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Historical Context

Ruth Dorcas Gates was a student at Simmons during a time of flux. Nationally, Warren G. Harding was president, and women had achieved the right to vote only two years before Ruth's year as a Simmons student began (1922-1923). The Women's Joint Congressional Committee (WJCC), though enjoying mixed success, had helped pass legislation aimed to reduce maternal mortality. However, some of the same organizing forces that promoted women's causes were also fueling the prohibition movement. In the northeast United States, opposition to advocates of a woman's right to contraception education was firmly entrenched, with activists finding few if any locations willing to allow them to speak. Opposition to certain sectors of the movement for women's rights helped lead to the establishment of women's colleges as well, in addition to the fact that there were already all-male schools.

Herbert Hoover as Secretary of Commerce1
On the economic scene, the brief and minor depression that afflicted union and agricultural workers after World War I was ending, due in part, and ironically, to the efforts of then Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover's interventionist policies. By 1923 the nation was entering a boom that would last until the crash of 1929. Mass production reigned, and previously expensive consumer goods were becoming more standardized and common, as was advertising instructing people to buy those goods. At Simmons, the College was expanding, with many schools and courses of study having been added over the two decades the school had existed up to that point. Though students and faculty collaborated, for example in endowment campaigns, in Mayday and other traditions, and in having sponsors for newspapers and other groups, students were largely organizing themselves, both through newspapers or student groups and also by taking part in discourses about the larger world.

The Red Scare was present even at Simmons, and the Simmons newspaper reported on the goings-on of Leninism and the Russian government with a mix of curiosity and alarmist concern. Ruth Dorcas Gates kept up with her scrapbook until 1925, and we have no way of knowing her stance on such matters as prohibition, or her political leanings apart from her membership in the Y.W.C.A., nor do we know the causes in which she may have been engaged actually or vicariously. We do know that Ruth, whether she picked a side or not, lived in an era of seismic shifts in the world around her that began before she took up her scrapbook and that continued after she set it aside.

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1"Herbert Hoover as Secretary of Commerce,” Herbert Hoover Presidential Library Museum. Retrieved from https://hoover.archives.gov/info/SecCommerce/1921-36.html on April 18, 2017.