Daisie's College Years
Daisie Leonard Miller was born in Brattleboro, Vermont on October 5, 1888. She returned to Vermont frequently during her years at Simmons (1906-1910), often to visit her future husband, John Putnam Helyar. Together, John and Daisie eventually moved back to Brattleboro to live together in the state they loved. (Daisie lived until 1976.) Daisie’s scrapbook contains many materials documenting her trips to Vermont, but it is not the scrapbook of a homesick woman: Daisie enthusiastically embraced life in Boston.
As evidenced by addresses on envelopes in the scrapbook, Daisie lived on the Simmons residential campus. She attended theatrical and musical productions at many of Boston’s major venues, collecting programs and clippings as keepsakes. She watched football games, including Harvard vs. the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in November, 1906. She also saved numerous dance cards, snapshots of outings with friends, and menus from various dinner parties. Her scrapbook contains a copy of the Simmons College Student Government Association House Rules; given Daisie’s active social life it is hard to believe that she always made curfew.
For all four of her years at Simmons, Daisie was a member of the Glee Club, a choral group that performed on special occasions. On Class Day, 1910, she was among the first sopranos. Given her love of musical performances, it is not surprising that Daisie found a way to make music a regular part of her life at school. Daisie was also on the basketball team during her final year at Simmons, 1909-1910, which was also the first year of basketball at Simmons. The Honorary Manager of her basketball team was Charles K. Bolton, an author who also taught “History of Libraries” at Simmons. (Daisie took this class her senior year.) The 1910 yearbook, the Microcosm, jokes about stereotypes of women’s athletics by means of a poem:
“Basketball with Radcliffe!
A preposterous idea!
It would lead the girls to holler.
It’s not ladylike to cheer.”
In Daisie’s time, Simmons was a small school. Her graduating class consisted of only 59 young women. Women’s higher education, like women’s athletics, was still relatively novel. But programs such as Household Economics, Secretarial Studies, and Library Science represented the possibility of real, paid employment – not “a preposterous idea” in the least to many independent-minded young women. In this sense, Daisie and her classmates were trailblazers.
While Daisie was a student at Simmons, she collected items in the scrapbook that we have digitized for this website. The items she gathered offer us a snapshot of another time. They also consist of a partial portrait of a young woman with varied interests and a passion for life. After Simmons, Daisie held jobs in several libraries. When she worked at the West Brattleboro Branch Library in Vermont, she regularly helped students find resources for class projects. As evidenced by the items she gathered in her scrapbook, and by her diligent stewardship of it before she donated it Simmons, Daisie understood the value of primary source documents for interpreting the history of America.
Obituaries: Mrs. John P. Helyar (1976, October 29). Brattleboro Reformer. Courtesy of Brooks Memorial Library, Brattleboro, Vermont.
Simmons College. (1910). Microcosm 1910. Andover, MA: Andover Press.