Maud McLeod's M.A.C. Story

This Collections Spotlight looks at a collection of materials that document the experiences of Michigan Agricultural College (M.A.C.) “co-ed” Maud McLeod. MSU Museum received the collection from Maud’s daughter in 1990. The collection contains photographs, receipts, report cards, programs and other ephemera that document a young woman’s experience at M.A.C. at a time of rapid gains by women in social, political and economic realms.

Maud was one of the first M.A.C. students to enter the four-year Women’s Course leading to a Bachelor of Science degree. The program was established with a class of 42 women in 1896. The course was designed to increase students’ knowledge and proficiency as future homemakers or teachers of homemaking. Initially the Women’s Course within the Women’s Department, it included courses in domestic arts (needlework, dressmaking, millinery, woodwork), domestic science (cooking); music and calisthenics, as well as instruction in traditional academic subjects such as history, mathematics, science, English and languages. Maud entered the program in 1897. She is shown here wearing an M.A.C. gym suit. (Calisthenics was a required course for Freshman women.)

Maud’s pastor in Ionia, Michigan wrote a letter of reference supporting her application to M.A.C., dated September 9, 1897.

To whom it may concern: This certifies that Miss Maud McLeod is a young Lady of the most excellent character a noble Christian girl The writer having been her pastor for one year can heartily commend her to the best of society a person of stainless reputation. (H.R. Hawley)

Surviving artifacts documenting Maud's time at the College include a poem referring to strict curfews for women students at M.A.C., a receipt for payment of $0.35 paid by Maud for damage to her room from one tack and two screws, a fee receipt is pre-printed with male pronouns twenty-eight years after women were first admitted to M.A.C. in 1870, and a chemistry assignment and household economy class notebook. Note students in the Women’s Course took science, as well as domestic arts courses.

In 1896, M.A.C. faculty banned Greek organizations from forming. Non-Greek societies, known as academic or literary societies, were in existence at the time of the ban, but they began to grow as they filled roles previously held by Greek organizations. Admission into the literary societies was by invitation. Their purpose, though initially providing forums for academic discussion, was largely social, and they took on the role of Greek organizations in planning nearly-weekly entertainments, such as dances, teas and trips. The Columbian Literary Society was an all-male society, so Maud may have attended the annual banquet in June 1901 as someone’s date.

MSU Museum, with University Archives and MSU Libraries Special Collections, preserves the history of student life at MSU.

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