Introduction: The Women of Summer
This exhibit explores the histories of the Summer School for Women Workers in Industry, inaugurated at Bryn Mawr College in 1921 and later developed at Barnard College, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and in North Carolina. Papers related to the Summer School are available for consultation at the Bryn Mawr College Special Collections reading room. The School was conducted every year between 1921 and 1938 (except for 1935) and in 1939 it transferred its activities to the Hudson Shore Labor School.
The schools were designed to give women working in industry the chance to experience higher education during the summer months when the campuses were not in use by the regular students. In the case of Bryn Mawr College, the women lived on campus and became fully immersed in campus life, including performing plays, a much loved Bryn Mawr tradition.
The students at Barnard College were day students, unlike those at Bryn Mawr who stayed in the dorms. It became a tradition for the students from Barnard to visit their peers on the Bryn Mawr campus for one weekend of their Summer School.
Hilda Worthington Smith is most associated with the Bryn Mawr Summer School, but in fact it was M. Carey Thomas who first had the idea for opening the campus to women workers during the summer months and Worthington Smith's own account of the School is dedicated to Thomas, whom she credits with founding the School.
The following pages trace the history of these schools and the stories of the women who became known as 'the women of summer'.