1914 Diary of a Missouri Christian College Junior Who Would Later Spearhead the Theta Gamma Tri Delta House and Run Camp Nagawicka

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On offer is the diary of a Missouri Christian College student who would go on to make an impact in the world of sororities, and become a teacher and camp director. Most importantly, this diarist was widely known to be a pretty wonderful person. 

The author of the diary is Undine Butler (later Mouso) (1894-1971). She was born in Missouri but moved to Oklahoma, where she attended Oklahoma City High School. At the time of writing, she is 19 years old and enrolled at Christian College in Columbia, Missouri. Following graduation, Butler attended the University of Oklahoma and pledged Tri Delta, becoming a beloved member and advocate for the sorority. She was known as a “driving force” that built the U of Oklahoma Theta Gamma chapter house in 1923 [TriDelta HistoryIT]. She went on to become the sorority’s first state alumnae president. Undine worked as a math teacher at Classen High School in Oklahoma and camp director at Camp Nagawicka, Delafield. In 1946, she married Colonel Frank William Mouso. He sadly died only nine years later. There is no record of any children, nor of Undine remarrying. 

Undine keeps her diary sporadically through junior year of college and for the first two months of her senior year. She’ll go through several days or weeks writing long, newsy daily entries, then abandon the book for a while before picking it back up. She writes between January 1 and October 23, 1914. She then scrawls a couple small notes in November. Her diary is filled with insights into the life of a bright, lively young woman attending a religious college. Some excerpts follow:

“Oh dear! The kids had more fun out of poor old Lydia to-night! She has developed the most terrible habit of visiting Helen every evening after dinner. Helen got tired of it, so this evening when she heard her coming, she poured a pitcher full of water on her through the transom. Oh! She looked so funny but it sure made the old girl mad! She was just soaked!” [March 6]. 

“The Christian Symphony Orchestra gave a concert this evening. It was very good - but. Sad to relate, they wouldn’t let us talk to our lovers afterwards, so that spoiled the whole thing, of course!” [March 23]. 

“Cut Bible this afternoon and helped decorate the Gym for our wonderful “Rural Party” and it certainly was one grand success! About two-hundred fellows came dressed in overalls and we just had loads of fun in our aprons! Janice, Fred, Bernus and Johnny were all out. I am writing this in the window by the moonlight!” [May 8]. 

“Well I have seen two College commencements today! Christian had hers this morning and it was so pretty with everyone dressed in the white silk gowns and caps. Says good-by to dear old CC this afternoon and got into Mexies about 7 o’clock. Bernice met me at the train and after taking me out to the house for dinner, she with several of the other girls took me out to Hardin to the Commencement. I saw Miss Barks out there. And although the exercises were very pretty we both congratulated ourselves on being CC girls” [June 2]. 

“Oh dear! I am just too happy! I know something is going to happen! Left K.C. this AM. Met Ethel Taylor in Centralia also on her way to Christian and together we pulled in to Columbia again. We came out to the College and found most all of the other girls already here. Jewell and I have Rooms 41 and 43. They are very pretty and pleasant. Went to dinner and for the first time sat at the Senior table. I can hardly realize that I am a senior. The old girls entertained informally for the new girls this evening. There are not so many new girls this year but they seem to be very sweet girls but oh! How grand it seems to be back with the old girls! Crowd of us went to Lorena’s room and visited until after lights and now I’m burning a candle” [Sept 17]. 

“The lights have winked so I must hustle to bed! We have just come from Miss Hall’s room. She had all of the Seniors down for hot chocolate and wafers after the lecture and we just had loads of fun! “The Lecture” was given by Jane Adams, the founder of Hull House and it was extremely interesting to me. I had the honor of being one of the ushers who didn’t arrive in time to “ush”. Jewell, Hazel, Ruth H and Ruth N and Anne were the other ushers” [Oct 22]. 

This diary is a sheer delight to read. Undine is so joyful, so very alive as she comes of age, builds friendships, meets boys and gains independence. Undine’s diary provides an in depth look at the Christian college experience just as America was about to change forever with the onset of World War 1. It also paints a clear picture of the roles and expectations placed on young women in the southern USA at the time. 

The diary measures 5.5 inches by 4.5 inches. It contains 365 pages plus memoranda. It is about 30% complete. The book is in good condition. Covers are in good condition but binding is loose. One page (without writing) appears to have been torn but otherwise the pages are intact. Writing is exceptionally clear and legible. Overall G+. 

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