Happy 70th Birthday, "Brown Bag Women"

Women students who commuted to the UW and were not members of sororities could have had a hard time fitting in. But thanks to a woman by the name of May Dunn Ward, they didn't.

In 1929, Ward created Phrateres, an association "for independent women on campus." The concept was such a big hit, it had as many as 50 members in the 1950s. The group staged social activities and even had its own room in the HUB, where Phrateres members could sit down, store their book bags and hang out in between class. "We made some wonderful friendships," recalls Dorothy Mootafes, '49, of Seattle. The organization's motto: "Famous for Friendliness."

The emblem for the Brown Bag WomenBut despite its popularity, Phrateres-whose forerunner at the UW was a group formed in 1913 called Kla-How-Yah, an Indian word meaning "a friendly greeting"-began to crumble in the 1970s, when social organizations fell out of vogue. "We even lost our room at the HUB," says Barbara Gillman, '56, of Seattle, president of the Phrateres Alumnae Association, which counts 25 members today.

Phrateres may no longer exist on campus, but the legacy created by Ward lives on. In February, Phrateres held a luncheon commemorating its 70th anniversary. For these many years, the group has been awarding scholarships to relatives of Phrateres members. Meghan Carmel Smith received the May Dunn Ward Scholarship for spring quarter 1999. She is studying nursing at WSU.

The group still meets every year for a luncheon and a potluck picnic at the Queen Anne home of a longtime member. And it still provides a scholarship, reaping the dividends of investing some of Ward's money long ago to help out a current UW student.

"We were the 'brown bag' students," Gillman recalls. "There are not many of us left. But it sure was a lot of fun."

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