The Best of Everything

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Joan Crawford's Columbia, Missouri

Stephens College and City (fall 1922)



Stephens College

Joan lived and worked at Main Hall during her one semester here; the building has since been torn down.



Above: Entrance to Main Hall. (Joan lived on the second floor and worked in the dining hall on the first floor.) 

Photo credit: 1923 Stephens College yearbook, the Stephensophia.


from Jazz Baby:

A check with the Stephens College registrar shows that [Billie] took a secretarial course with classes in English composition, typewriting, preventive medicine (health), shorthand, bookkeeping, psychology, foods (home economics), religious fundamentals (required), and rhythm (a dance class in the physical education department).

She lived at Main Hall, one of the buildings at Stephens that no longer stands. She worked as a waitress in the dining hall downstairs and lived upstairs with other work-scholarship and tuition-paying young ladies.

James 'Daddy' Wood with Stephens students in the 1940s.Stephens College enjoyed a nationwide reputation for the high level of motivation and success of its graduates -- an inordinate percentage of whom went to eastern schools for postgraduate work and became noted missionaries, administrators, and educators. A "benevolent dictator" is credited for most of that: James Madison Wood, president of the college from 1912 to 1947. The native Missourian, educated at Columbia University in New York, came to Stephens when there were three buildings and 50 students. When Billie arrived, ten years later, there were twelve buildings and 550 students -- making it one of the largest women's colleges in America. (By the time of Wood's retirement there were 2,200 students.) The girls called their beloved president "Daddy Wood."



Click here for a large photo and bio of Wood from the 1923 Stephensophia yearbook.


Below: Two other Stephens College buildings at the time Joan attended.

(Credit: 1923 Stephens College yearbook, Stephensophia)




General Vintage Shots of Stephens College



The City of Columbia

Above:  Columbia, Missouri, 1919.

Below:  Phi Delta Theta frat house at the University of Missouri (606 College Ave.), 1967, where Joan/Billie attended parties in the fall of 1922.

The frat has since relocated to 101 E. Burnam Rd.


from Jazz Baby [Editor's note: Given the recent release of Mommie Dearest, the below early 1980s recollections should probably be taken with a grain of salt]:  


K.C. historian Fred L. Lee reports that his uncle, a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity, remembered Billie as a "favorite of the Phi Delts." She was apparently going with a fellow who was in the fraternity [posited by Jazz Baby to be Eddie Smith] and she often would come over to the house -- located at 606 College -- and party on the weekends.


"My uncle remembers her 'doing the hot dances of the period' on a table they used to have there in the hallway of the house. Some of the parties, he said, were rather wild ones. Apparently she 'liked to party' and often as not would end up upstairs with her boyfriend and others afterward to 'party on their own.' It seems this was a fairly regular occurrence at the house. My uncle also recalled her as a very ambitious woman. 'She was the kind of gal who knew what she wanted even at an early age and would do anything to accomplish it.' He thought she had no ethical standards at all."


The Phi Delta Theta house was massive and masculine, cloaked in carved paneling, decorated with heavy dark-oak furniture, with a main hall (party room) girded by a second story balcony and crowned with a ceiling of heavy beams....The table Billie danced on was probably the one in the foyer of the main hall; it was a small dining table of sturdy oak beside a fireplace.


Above: A map of Stephens College and city environs given to Stephens freshmen in 1925.


The Best of Everything