Author: Frances Densmore

Recipient: not specified

Date: undated

Location: Frances Theresa Densmore Letters 1884-86, Letter No. 11, Record Group 30/156, Oberlin College Archives

Document Type: Typed Letter Copy



3 portrait
Fig 10: Elizabeth Russell Lord in 1900

In this letter, Densmore described a light-hearted interaction with the Assistant Dean of Women, Elizabeth Russell Lord, as they covered up breaking study-hour rules. Densmore went on to describe the rules the Dean of Women, Adelia Field Johnson, had about dress. Lord was the Assistant Principal of the Women’s Department from 1884 to 1900. She attended Oberlin College from 1837 to 1838 and from 1840 to 1842. Johnston also attended Oberlin College, receiving a literary degree in 1856. Johnston became Principal of the Women’s Department (a position later named Dean of Women) and the first woman on Oberlin’s faculty in 1870. She held her position as Dean of Women until 1900, and as professor until 1907.



3-1No. 11

A note on Mrs. Lord and Mrs. Johnston

… [sic] The other day several girls were talking in the hall during study hours, which is against the rules,– talking about gentlemen, of course, when Mrs. Lord appeared in sight. One bright girl observed, “I do think it is so interesting to hear about the missionaries in Japan.” The others took the hint and as Mrs. Lord sent [sic] by she said “Girls, I am gkad [sic] to hear you talking about something profitable,” and passed without a word of reproof. There are some sly ones here, if they have a bad failure to get excused, they take off their corsets, comb their hair plainly, put their bangles in their pockets and go meekly into Mrs. Johnston’s office and ask if she doesn’t think their appearance improved, then, when they have wrought her up to the proper pitch of ecstacy they begin about the failure.1 She is quite a fanatic on dress reform and plain dressing generally, she told one girl that the girl she liked best was here four years and in that time wore one dress, one cloak/ [above the line, typed: one bonnet and] and (I think) one pair of shoes, it seemsincredible [sic] but I suppose it must be so if she said it.
Transcribed by Natalia Shevin

1 See Reference Document 1 for Adelia Field Johnston’s outline for women’s conduct.