Founding of Purple Lantern & Lantern Night Politics

The photos above are from Bryn Mawr College Special Collection’s holdings on the McBride Program (Record Group 1QK2). They give us insight into the first publication of the “Purple Lantern”, a newsletter written by the McBride Community from 1989-1994(?).

The first image is of a letter from the Director of the McBride Program, Ann Salyard. She was sending important info to Special Collections.

The next images are part of the original proposal for the publication and call for submissions that was sent out to the McBride community.

One interesting piece of this collection is titled “Why The Purple Lantern”. This provides an explaination for why the founders have decided to name the newsletter this. It also give us unique insight into how Traditions at Bryn Mawr College were navigated by the first McBrides and how they worked to adapt them to their unique needs. One very interesting note is that although McBrides were allowed to participate in Lantern Night, had chosen to add their own color to BMC’s traditional four class colors and secured Lanterns in this color, they were not allowed to recieve them during the official school ceremony. The author notes:

“But at the last minute, when it became clear that McBrides wanted to be part of the college ceremony, the tradition mistresses realized that purple lanterns were a serious problem. To introduce a new color would change the more than 100 year old tradition of 4 colors. After a series of meeting between McBrides and tradition mistresses, the use of the purple lanterns was rejected. Though McBrides had actually looked forward to having a special color to signify their presence In the college, it seemed,more important to respect the tradition of the college and fit in with it.”

This is not the case in present day Lantern Night celebrations. McBrides and transfer students are able to receive their lanterns in the correct color but still must stand in the back row so that the visible glowing light is ‘correctly’ colored. I wonder when this transition was made and how the pushback from traditional aged students affected the experience of McBrides.

The last image is the front cover of the first Purple Lantern which has an article about the first group of McBride’s to participate in Lantern Night.




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