For The Record: The rites of spring

May Day

Beginning in the 1920s, Penn’s female students welcomed in spring with dancing, song and the crowning of a May Queen. The May Day tradition is no longer in practice, but in its heyday, the celebration included a procession, dancing, pantomime—which the women’s student newspaper, Bennett News, called “a whimsical affair”—and, finally, the crowning of the queen whose identity was “cloaked in mystery” until the celebrations of May Day. Jessie Rhodes, Carolyn Anders, Dorothy Church and Helen Huntsberger, pictured at left, were part of the 1929 celebration and, in this photo, are likely performing the “Under the scarf” dance. The event that year was held at the estate of Miss H. Jan Crawford in Fox Chase, but in other years was held at the Botanical Gardens, Morris Arboretum and Irvine Auditorium. Wherever the location, we’re certain the students welcomed in the month of May with joyous abandon.

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For more on this and other notable moments in Penn’s history, visit the University Archives web site at

Originally published on April 27, 2006