American photography came into its own during the Civil War, when photojournalists like Matthew Brady and Alexander Gardner documented the conflict. Peacetime brought photography to the civilian population, as hundreds of photographers set up studios or embraced picture-taking as a hobby.
We have what may be the earliest extant photograph of the old Williston Seminary campus on Main Street, opposite Shop Row. Today the Easthampton Savings Bank stands on the site of North Hall, the leftmost structure. Beyond North Hall we see Middle and South Halls and the Payson Church, now the Easthampton Congregational Church. The image is by an anonymous photographer, and measures approximately 14 x 10½ inches. The event of being photographed was sufficiently novel to attract the attention of most of the students, who turned out to watch the process and, not coincidentally, to get into the picture.
“There is so much to be done at school that we often forget to think, to pray, or just enjoy the taste of life. This Student Council is presenting an Angelus bell to the school to remind us all of the need of quiet thought. Traditionally the Angelus is rung as a call to prayer. Our Angelus will be what we make it. There is much to think about in that brief moment of our own. There is world peace to pray for, boys in Korea to be remembered, people at home to be loved, and our own thoughts to be thought. The Angelus will be rung daily to provide a moment of peace in the whirl of activities. It is a small beginning but if eighty girls pause in the middle of rush and confusion to pray and to think, it is a beginning.” – Maria Burgee ‘52 [Maria Burgee Dwight LeVesconte], at the dedication of the Angelus, 1952.
Andrea Madsen Gilmore ’70 has presented the Archives with her White Blazer. It is a gift of special significance, not only because it fills a gap in our collection, but because Ms. Gilmore carefully cherished and preserved it for the 42 years since her graduation. More formally known as the Sarah B. Whitaker Award, the White Blazer honors the co-founder and co-principal (served 1924-1962) of Northampton School for Girls. It is one of the two most prestigious prizes awarded to Seniors at Commencement.
The citation for the White Blazer specifies that it “is given to the young woman who has distinguished herself with the greatest contribution to the academic, athletic, and community life of the school while exhibiting exemplary leadership and integrity.” The origins of the prize go back to the 1920s, when the outstanding Northampton School senior was awarded a White Sweater. Then, as today, it was awarded by vote of the faculty. In the ‘thirties the sweater was replaced by a blazer because, as Miss Whitaker noted in her memoir, “styles change.” The prize was renamed in her honor following her retirement. (Also shown is 2011 Whitaker Award winner Sarah Fay, receiving her White Blazer from Head of School Robert Hill III at last year’s Commencement.)
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