HER House Pioneers

The Pioneers 1928 – 1939

Compiled by Marjorie E. Kettell, Ph.D., Class of 1947
(The following recollections were originally published in the 60th anniversary Red Book in 2008)

What was going on in 1920 that led Dean Lucy Jenkins Franklin to go to France? She visited the Sorbonne while there and found out about a group of graduate students who were living together to share expenses. This was apparently a new idea to Dean Franklin, but she was inspired to develop a cooperative at Boston University. (The history of the new cooperative opened in 1928 is chronicled elsewhere and will be included in the extended introduction that is forthcoming.) One interesting note about 1928 is that it was the year that 54 nations signed an agreement to outlaw war – the signing was in France.

Frances Dodge Harper, born in 1907, was in the first group at 328 Bay State Road. She graduated from CLA in 1928 as did her future husband. Was happily married and fulfilled in her career, home life, children and volunteer work. There were few jobs available when she graduated because of the Depression. She felt Dean Franklin and Dean Warren were important influences in her life.

Ida Swan Joslyn, born 1906, spent one semester at the House while at the School of Education in Copley Square. She says, “I remember best the single room I had and loved it.” Though we are not sure of the dates she attended BU, we know she moved on to get a master’s degree at the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. at Smith College.

Viola Haas Robbins, born 1903, attended the School of Theology and spent one year, 1929 to 1930, at HER. She came from Baldwin, Kansas to attend BU. Later, she became a teacher as men were drafted in WWII; she loved teaching and was happily married for 55 years. She recalls Mary Dixon, House Mother, as a mentor.

Margery Mineberg Harting, born 1911, studied Social Studies in the School of Education, graduating 1931. She lived in the HER House from 1930-1931. She was 16 years old when she entered BU, but lived with her family because Dean Franklin told her she was too young to live in a dormitory. In her last year at BU, when she was at HER, she wrote, “HER was very good for me as I had always lived at home til then. The give and take, the girls, the house mother, Mrs. Sleeper, the responsibilities, etc. really did a lot for me in maturing.”

We note that Emma Sleeper, in whose name an annual award is given, was an early housemother at HER, during its days at 328 Bay State Road.

Elsie Bydeley Daniels, born 1920, was at HER from 1939 to 1942. She was at the School of Education, and in 1942 attended the School of Social Work. She was House Manager from 1940-1941, then President in 1941-1942. She describes the days when the house had a cook to make dinner as a formal affair each night that taught the House women manners. Also of interest is the fact that the girls sunbathed on the Esplanade (it went from the House to the river, pre-Storrow Drive days) until a neighbor complained about the women’s attire. Dean Franklin then made a rule that girls had to be in dresses when outside of the House (no slacks!).

Part of Elsie’s stay was during the war years when the windows were blacked out at night. She recalls that “we even had drills where we went up to the roof and put out mock incendiary bombs.” She says the HER House was “very special, coming from Montana and not knowing anyone in the East.”

Elsie also notes that she kept in contact with others in her era, including Shirley VanderPyl Lincoln; June Gardner Kynn; Arlene Beaumont Nash; Natalie Hastings Stovold; and Pat Gulia Bodinizzo.

Isabelle Bailey lived at the HER House from 1929-1931, graduating from the School of Education. She was Clerk from 1920-1930 and President 1930-1931. She was also president of HERAA in 1938 or 1940 (she couldn’t recall which). Frances Harper was president of HER from 1929-1930 just before Isabelle. She mentions two other pioneers, Chris Klinzing and Ann Eddy Walker who were Treasurers at HER in 1929-1930 and 1930-1931 respectively. The significance of HER for her: “I learned to work with others for common purpose, to adjust to working with varying personalities, learning to cope with crises and to appreciate values. I cherish the lasting friendships made in HRH (“HER House”) and appreciate all that great people like Dean Wilder, Dean Franklin and Mrs. Sleeper did for me.”

Like other early students at HER, she notes the rules against smoking, alcohol in the house, reasonable hours to be in at night, weekly house meetings requires, maintaining at least a C average, and outgoing house presidents had to leave an account of the house goals and activities of the year.

Lucille Miller Holthaus sent the following letter dated March 27, 1993.

Dear Members of the Harriet E. Richards House, your article in Bostonia brought back fond memories. I was there, 328 Bay State Road, from 1929 on, and I’m still alive.

