Here’s yet another demonstration of how twisty things can be in the archives. As I was searching the photographic record of the early commencements, intent on understanding exactly how the processions worked, I had a nice laugh over this picture of the 1921 ceremony:
For one wild moment I dared hope that the figure in the plaid skirt right where the procession is turning the corner might be a bagpiper. (That would totally rule!) Zoom in on it, though, and you’ll see something much more mundane–a young woman taking pictures.
As I continued through the file, I found a piece of paper on which someone had attempted to identify everyone on the platform that day. It’s incomplete, but still a pretty good try. And at the bottom in parenthesis is added “Bessie Smith on the balcony.”
So now I know her name! After vowing to do more research on her later, I went about my next task–searching for a picture of Rice girls playing golf that I absolutely know is in one of the early scrapbooks. I didn’t know which one, of course, so I wound up spending a couple of afternoons scouring a half dozen of them. I found it eventually, but I also unexpectedly ran into Bessie Smith again. Here she is (on the left) with friends in the quad:
And here’s the one that sent me scrambling for the yearbooks:
By now I’ve seen her in four photos and in three of them she’s taking pictures. So I wondered if there might be some kind of reference to this in her yearbook entries and there certainly was. It turns out that she was photo editor of the Campanile every year she was at Rice. Her married name was MacLaughlin, but I know nothing else about her.