seniors, who are thought to be above college rivalry


Bryn Mawr students sing to other classes three times a year, at major college festivals.  The most picturesque of these is Lantern Night, when First-Years are given “lanterns of knowledge” in their class color.  That’s been going on ever since 1906.  

Bryn Mawr’s Lanterns of Knowledge. 
Photo ©2008 by Amanda Cegielski under CCL license (CC-by-ND 2.0)

Amanda Beardall, Bryn Mawr 2014, vividly described Bryn Mawr’s Lantern Night ceremony:


“The first years walk into the Cloisters in complete darkness and silence. They wear long black robes so that they also blend into the darkness. The juniors and seniors are “swingers” so they stand in each arch way and sing a song in Greek called “Pallas Athena” while the sophomore “runners” run with the lanterns and set one down behind each first year student.


Once all the lanterns have been distributed, the first years pick up their lanterns, making sure not to look directly into the light of knowledge in the process, and sing the traditional Greek song “Sophias” that they have been practicing for the past week. The first years then exit silently while the upperclassmen sing “Sophias” back to them until all of them have left.”


It is traditions like these that women’s college graduates will remember when they look back at their college years.  I support TSI so that “our voices, serenading in the night” may ring at other colleges for women, and so that girls of today may have the chance to sing together as we did, as the lamps of learning – physically present or not – are handed down.

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