An Alumna's Tribute:
by Meredith Minter, class of 1984
"The snow was drifting down more slowly now against the background of the red-brick buildings. Out in front of Main Hall the three boxwoods in the oval bed known as 'the Fish' were heaped with white." With these words, alumna Phyllis Crawford begins a vivid description of familiar weather. It's another winter day—at Langhorne-Evans Woman's College.
Langhorne-Evans? Yes, of course! The setting is for the novel Last Semester (Henry Holt and Co.,1942). L-EWC is an exciting place to be. Every Thursday Om Toms, a leading secret society, meets in a small green cabin north of Evans Hall. Every week, Frances Haybright, editor-in-chief, works doggedly to produce The Sun Dial. Every month or so an altercation between Odds and Evens has the campus in an uproar—and, yes, there's an Odd Tree, not to mention an Even Post. In short, as befits the creation of a Randolph-Macon alumna, L-E's resemblance to R-M is more than casual.
Written as a tribute to R-MWC, Last Semester catches the spirit of campus life. It is the story of Janey Lou Cates, an enthusiastic but scatter-brained senior who suddenly realizes that her QPR is not all it should be. Alarmed, she decides to study much harder... but there's so much happening on campus, who has time to spend on school-work? So she procrastinates—until at last it seems all too likely that she'll be a fifth-year senior...
More intriguing than the plot is the setting's accuracy. It's easy to pinpoint Janey Lou's room as part of "Senior Heaven," that section of A-Long now swallowed up by construction. The dorms, segregated by class, are precisely described; every scene in the book can be located on campus. Even the songs (Miss Crawford graduated in 1920) are sprinkled liberally through the pages; a few Odd songs come up in passing. Preparations for Even Day are recorded with spirited accuracy.
For the most part, while L-E's professors are fictionalizations of real people, its students are composites. ("College Records," Miss Crawford once wrote, "absolve me of the charge of being Janey Lou.") Nonetheless, everyone in the book is believable, and the College as a whole is unmistakable. Last Semester should be read. It's worth your time.
Originally published in The Sundial on January 22, 1982 (Vol. 66, no. 13, p. 6)
This article is taken from "The Past Master," a column written by Meredith Minter Dixon, class of 1984, for the Randolph-Macon Woman’s College student newspaper, The Sundial. It is published here with her permission.
Mrs. Dixon has written an invaluable multi-volume set, Maconiana: A Social History of Randolph-Macon Woman's College. For additional information, please visit her author's page on Amazon.
Please contact Mrs. Dixon (dixonm at pobox dot com) if you have comments or questions about her articles.