Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Packing for College: Whisky and Witch Hazel

A rowing team of Wellesley students dress in their finest, circa 1913.
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.  

Vassar College was the first university to offer a full liberal arts program for women beginning in 1865. At the time, when most young women seeking higher education were enrolled in teachers' colleges, inviting women to study such subjects as art history, French and psychology was a radical idea. 

Forty years later, while other such women-only universities had opened their doors, the majority of women students still attended "female seminaries." Despite that and surprisingly, the number of "coeds," as they were dubbed, was equal to the number of male students by then.

Regardless of what type of educational institution women were attending, when it was time to go away to school, they weren't heading to Target for fashionable decor and minifridges. No, an incoming freshman was told to bring mostly first-aid supplies. Here's her typical list: bandages, antiseptic, hot water bottle, syringe, roll of prepared mustard sheets, three porous plasters, absorbent cotton and a roll of old linen, bottle of "pure whisky," flasks of turpentine and alcohol, witch hazel, medicated clay, eye cup and eyewash, medicine glass and dropper, thermometer, salve, quinine tables, family-tested headache and cold cures, scissors and safety pins. 

Today's college first-aid kit? Likely a box of Band-Aids and the phone number to the on-campus health office.

No comments:

Post a Comment