Fredonia Normal School
Faculty DamesThe Post-War Years
The Faculty Dames, organized in 1937 by Marian Mackie, wife of faculty member Dr. Herbert Mackie, was chartered in 1939. The Dames was an organization for faculty wives and women of the faculty and professional staff. The group gathered to discuss issues that mattered, without fear of ridicule, and acted to change the college and local communities through projects such as raising funds for scholarships for women, assisting local charities, and initiating the first recycling drive for the Fredonia/Dunkirk area. One of the Dames' projects involved the state psychiatric hospital at Gowanda, where the majority of patients were women. In 1958, psychiatric patients occupied more hospital beds than the total of patients suffering from all other physical illnesses; 83 percent of the psychiatric patients were women. The Faculty Dames served lunch at the Gowanda facility, sang songs, and helped with arts and crafts projects. Most importantly they talked to the patients as fellow human beings. Elizabeth "Kris" Beal, wife of Dr. Dallas Beal, reflected on this experience:
"I was part of the Gowanda project, which began when we had a speaker from the institute speak to the Dames. He was the occupational therapist and he said, 'if you ladies want to help us out only during Christmas time forget it, because everyone comes out at Christmas time. What we need is for people to come at least once a month and help with the patients.' So we did just that."
The Dames believed women needed to work together to support each other, accomplish goals, and make a difference. They were a true sisterhood. However, Faculty Dames was disbanded in the early 1990s as participation declined while women juggled careers with family responsibilities. According to Lois Harp, wife of faculty member Dr. Herbert Harp, "The town of Fredonia and the faculty were proud of the Dames, and believed in what they stood for. The community of Fredonia owes a great debt of gratitude to the Faculty Dames." While the organization died, its spirit lives on and former Faculty Dames still provide the core group of cookie-bakers each month when Harp visits the Chautauqua County Home and Infirmary to play the piano and lead sing-alongs for the residents.
Women's History Project, 1999-2001. © March 2002 by the State University of New York at Fredonia. All rights reserved.
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