Announcement: HIS 462: Visual Culture and the Misericordia Archives

The collections of the Misericordia Archives are a microcosm of women’s lives in the twentieth century United States.  This service-learning project in the fall of 2017 enabled students to situate the rich history of campus life within broader events taking place in the United States. The entries below comprise students’ reflections on this experience.

Woman Sports

In the 1930’s and 1940’s, Misericordia offered an array of sports, available for women to participate in. Such sports include archery, tennis, basketball, soccer, ice skating and many more. I know this because of several photos I viewed in  the archives. In theses photos, they show a group of women shooting arrows at targets, one woman shooting an arrow at a target while others watch, and a group photo of women holding their respected sports items such as the basketball, ice skates, and so forth. This makes me wonder what happened to these sports teams and when and why they started to fade out. I do not believe there is an archery team or ice skating team anymore; but was it because they weren’t popular, there was no one to teach it, or was it pushed out on purpose? These photos are more examples of women breaking the gender norms, and in the 1930’s at that. I wonder if things changed or became offered in light of the previous war or the upcoming war that occurred in the time period.

Misericordia, “Sports Heads,” media “photograph” (1939). University Photo  collections, RG905, Sister Mary Carmel McGarigle Archives, Misericordia University, Dallas, PA.

Misericordia  “Archery,” media  “photograph” , (1940). University Photo  collections, RG905, Sister Mary Carmel McGarigle Archives, Misericordia University, Dallas, PA.

Misericordia, “Unknown,” media “photograph” , (1920). University Photo collections, RG905, Sister Mary Carmel McGarigle Archives, Misericordia University, Dallas, PA.

May Day

May Day is a ceremony recognizing and crowning a senior woman on campus that embodies true religious qualities. It appears that all of the other seniors wore generally simple white dresses, and the “May Queen” wore a dress along the lines of a wedding dress. In addition, the underclassmen attended the ceremony wearing caps and gowns. Personally, I think the whole concept of May Day was a combination of homecoming, a wedding, graduation, a garden party, and a coronation. In addition, May Day made me feel uncomfortable. I have realized that today, students are not that engaged in the traditional crowing contest, such as prom and homecoming. My generation has adopted a nonchalant attitude towards these competitions, and realized it is only 15 minutes of fame. Furthermore, today’s society has been trying to push “everybody is a winner” ideal, and to break down the stereotypical characteristics of those who seem to win these competitions. However, I did appreciate the dresses the other seniors wore. Their dresses were all long, loose fitting, and that ruffles, bows and frill was a common trend during that time. Lastly, the women were all wearing big spring hats that you would typical see women wearing to church or at a derby race.

May Day, 1950-1960. University Photo Collection RG905,  Sister Mary Carmel McGarigle Archives, Misericordia University, Dallas, PA.

Ex Communist

I found this one newspaper article in the archives from 1955. Dr. Bella Dodd came to Misericordia to discuss her time in the communist party. She came to discuss her book ‘School of Darkness’ and how she differed from her religion and chose the communist party. I found her interesting because she quit the party pretty close to the end of the war in 1948.  She decided to stay in the party through the war. I wonder if she was forced to stay or believed in what was happening. I would like to do some research on her, like her beliefs, why she joined the party, and why she stayed. It would have been very interesting to be there and listen to her talk. I would like to listen in on the questions asked and ask her questions about the party itself. I find the whole communist story line fascinating so hearing it from someone who was in the party would be a dream come true.


“Ex Communist to Lecture: Will Address students,”  Miss Recordia (April 26,1955). University Newspaper collections, RG830, Sister Mary Carmel McGarigle Archives, Misericordia University, Dallas, PA.

1440 Moveable Type on Display

In this newspaper article from 1940 it describes how a local of the area has a rare piece of a bible that he donated or rather let the university borrow the page from this extremely early work of movable print. As many people know it was a relatively new invention come around the time of 1440. So with that being said it would have been extremely rare for something of this sort to be even around at this point for many things have not been stored properly. However, the local man whom had let the university display this was actually aiming to educate students on the importance of technology and the fact that it was the 500 year anniversary of the printing press being invented. Within the display it helped to explain the long term effects of the printing press being invented.

