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Easter Address to the Faculty by the President of a Catholic Women's College

"Easter Address to the Faculty by the President of a Catholic Women's College" is the seventh chapter of Saint Fidgeta and Other Parodies.

Synopsis

Inspiration

The chapter is a satire on the provincialism found in the overprotective Catholic women's colleges of the era and how they were seemingly always run by one powerful nun with a dominant personality and dictatorial powers.

Prior to the publication of "Saint Fidgeta" in the Critic, Bellairs had taught for two years (1963-65) in Winona, Minnesota, at the now-defunct all-girls College of Saint Teresa. Norbert Geier, the Chairman of the English Department during the 1964-65 school year, does not recall Bellairs's attitude toward teaching during this time, suggesting that because it was his first full-time position he probably engaged in it with some enthusiasm[1]. John Murphy, a member of the college faculty from 1960-65, echoes these sentiments saying on the whole Bellairs was interested in and dedicated to his teaching[2] – even if Bellairs did try assigning Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles to one of his classes without success[3].

But coming from Chicago’s Hyde Park to small-town Winona must have made Bellairs feel like a “visiting anthropologist,” says longtime friend Patricia Thomas, who feels the clash of atmospheres prompted Bellairs to satirically commit some of the memories and attitudes to paper. “The sight of those blondes in bobby sox taking classes in child development or nursing or planning to be nuns must have been positively surreal.[4]

Bernard Markwell, a friend from the University of Chicago, feels Bellairs "chafed under the old style pre-Vatican II rule of authoritarian nuns" and as a result, assumed a more critical stance on the Church that his article and [5]subsequent book would later touch upon.

Former instructor and teaching colleague William Goodreau recalls that Bellairs loved the church but could not stand hypocrisy: “He once burst out in his characteristic way that 'the College of Saint Teresa's is the only place I know where Christian hate is practiced to perfection.’[6]” 

Geier fondly remembers Bellairs's finding humor in the irony that escaped most people. "I vaguely remember his relating to me the time that he observed one of the 'housekeeping nuns' reading the headlines of the daily newspaper that was conspicuously posted in the main building of the college. The news had something to with the Communists putting down an uprising somewhere.  At any rate, the sister turned to John and said with evident relish, 'Do you know what they do with their opponents? They tear out their guts!'  John got a kick out of that.[1]"

Marilyn Fitschen notes that while letters from Bellairs were often filled with complaints about “the nuns and empty headed girls,” he had enjoyed his time in Minnesota. “It gave him material for the final chapters of Saint Fidgeta, it allowed him to perform in plays, and sent him to some interesting conferences.” When the book was published in 1966, the administration of the College of Saint Teresa's welcomed Bellairs back to campus - along with the Fitschens - for a party celebrating its release.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Correspondence with Norbert Geier (2001).
  2. Correspondence with John Murphy.
  3. Correspondence with Alfred Myers.
  4. Correspondence with Patricia Thomas (2002).
  5. Correspondence with Bernard Markwell (2003).
  6. Correspondence with William Goodreau.
Saint Fidgeta and Other Parodies

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7. Easter Address to the Faculty by the President of a Catholic Women's College

Montana Women's College
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