Letter from a College Student Inviting A Smith College Girl to the Junior Prom


On December 10, 1938, publication of "Invite." The New Yorker. Files on Parade.

The devastation of World War One had contributed to a dominant (yes, dominant) national mood of isolationism. 1938 was the year British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned from Germany secure in the thought that Hitler's pledge to him would mean "peace in our time."

This is from the story's second paragraph:

"Not that I was not disappointed in Chamberlain but I suppose it is better to have peace than war no matter how much it cost England in prestige. I know for my part I prefer to be back here in college enjoying the life than in uniform standing in a muddy trench, waiting for the given signal to go "over the top" and kill my fellow man, who, just because he happens to be a German, is still my fellow man. I suppose I am a pacifist at heart although I would naturally go to war and lay down my life if this country were ever invaded and I imagine you would feel the same way if you were a man."

Not everyone in the Depression was poor. The letter describes a rather wealthy lifestyle ("If you flew to Chicago I could meet you there in my car . . . ").

In the thirties fraternity/sorority life dominated the college scene"

"I am not narrow about fraternity stuff. Just because a fellow I liked happened to go Phi Psi and I went Delt does not mean that I have to hate him. That stuff went out years ago. In fact my father was not a Delt. When he was here he was a Tau Phi Alpha, which was then a local and is now national, S.A.E. When I came here he told me I could do anything I please. "Any crowd that will have you," he said humorously. I think that is the right attitude and if my son comes here he can go any fraternity he wants, preferably Delt because we have always had a good well-rounded house, not too many athletes and not too many honor students and not too many playboys."

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