Ban on Dancing

DancingPoll12_7_1933Given its Methodist heritage, dancing and card playing were forbidden on the Willamette campus until the 1930s. While the dancing ban was a fact of  Willamette life in its early years, through the 1910s and 1920s students were beginning to find issue with the ban. Student body numbers were increasing, and many students had grown up dancing at local social events. By 1933, the Associated Students of Willamette University conducted a poll inquiring about students’ desire to partake in social dancing functions. With a vote of 369 to 67, the vast majority of students just wanted to dance! The response from the Board of Trustees was to restate that “Sunday afternoon teas, which have been becoming increasingly popular on campus, meet administration requirements only as long as no dancing or card-playing is permitted.”

Womendancingwithdummies

Photographs and newspapers help us imagine students’ reactions to their social regulation. While we do not know the true story behind these women dancing, perhaps their dance with dummies is in protest to the ban on social dancing.

You can view this photo, and many like it, in the Paulus Glass Plate Negatives collection. You can find reactions to the ban on dancing in the Collegian, which is currently available in the Archives and soon to be available from anywhere on the Archives website.