Miss Richards was a lovely, gracious lady. I know she loved every one of us. She gave us each a book at graduation. Mine is “Oxford Book of American Verse,” with the inscription in her handwriting. If you would like it to add to your memorabilia, I’d be glad to send it.

Have a Happy Tea on April 25. (Signed) Lucille Mille Holthaus.

What with everything else we were doing on the Board, we did not follow up on this offer, unfortunately, and it is questionable that Lucille is still living. Further exploration will be done if there is an address for her.

Anna Eddy Walker, born 1907 in Brattleboro, VT, graduated from BU in 1932, school or college unknown. She taught in rural schools after a one-year teacher education course post-high school, until she came to BU. “Joined the Harriet Richards club in 1929. Had lots of new experiences for a country girl. Made lasting friendships. Paid $7.00 a week for room and board. Remember Harriet Richards, had many meetings with Dean Franklin. Had two excellent House Mothers, Miss Ballou and Emma R. Sleeper. Graduated in 1932 and went back to country teaching. (Retired?) in 1956 after children were grown up.

In 2003, we received an email from Anna’s granddaughter, Sheri Spain. Sheri said that Anna was living in Weston, VT, now 95 years old and could not hear very well, but was thrilled to receive our invitation to the annual tea even though she could not make the trip. “Her very fond memories of her stay at the HER House are dear to her. She has shared stories of her college days with grandchildren and great-grandchildren and felt most fortunate to have had such a positive experience. My Grammy would be very happy to hear from any old or new friends.”

Jeannette Tibbetts Williams was born in 1917, and came to HER in 1935 until January of 1940. She graduated from CLA as a History major. She was Treasurer from 1936-1938 and President 1938-1939. She notes that these two offices were appointed by the Dean; other officers were voted on by the girls. She had sent a contribution in memory of Marian Wheeler Parsons.

Ruth Feley was President of the HER House from 1933-1934. The following are her notes from the 1934 Annual Meeting held on Sunday, April 29, 1934 at 3:00pm; the meeting began in Mrs. Sleeper’s attractive sitting room at “328.”

It was voted to organize a permanent alumnae association and recommendations for membership were voted and recorded by Frances Harper, Secretary. Several representatives from each group of girls were present, together with Dean Franklin, Mrs. Sleeper and Miss Ruth Feley, the Cooperative House President of 1934.

Briefly, the name: the Harriet E. Richards Cooperative Housing Association of Boston University.

The purpose: to further the interests of Cooperative Housing in Boston University.

Membership: all former BU girls who lived at HER for one semester or longer who are not now living there, and who left in good standing are eligible for membership in the Association.

Associate Membership: any HER girl who lived at HER for any length of time, and is no longer there may be elected to associate membership.

Officers: President, Secretary-Treasurer, Executive Committee made up of a representative from each group of girls (could mean each graduating class).

Duties of Executive Committee: collect dues and information for the permanent record book, keep information up to date, and help girls maintain an interest in the Association.

Dues: 50 cents a year payable 2 years in advance ($1.00).

Local Advisory Committee: 5 girls living near Boston who keep in close contact with the girls at 328 to help with their problems and link them with alumnae. Annual Newsletter with minutes following each annual meeting.

Most of the elected officers/pioneers from this 1934 meeting are unknown to us. Those that are known are below:

Elected President: Marion Chase Hoyt
Secretary-Treasurer: Frances Dodge Harper

Class Representatives: Margaret Lewis Whitney, 1929
Christine Klinzing, 1930
Isabelle Bailey, 1931
Anna Eddy, 1932
Lucille Mille, 1933

Local Advisory Committee (of 1934):
Marion Hoyt, Martha MacDougall Franck, Jane Boicourt, Dorothy Stauty, Alice Northrop.

Another set of names mentioned in this report illuminates three more pioneers we do not know. These three women had died by the 1934 meeting.

It was voted to give a gift to the House in June in honor of Helen Sylvia Smith, Constance Babbit and Catherine Crandall, all members of the House who have passed away. The sum of 50 cents was considered a reasonable amount to ask for each person.

Further research is needed to find out whether or not any of these pioneers are still living, but we do know that Elsie Daniels has died recently. She had been at an Alumnae Tea in the late 90s as I recall and always expressed her interest in HER with communications back from the Newsletter.