Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Wellesley College Float Night booklets from 1894, 95, and 96.

These old booklets are from Wellesley College, which was an early all girl school founded in 1875 by Henry Fowle Durant. Float Nights were big events and as here written by LINDA VAUGHAN, she explains some of what the "Floats" were about.

Starting in 1875 a tradition in women’s sport was in the making at Wellesley
College. At that time the sport was referred to as rowing; it is now known as crew. There were several major components associated with the development of the crew tradition: a boating pageant known as “Float Night”, a “scientific” instructional program, and intramural and intercollegiate competition. During the formative years two people strongly influenced the development of crew and its component parts; the founder of the college, Henry Fowle Durant, and the first director of the department of hygiene and physical training, Lucille Eaton Hill.
While at the time of the opening of the college in 1875 Victorian women were assumed
by most people to be frail creatures whose health might be impaired by the rigors of
academic life, Mr. Durant was a strong advocate of vigorous exercise in the fresh air and sunshine. He therefore provided an opportunity for the students to exercise and enjoy the outdoors by purchasing three boats for rowing on the lake. More boats were purchased and eventually the rowers established a practice of serenading the campus while drifting in their boats on the lake at sunset. This spontaneous gathering evolved into a campus event known as Float Night which for a period of time was one of the major components of the crew tradition. Eventually it became an elaborate panorama of parades, singing, rowing demonstrations with star and W formations, processions of tableaus in the form of floats and fireworks displays. Because of gasoline shortages and blackouts, this pageant was not held
during the war years, and after several attempts to revive Float Night after the war, it was totally abandoned in 1948. It had become too costly and the existing student body had never witnessed the event, so that the thread of at least one part of the crew tradition had been lost.
A second aspect of the tradition began in 1882 with the arrival of Lucille Eaton Hill
who was keenly interested in organized sports. Under her direction a more scientific
approach was instituted in the crew program. This was also made possible by the purchase of new 8-oared barges. The crews began to be selected on the basis of health, discipline and technical skill so that by 1900 the original rower-singers had become athletes.

Class of 1896