Wednesday, March 20, 2013

From the Archives: Girls’ High School



Girls’ High School opened at Bush and Stockton streets in 1864. Originally part of the city’s first high school, San Francisco High, the school separated genders in 1864, creating Girls’ High School and Boys’ High School. In 1919 – the year this Girls’ High School Journal was published – the school was located on Scott Street between O’Farrell and Geary.

Girls’ High School was an accredited, public school that drew young women from all socio-economic classes and neighborhoods of San Francisco. Upon commencement Girls’ High graduates were automatically admitted to any course of study at the University of California or Stanford University. Girls’ High School also offered the Normal Course preparing young women for the teaching profession and offering teaching certificates.

The cover of the December 1919 Girls’ High School Journal celebrates the holiday season with its holly berry motif and young woman bundled in a coat, scarf, and muff. More interesting are the pages of the journal listing the 57 Girls’ High graduates, called “57” Varieties – a play on the H. J. Heinz Company advertising slogan most commonly seen on tomato ketchup bottles. Presumably the exercise required a bit of self-reflection on the part of each graduate; she is asked to fill in the blanks after the prompts “Name,” “Is,” “Wants to be,” “Will be,” and “Indoor sport.” The answers to these prompts supplied by these 57 graduates reveal a class of young women whose goals and aspirations certainly vary, as do their attitudes and understandings of the cultural and societal limitations and expectations placed on women during the suffrage era. Their answers demonstrate both confidence (E. Judge) and doubt (M. Hardiman); high self-esteem (G. Quarre) and insecurity (I. Bley); good-natured sense of humor (H. Richards) and self-effacing humor (M. Ludwig). Some express a strong sense of self (E. Meyer) while others express a desire to be something wholly unexpected (H. Hutchins). Also included is an image from the journal with a selection of school portraits with whimsical drawings next to each girl’s photo. Virginia Jurs yearns for Stanford, while Therese Kutner declares, “I’m a jazz baby!”

Overall the young women demonstrate a youthful ambition to be appreciated, successful, and to have all opportunities made available to them. Less than a year after publication of this journal the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote would be passed on August 18, 1920. One cannot help but think about how the right to vote, coupled with other achievements gained by the first wave women’s movement, including reform in higher education, the workplace, and health care and access, continued to influence the Girls’ High School class of 1919. 
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