Project Editor:Anastasia Smallcomb, UCARE, 2007

Table of Contents

Overview of U.S. Literary Societies
UNL Literary Societies:
1. History
2. Within the Society
3. Women's Roles
4. Controversies

Works Cited
Site Map

Women's Roles

Unlike many of the older colleges in the country, UNL began as a co-educational college. Therefore, unlike many of their literary society predecessors, the Palladian society began as a co-educational society; they had no co-ed society to model theirs after. The women students were active participants in the society for the first few terms, mostly participating in declamations, essays and music. But soon, women ceased to be seen in the exercises of the society, then the roll. The cause of this is unknown. According to the Palladian Centennial, there was a lot of tension in the Palladian Society, but it was unclear if the absence of young ladies was the cause or result of this tension. One source, "'Can she not see and hear, and smell and taste?': Women students at coeducational land-grant Universities in the American West, 1868-1917," written by Andrea Radke, claims that the Palladians banned women from entering their society and this is what encouraged the formation of the all-female Pierian Literary Society in 1873. After the Adelphian Society came into existence, it didn't take long, according to Radke, for the Pierians to join with the Adelphians in mocking the Palladians at their insufficient and unbalanced society. After three years of not allowing women into the society, the source states that the Palladians changed their constitution and allowed women to enter the society.

However, there is no statement or by-law in the records of the Palladian society that prevents women from entering the society. On the contrary, around the time of the Pierian society's formation, an excerpt from the minutes of April 8, 1873 states that, in order to attract ladies to their society, the members of the Palladian society adopted an amendment to the constitution that waived membership dues for the lady students who enrolled in the society. This was the first resolution adopted in order to draw ladies into the society; there were more made throughout 1873 and 1875; finally in 1875 seven ladies were voted into the society membership.

After their formation, the Palladians extended the use of their hall to the Pierians and remained in contact with them. At the time, the Adelphians had just come into existence on campus and, after a brief life, the Pierian society disbanded and most members signed up with the Adelphians. An article by H.H. Wilson stated that both of the societies (Adelphian and Palladian) had not allowed women into their ranks. Both societies had been lacking something and the Adelphians were the first to figure out what. Secretly, they passed an amendment allowing young ladies into the literary society. After most of the prospective young ladies joined with the Adelphians, the Palladians passed a similar amendment just in time to get the "campfollowers." The reason is unknown. After this union, there was an amendment to the Palladian society By-Laws that freed young ladies entering the society from paying dues or fines for the rest of their membership. These are the two theories on the missing society women.

After women began showing up more in the literary societies, they began taking a more active role in the classes. Before, they mainly kept to the Declamation and Essay classes, reading on more "delicate" topics like flowers and housekeeping. However, after a few years, the ladies began to grow bolder, participating in the Debate alongside their male counterparts. In the Palladian Society, a tradition called the Slate required young men to escort one young lady to and from society each week. This tradition helped to breed social skills in both genders, along with the community within the society. Then one day, Palladian boys found a curious thing scratched on the Slate—each girl had rejected her slate. That Friday night, every girl showed up with a W.G.I.A. pin—the We Go It Alone protest had begun. According to the Palladian Centennial, the W.G.I.A. pin showed up more than a few times to disrupt the course of things, but each wave was eventually calmed and placated for a while.

Literary society ladies also formed their own Debating clubs. The purpose of this organization was to practice the skills of Debate, and to provide a comfortable atmosphere in which the ladies could practice, not only debating, but speaking in front of an audience. Like the Slate, organizations like the Palladian Girls' Debating Club (the P.G.D.C.) helped increase the feeling of camaraderie within the society. The purpose of the P.G.D.C. can be found in the Yearbooks of the society; the following has been taken from the Palladian Quarter Centennial Souvenir:

The first meeting of the club was held in the fall of '84. The purposes which drew the members together were to carry on systematic practice in debate, to enjoy closer companionship, and to work in many ways for the benefit of the Palladian society. For a series of years, the regular debate for Friday night was discussed by the club in the afternoon preceding, thus preparing the members to take part in the society debate. The fruits of this work were soon seen in the frequency with which the Palladian girls participated in the regular as well as the general debates in the society meetings. The interchange of ideas, the closer companionship, also fostered that spirit of independence which has always been one of the most admired characteristics of the Pall girls . . .

. . . the P.G.D.C., after a recess of one year, occasioned largely by the immense task of carrying through the Quarter Centennial celebration, will meet again next fall, and the halls will again echo with that feminine chorus:

When I was a student at Lincoln,
I belonged to the P.G.D.C.
I used to make speeches on Friday,
And all the girls listened to me.