By Shirley Marchalonis
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Extra info for College Girls: A Century in Fiction
Cornelia Burt had said, somewhat successfully, that at college it was perfectly legitimate to be interested in men, but very foolish to become attached to a man" (33-34). " said Mary scornfully. " "The idea of thinking that there isn't time enough later on for men," sniffed Babbie, playing with her engagement ring. ''The idea of thinking that she won't change her mind about men and most other things, while she's here," added little Helen Adams, with a comical air of vast experience. 6 Babbie's words as she plays with her engagement ring sum up the attitude toward men, romance, and marriage in these stories: there will be Page 142 time afterward for these to become the most important elements of a young woman's life.
Lapsley introduces an outside observer who is indeed an outsider: Sophie, a Russian Jew, older, sophisticated, and intellectual, completely uninterested in clothes and appearance, transferred from the Sorbonne to complete her education at Walton so that she could work with Clive Austin (the students are astonished to learn that Austin has an international reputation). A few find her interesting, but most students regard Sophie as so far from the norm that she could never be one of them, unaware that she would never want to be.
Constant in the earlier fictions was dislike of "the college girl" image; those fictions promoted desire for individuality, the celebration of difference shared by Brown, Bacon, and their contemporaries, and Betty Wales's articulated discovery that the way to happiness was to find one's individual talent and use it. The 1898 article by Alice K. Fallows in Scribner's firmly rejected "a brand of girl, put through the mill and turned loose upon the world, stamped and labelled 'Smith'" and declared that "any honest attempt Page 135 to cultivate one talent or ten meets with encouragement....