For some reason, I’ve always been fascinated by women’s colleges of old. The camaraderie, the forbidden-ness of boys on campus, and the excitement (and resulting gossip) when boys do come calling, are all so intriguing. I immediately shunned attending one when I was deciding on colleges so many years ago, mainly because I just couldn’t see myself attending one. The attraction to all-women schools is still sort of there, though, and the funny thing is, my alma mater used to be an all-women’s college, all the way up to 1976, in fact. And today’s post just happens to concern my alma mater-Longwood University, or rather, as it was known from 1924 to 1949, Farmville’s State Teachers College.
Luckily, this pennant has an easy provenance to track, as it was given to my friend Mary (who also attended Longwood) after her aunt passed away. Mary’s great aunt attended Farmville’s State Teachers College from 1933-1937.
As you may have already noticed, Longwood University is no longer Farmville’s State Teachers College, and the school has, in fact, changed its name 4 times since its founding in 1839. With each name change, a remarkable fire has destroyed some part of campus (the most recent fire being in 2001, when the university’s Rotunda, which was one of the original buildings, caught fire during renovations after its name change from Longwood College to Longwood University.) Starting as the Farmville Female Seminary Association in 1839, seven Farmville citizens began this private boarding school for women. In 1884, the private school was handed over to the state, as the owners went bankrupt during the American Civil War (Farmville didn’t see any action as far as fighting goes, but both Generals Lee and Grant are rumored to have stayed in particular houses while waiting for troops to mobilize to Farmville and then to Appomattox). It became the State Female Normal School, with its main goal to provide education to those women who wanted to pursue teaching in public education. For more history on the Normal School’s early beginnings as a state institution, check out the 1899 yearbook available through Longwood’s Library.
Besides being notable as the first state institution for women in Virginia, as well as for its exemplary teaching programs (a good chunk of teachers Virginia still hail from Longwood), Longwood is home to the founding of four national sororities: Kappa Delta (1897), Sigma Sigma Sigma (1898), Zeta Tau Alpha (1898), and Alpha Sigma Alpha (1901).
In 1925, the Normal School changed its name, yet again, to the State Teachers College. It is this era from which the banner hails. The blue and white of the pennant represented the schools colors, and when hung in a dorm, illustrated school pride.
The pennants often had the class year or motto printed on the felt in order to identify each group at gatherings and events. Mary hangs the pennant above the closet in her office, just as her aunt may have done when she attended the State Teachers College.
Longwood has done an amazing job of digitizing old yearbooks, and the 1899 is one of these. They also have digitized the 1937 Virginian, the year Mary’s aunt graduated. Take a peak at both if you want to see fashions, women’s clubs, and learn a little more about the university through the ages. The 1924 yearbook sports some beautiful Art Deco illustrations!
State Female Normal School, “1898 Normal Light” (1898). Yearbooks. Book 1.
State Female Normal School, “1899 Normal Light” (1899). Yearbooks. Book 2.
State Teacher’s College, “1924 Virginian” (1924). Yearbooks. Book 68.
State Teacher’s College, “1925 Virginian” (1925). Yearbooks. Book 69.
State Teacher’s College, “1937 Virginian” (1937). Yearbooks. Book 81.
Welch, Deborah. Virginia: An Illustrated History. New York: Hippocrene Books, 2006. Print.