A Legacy of Friendship
The BSU Women's Club traces its history to two key groups for women affiliated with Ball State—the Faculty Wives Club (1930) and the Faculty Women's Club (1923) (including women faculty, staff, administrative and professional personnel, and retirees).
Until the introduction of social media, social clubs such as these served to connect women through their common interests and ties to the campus community, creating a culture of support and friendship. These groups were especially valuable to newcomers who may have never heard of Muncie, Indiana, before moving from other states and countries. Club members met regularly to share information and recommendations as well as explore exciting topics and participate in an exchange of culture and ideas.
This tradition of welcoming newcomers, building lasting friendships, and supporting women in their interests has continued to today. In the 21st century, we've created a community spanning multiple generations of women, embraced technology to communicate with members, and opened our membership to all friends of the university, including residents of the greater Muncie community.
Through the Decades
University Wives Club: The First Fifty Years
—Written by Frances Rippy, 1979, University Wives
In 1929, Ball Teachers College, Eastern Division, Indiana State Normal School, became Ball State Teachers College. Shortly afterwards, under the leadership of Mrs. Lawrence Hurst, a group of faculty wives began to meet informally as the Faculty Wives Club, with dues of $0.25 and occasional dinner costs of $0.50 per couple.
By October 27, 1931, formal minutes began to be kept; meetings were held on the fourth Tuesday of each month, and Mrs. Edgar Menk was presiding in the YMCA Banquet Room. A motion to increase dues to $1 was peremptorily rejected on the grounds that it was "in excess of present demand;" dues were set at $0.50.
Programs during the 1930s emphasized music, travelogues (western European or Mexican), flowers, book reviews, dramatic readings, teas, and card parties. The Wives paid special attention to sewing for the hospital, sometimes meeting twelve times a year in smaller groups to do so; by the end of the decade they set aside at least one full day a year (usually January) for hospital sewing (a function that would later be absorbed by the mid-year service night of University Women's Club).
Meetings were still essentially private, not written up by the Easterner (the forerunner of the Ball State Daily News) or by the Muncie Star. (On March 28, 1933, members rejected a request by the Star to publicize their meetings, though they were to relent later and permit write-up of the meetings, including lists of every member of the club.) There were meetings with husbands and meetings with guests. The treasury carried forward from year to year a balance of from $1 to $3. The first extant yearbook came out in 1933. Attendance ranged to 20-30 women for a typical meeting, though for one memorable picnic at Burris on September 27, 1938, there were 105 persons present.
In the 1940s, as the University entered the war years, the Faculty Wives Club endeavored to discipline itself in various ways. Baby gifts were limited to $2; $1 to $1.50 for flowers. Square dances were introduced as entertainment, and the group resolved, ironically, one month before Pearl Harbor, to read no books on war. Three months later, the projected series of art films was postponed indefinitely, because of the "stress of the times." Defense stamps were given as prizes at the bridge games, and travelogues were expanded in 1942 for the first time to include Alaska and Hawaii as topics. In 1944 and 1945 Korea, South America, and Russia became group topics for the first time. April 5-12, 1945, was announced by the Assistant War Food Administrator as Garden Week, the women reminded one another, and a program "Music of Our Allies" was presented, featuring music of Russia, China, and England.
As the original group of faculty wives and their husbands aged, the resolution was passed (on March 27, 1945) that "...any member whose husband is no longer officially connected with Ball State Teachers College, either through death or retirement, shall, if she so desires, continue her affiliation with the organization." Hospital day continued in January: there were still many musical programs. And the 1948-49 yearbook program was completely in rhyme. Two meetings a year included husbands; other meetings typically had 40 persons in attendance. On September 24, 1946, the group began to sponsor a club for student wives (to become the Dames Club).
The most imaginative meetings of the 1940s were those which included husbands. There was, for example, a Hard-Time Party for husbands, on January 23, 1946, with red and white checkered tablecloths, kerosene lamps, Carl Nelson singing "Daisy" and "The Men on the Flying Trapeze", and battle of quartets. The year-end balance in the treasury for most of the decade remained about $5, though it soared to $54.98 in 1949.