Peace Corps

In 1963, Miss Recordia, the school news paper published an article which discussed the peace corps recruiting a graduate to go to India and teach mathematics – science. The recruit was one of thirty two who agreed to help introduce English in the mathematics program in public high schools in Andhra Pradesh.  I would like to some research and see if this program is still active and how it recruits. For example, how did a student from a small catholic college in PA, USA get selected to go to India and participate? I wonder if programs like these are still happening and in other places. I feel like it would be a good idea to have programs like this in third world countries, just so kids are getting educated and learning English. What would be the requirements to be brought in to the organization and must there be a global reason for the group to be started, like war?

Miss Recordia, “Peace Corps Drafts June Graduate To Teach Math Science In India,” Newspaper media , (Sept. 25, 1963). University  Newspaper collections, RG830, Sister Mary Carmel McGarigle Archives, Misericordia University, Dallas, PA.

Home economics fashion show

I came across a folder labeled “Home Economics Fashion Show”. These photographs showed a Home Economics class showcasing clothes the students designed. One particular student’s design caught my attention with the flower print, and sleek, fitted style. The pictures did not have a date on them, so I assume this fashion show took place in the mid to late 1960’s based on the style of the their clothes. In addition, the advertisements caught my attention and helped me determine the year as well. All of the posters were advertising Broadway plays located in New York City. I assume that every poster featured a Broadway play because the fashion show was held in the theater. Furthermore, all of the photographs were in black and white, but I could envision the colors of the ads. Advertisements in the 60’s featured large visuals, bold colors and minimal amount of copy in order to immediately capture the consumers attention. After analyzing the posters, I began to wonder what other posters/ads were on campus. 1960’s ads were also a tool to encourage materialism, but as a private catholic institution did the administration allow the students to be exposed to these ads on campus?


Home Economics Fashion show, 1960-. University Photo Collection RG905, Sister Mary Carmel McGarigle Archives, Misericordia University, Dallas, PA.

Women’s Table Tennis

In this photograph (not pictured) from 1941 you have a group of girls practicing table tennis. Although it is not stated on the back of the photograph, the school very well could have had a table tennis team at this time. For example after looking through various other sports teams at this time, Misericordia had a plethora of sports that they no longer have, which is unfortunate. However, within the photograph you can see that outside the window it looks like it is possibly snowing outside and that these might be the girls whom would normally play tennis just attempting to hone their skills for once the weather clears up and turns into spring. Altogether this photo shows the inseparable bonds made here while at Misericordia, as their facial expression shows that they are have a good time with close friends and one’s that they may have had for the rest of their lives.

3 girls in McHale

A photograph I found in one of the archive folders labeled as “students”, shows three girls in a dorm room in McHale Hall. I was in awe because the rooms in McHale look exactly the way they do now! The picture shows three girls in the room sitting on the beds, and one is sitting at her desk. It was very interesting to see how their rooms were decorated because how simplicity. During my college experience, I am used to seeing girls’ rooms fully decked out in lights, tapestries, pillows, and other cute desk and table decor. In addition, a significant amount of their belongings looked homemade. For example, one of the girls had a knit pillow with very basic design. I made this conclusion because everything in the 70’s was loud and bold, and you probably would not find her pillow in a department store. I lived in McHale my freshman year back in 2014, and the picture was taken in 1979. Seeing this picture also brought up many memories of freshman year in McHale, which was such an open environment for everyone in the building. Just about every evening me and my roommates’ friends were constantly in each other’s rooms talking, or binge watching movies and T.V. shows!

3 girls in Mchale, 1979. University Photo Collection RG905, Sister Mary Carmel McGarigle Archives, Misericordia University, Dallas, PA.

Female Pilots

While going through the archives I stumbled upon a newspaper article about women looking toward the sky. Two women from Misericordia were looking to get their airplane licenses and complete their flight hours. This was written in 1955, but what was neat was that five years later there was a photo taken of two women in front of an airplane with different names. This leads me to believe that even more women were striving to make flying their career. After some quick research, in 1960 only a little over 21,000 woman had other than student pilot certificates and even today 97% of pilots are men. I found these two items fascinating because at least four women from our school were making strides in breaking normal gender roles. They followed what they enjoyed doing and made a career for themselves. This makes me wonder how long these types of classes lasted and how many women successfully graduated from the program.