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Manners & Etiquette: The Social Training Committee

Farmington State Normal School's Social Training Committee was formed in 1931. It was one of eight committees set up as part of a new faculty-student cooperative government. The committee planned and hosted the dances, teas, bridge parties and annual holiday events for the college students, as well as programs held in chapel. It also set forth the school's social etiquette expectations. All students were expected to abide by the standards.

In the 1940s, the committee published Our Daily Living, a booklet for students on etiquette and the social standards regarded as acceptable at the school. The booklet included specifics for the proper way to make introductions and conduct a conversation. Tips for entertaining and behavior at meals and at church were also provided, along with appropriate behavior during social functions such as teas, parties, receptions, and dances.

In the Dining Room

The committee's Dining Room Etiquette document included detailed expectations in dining situations such as appropriate dress (especially for evening meal), promptness, order of entry into the room, posture at the table, and duties of the matron or the hostess. Even specifics of when and how to use silverware and how to eat certain foods were listed. Good etiquette also dictated that conversation be limited to topics of general interest to the table group and guests be introduced to others at the table. More general suggestions included never use a toothpick at the table, talk with a mouthful of food, hurry through a meal, wear bedroom slippers to the dining room or play with your hair.

Farmington Normal Luncheon, 1923
Farmington Normal Luncheon, 1923Mantor Library at UMF

On The Dance Floor

The committee sponsored an annual holiday dance, the major social event of the academic year. According to its Dance Etiquette document, polite behavior included acknowledging the chaperones when entering the dance hall and women staying in the hall during intermissions while the men obtain refreshments for themselves and their dance partners. Women should not walk across the dance floor alone and cheek-to-cheek dancing was frowned upon.

Below is the F.S.N.S. Social Training Committee of 1944 planning the college's annual holiday dance held on December 12 in the Alumni Gym. Seated in front are Carolyn Knapp and Lorraine Stultz with Priscilla Sprague, Mary Whitney, Shirley Berry, Marjorie Shaw, Phyllis Flavin and Doris Eaton in the back.

F.S.N.S. Social Training Committee, 1944

The Recreation Room

The committee also set the rules for the dormitory recreation room. The room was open to all women of the college except for times when it was reserved for use by juniors and seniors in the Home Economics program or seniors of the general course for study. Male students were allowed to use the room during the times when they were permitted to be in the dormitory. Card playing and dancing were not permitted on Sundays.

The Social Training Committee was disbanded in 1946. A new faculty-student government was formed in 1947, which included a Co-Ordinating Council, a Judiciary Committee, a Budget Committee, and a Dormitory Council. By the 1940s, many of the social activities previously organized by the Social Training Committee were being sponsored by sororities and fraternities and students spent free time participating in an expanding array of student clubs and organizations. Rules of proper social behavior were also loosening as life at college became less formal during the post-war years.

Sources: The Constitution of the Student-Faculty Cooperative Government of Farmington State Normal School (ca. 1945). Dance Etiquette (undated), Dining Room Etiquette (ca. 1940), Our Daily Living, Social Training Committee, 1943. University of Maine at Farmington: A Study in Educational Change (1864-1974), Richard P. Mallett, © 1974