The first extant constitution of Faculty Wives Club was adopted on April 22, 1947, beginning, "The object of this society shall be to promote a spirit of friendliness, to provide social intercourse, and to stimulate culture among its members."
The spectacular growth of the college itself during the 1950s was reflected in a similar expansion in Faculty Wives Club. The first yearbook membership list, printed in the 1951-52 yearbook, shows 118 members; even this expanded figure had doubled (to 239) by the 1958-59 yearbook. There were 220 persons present at the picnic for husbands on September 28, 1957. The first dinner dance was held at the Delaware Country Club on Oct. 18, 1953. Programs on dance, puppets, Egypt, the Philippines, and modern art were given for the first time, and the first style show (a type of program which was to remain very popular with the group) was given on spring fashions by Ball Stores on March 22, 1957. A revised constitution (1955) added Student Wives and Handbooks committees. The first "Interest Groups" meeting was held on November 21, 1957.
Typical attendance at a meeting was now about 100 women; the year-end balance in the treasury was about $100. Again, some of the most creative meetings were those attended also by husbands, such as the "Hi-cost of Living Party" held on October 28, 1958, which had "chili and pumpkin pie...served from tin cans and eaten by the light of candles stuck into pop bottles" or the Italian restaurant held in the Burris Recreation Room, which included the dancing of a Sicilian tarantula (by performers and, ultimately, guests as well), Italian accordion music, pizza, a trio singing Italian songs, and an artist sketching the guests. On another Husbands' Night, February 27, 1951, following the dinner baby pictures of the husbands were projected on a screen, and with the helpful remarks by James Peterson, the identity of the pictures was guessed.
The growth of the 1950s became even more explosive in the 1960s when a popular meeting might be attended by 200 or more persons. The September 23, 1968, initial meeting, for example, had 312 wives present, including 80 new ones; 400 were present at Guest Night for a Collegienne Fashion Show on March 27, 1962.
As the number of newcomer wives rose to 100 per year in the second half of the decade, the club began to talk about forming a newcomers group for wives in their first two years at Ball State University, such a group finally being formed in 1969. Style shows were particularly important and popular during this decade, as were theater parties and international programs.
In 1966, the name of the club was changed to University Wives Club. There were a number of firsts during the 1960s—the first bowling interest group, the addition of the Interest Group chairman to the Executive Board, the first group out-of-town trip (to Ft. Wayne to see My Fair Lady, October 20, 1962), and the first program on "rights of women" on November 25, 1969.
Many of the tendencies of the 1960s continued into the 1970s for the University Wives Club. Attendance at popular meetings remained heavy, with 200-300 women present. Style shows, out-of-town trips, international programs, interest group sessions (with yoga, self-defense, and wine tasting as newer attractions), and dinner dances remained popular, with annual interest being shown in the history of the university, community, and state, in travel to foreign countries beyond Mexico and western Europe, and in the role of women here and elsewhere. Membership was stable with 430 active members, 300 inactive members, and 23 newcomers in 1979-80.
The group moved a long way in its first half century from the private events among intimate circles of friends, $0.25 dues, and a year-end balance of $1.00, to fashionable and highly publicized meetings with 400 present and a (temporary) treasury balance of several thousand dollars. However, the goal of the organization is still that of its first constitution: "to promote a spirit of friendliness, to provide social intercourse, and to stimulate culture among its members."
—Written by Frances Rippy, 1979, University Wives
Continuing the Legacy
In 1981, the University Wives Club merged with the University Women to become the University Wives & Women. The organization changed its name to the BSU Women's Club in 1992. The Chirp newsletter, mailed quarterly to all active members, featured a letter from the president and highlighted important club news. At the Spring Fling (a reception at the conclusion of the academic year), the BSU Women's Club began honoring women with 50 years of membership.
The digital century ushered in many changes to club communications, including the adoption of email, website, and social media. In 2017, BSUWC joined MemberPlanet to maintain a digital directory/database of members and to facilitate the payment of club dues and event RSVPs. The 2017-2018 year also saw updates to the constitution/bylaws, one change being an expansion of university affiliates to include all friends of the university and community members.