A day in the life: Inez Schageman, Washington University, and the Great War

In 1915 Inez Schageman began her first year of undergraduate study at Washington University. As the rest of the western world became ever more embroiled in the conflict that would come to be known as the Great War, Schageman chronicled her life at WashU in the form of a meticulously kept scrapbook. It contains hundreds of mementos from the years that Schageman spent at the university.

 

Schageman preserved a note from her “adviser who never advised,” Holmes Smith:

“I should like to confer with you at your earliest convenience. Please call at my study, Room 116 Cupples Hall No. 1, at one of the hours indicated on this card.”

Note, Holmes Smith to Irene Shageman, December 1 1915. Washington University Memorabilia Collection, Box 21, Folder 1: Student Scrapbook - Schageman, I., 1915-19.

Note, Holmes Smith to Irene Shageman, December 1 1915. Washington University Memorabilia Collection, Box 21, Folder 1: Student Scrapbook – Schageman, I., 1915-19.

In 1916 she was invited to the Veiled Prophet Ball, a yearly St. Louis debutante gala hosted by the Veiled Prophet society. The society was formed in the late 19th century and for much of its history was a bulwark of the wealthy.

“You are commanded to appear at the Thirty-ninth Annual Ball given in honor of His Majesty the Veiled Prophet and his Court of Love and Beauty

Saint Louis, Tuesday, October third Nineteen hundred and sixteen

The Coliseum

Attest

W.D. Herald

By order of

G.O.”

Schageman's invitation to the 1916 Veiled Prophet Ball. Washington University Memorabilia Collection, Box 21, Folder 1: Student Scrapbook - Schageman, I., 1915-19.

Schageman’s invitation to the 1916 Veiled Prophet Ball. Washington University Memorabilia Collection, Box 21, Folder 1: Student Scrapbook – Schageman, I., 1915-19.

 

Currently the society touts itself as an organization dedicated to community service, but in previous years it was more exclusionary and controversial. African American and Jews were barred from its ranks until the late 1960s, and early costuming of the prophet himself closely resembled the garb of the Ku Klux Klan. The ball that Schageman attended in 1916 has continued to the present day, although it was cancelled several times during the first and second world wars.

Schageman had a robust social life, and many of her gatherings with friends or sorority members were philanthropic events. Balls, parties, and concerts were given in the later years of the war to raise money for servicemen.

 

The page below features some of the mementos Schageman preserved from these events. In the top left corner, she kept an invitation to a “war party” given by a friend, Olivia Schroeter:

“April 10, 1918

Olivia Schroeter requests the pleasure of your company at a ‘War Party’ to be given April the tenth nineteen hundred and eighteen at the Century Boat Club.”

Page from Schageman's scrapbook for the year 1918. Washington University Memorabilia Collection, Box 21, Folder 1: Student Scrapbook - Schageman, I., 1915-19.

Page from Schageman’s scrapbook for the year 1918. Washington University Memorabilia Collection, Box 21, Folder 1: Student Scrapbook – Schageman, I., 1915-19.

In the bottom left corner, Inez preserved a note from “Mr. Ira Schageman” (presumably, her future husband) which reads “This is what the war has made you.” The top right is a newspaper announcement of a young woman’s wedding, dated by Schageman as April 12, 1918. In the center is a button reading “WU Hatchet 1918,” and on the bottom right Schageman pasted a trinket from a wedding – a dime, attached to a silk ribbon, which had been baked into the wedding cake. Schageman notes, “The dime out of the Wedding Cake means Eternal Wealth”.

For more about Inez Schageman, her richly detailed scrapbook, and Washington University in the opening decades of the 20th century, see the finding aid to the Washington University Memorabilia Collection.

 

Inez Schageman's undergraduate diploma. Washington University Memorabilia Collection, Box 21, Folder 1: Student Scrapbook - Schageman, I., 1915-19.

Inez Schageman’s scrapbook. Washington University Memorabilia Collection, Box 21, Folder 1: Student Scrapbook – Schageman, I., 1915-19.


This post is part of an occasional series, “Special Delivery – Letters from the WUSTL Archives and Special Collections.”

For more information about the letters and documents displayed here, or in general about Special Collections please contact us.

About the author

Lisa Lillie is a PhD Candidate in the Department of History at Washington University in St. Louis.