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Lawrence House

Lawrence House

Founding

Formally erected in 1892 in response to the growing student population at Smith, Lawrence House takes its name in honor of Elizabeth Crocker Lawrence (Mrs. Samuel Fessenden Clarke) ’83. A notable alumna, “Tippy” Lawrence returned to Smith for a masters degree in 1889, served as an alumnae trustee from 1894-1900, President of the Alumnae Association from 1909-1911, and Chairman of the Alumnae association Committee to Raise $100,000 fund for the college in 1901 . Lawrence House and its “sister” house, Morris (named after Smith Alumna Kate Eugenia Morris, 1879), were the first houses to be named after alumnae, “in recognition of their efficient and generous services in raising funds for the library and for the gymnasium” .

Lawrence as a Cooperative

In September of 1912, Lawrence opened as a cooperative house, providing discounted tuition to its residence in return for the students doing their own chores for the house. Under the cooperative plan, each of the 62 residential students in the house would perform an hour a day of work, and an hour a week of “bell duty”, greeting guests in the reception hall. The girls would indicate their work preferences, which could include “everything except cooking and heavy cleaning.” These girls also received a tuition reduction—instead of the usual $300, students in Lawrence only had to pay $200. This, and the “air of hospitality” observed by a Boston Globe reporter in the 20’s , explained why the house was so popular and very competitive—for 62 spots, Lawrence averaged around 100 applicants . This “college experiment”, proposed by the class of 1908, was originally regarded with some skepticism: as reads a quote from an article in the Evening Post, “students who did not live in Lawrence looked at those who did live in Lawrence with mingled awe, curiosity, and respect. ‘Does she wash dishes, sweep, or fix vegetables’ was the uncontrollable and unavoided query of those for whom a little knowledge was a dangerous and most unsatisfactory thing” . However, the house took great pride in its students as they won academic and athletic distinctions. Within the first year, five Lawrence girls were selected for Phi Beta Kappa, which, along with other honors, reinforced the intention to give opportunity to students whose abilities and talents would have allowed them access to a Smith education (Ibid). Though Lawrence is now an ordinary residence, Smith continues the tradition of Co-Operatives through its two Co-Ops on campus: Tenney and Hopkins houses.

Lawrence Spirit

Tippy Lawrence continues to have a strong presence with Lawrencians, and continued to keep in correspondence with the residents throughout her life . Her portrait hangs in the parlor (fondly called the “Tippy room”), a popular spot for studying. Every year on November 11th, Lawrencians celebrate Tippy’s birthday. The Lawrence-Morris rivalry is a playful one, with roots in the early days of Lawrence as a Co-op. As one rather competitive cook reports upon hearing about Phi Beta Kappa, “Not one from Morris House went in…for all that Morris House cook was so set up about her girls” . The beloved portrait of “Tippy” in the parlor is closely guarded, as is the house banner.

On Mountain Day, the residents of Lawrence pick hundreds of apples and bake delicious treats. Also of note is famous Lawrence resident, Sylvia Plath ’55. To commemorate Plath, Lawrencians traditionally wear black to Convocation each year. Lawrence residents can typically be seen eating in Tyler or Hubbard; after the dining consolidation plan of the 1990’s, Lawrence no longer uses a dining hall of its own, though the kitchen continues to be active thanks to the effort of students.

Buildings and Grounds: Lawrence House 1904-92, Box 51, 6. SCA
Seelye, L. Clarke. The Early History of Smith College 1871-1910. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1923, p.73
“Smith College has it’s KP’s Just like the Army” The Boston Globe c. January 1920 Buildings and Grounds: Lawrence House 1904-92, Box 51, 6. SCA
“Co-Operative House” Daily Hampshire Gazette, 1916. Buildings and Grounds: Lawrence House 1904-92, Box 51, 6. SCA
“A little rumor went around
What Lawrence House was doing
They answer every bell that rings
Without a bit of stewing
They’re finger bowls, and one apiece!
When they have fruit for breakfast
They keep their coffee urn as bright
As any on the campus”
“College Experiment.” Buildings and Grounds: Lawrence House: History 1912-23. Box 51,7.
, “Where All Help at Smith” Evening Post, 27 September, 1913. Buildings and Grounds: Lawrence House 1904-92, Box 51, 6. SCA
Box 51, Correspondence with E. Lawrence Clarke 1913
To each Lawrence House senior
I gladly would give
A present to show her
I hoped she would live
Till gray haired and aged
That far distant day
Like me, she’d come back here
With others to play.
But’s the house and not me
That you love and that’s right
So one of you told me
Just only last night
To to the House I send flowers
Their looks you can share
Though there can’t be enough
For any to wear.
I’m glad that you’re “30”*
For this is the year
When I’m also 30
That’s why I am here.
Your friend, E. Lawrence C.!
*In 1913 there were 30 seniors in Lawrence House
**1913 was also 30 years since Elizabeth Lawrence Clarke graduated in 1883

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