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The Wellesley Composite

The spirited Wellesley Composite borrows its tune from the famous Italian song "Funiculì, Funiculà," written in 1880 to commemorate the construction of a funicular cable car on Mount Vesuvius. Just 21 years later, Lottie Evelyn Bates '01, a member of the College's Glee Club, wrote her own lyrics describing the woes and joys of student life in a composite portrait of a typical Wellesley woman. Among the stressors: mathematics, exams, and stern professors. Happier pastimes include rowing crew, trips to downtown Boston, and the famously forbidden Wellesley fudge.

The song enjoyed popularity through the 1900's. An excerpt from the Wellesley News of 1937 indicates that the year's song contest included a competition to see which class could "render to the best of its ability The Wellesley Composite." It was featured in many concerts and even parodied by other students, as the tune along with Lottie's lyrical format allowed for easy adaptation. 

The Wellesley Composite remains one of the better known Stepsongs today, and is always a crowd favorite despite its challenging high notes. Its final verse bemoans the agony of final exams and is particularly relatable when sung at spring Stepsinging on the final day of class, just before students enter the pre-exam reading period. More positively, its lyrics reverberate in the minds of alumnae, who in the throes of nostalgia are often heard wistfully remarking "Only to be there!" 

The Barge

"The Barge" referenced in the song was a horse-drawn carriage that carried Wellesley students to and from the town train station. It was driven by Tom Griffin, who faithfully held his post as chief transporter for many years, and through several modes of transportation, eventually including a limousine car. In an article from the 1931 Wellesley News, Tom reflected on his time spent commandeering The Barge, and how the campus and community had grown since his start in 1884. 

Click through the slideshow below to see images of "The Barge" and the town's train station

"Some jeer at bunny, scorn sardines and fudges....but not so I!"

Students at women's colleges in the early 1900's led very structured lives. Many aspects of their day were under a great deal of supervision, including their diet. Colleges served meals that were focused on providing nutrition and health, but left little room for sweets. Under cover of night, a bit of rebellion was to be expected! Late night socializing in the dormitories involved indulgent snacks, often prepared in haphazard ways with make-do tools. The "bunny" mentioned in the song refers to Welsh Rarebit, a hot, runny cheese poured over toast. Salty canned delicacies such as sardines and oysters were popular and often sent to students by their families and friends. Many letters sent home by students, now available to read in the Wellesley college archives, mention thanks for the boxes of chocolates and other treats received on campus.  

The most popular food by far was fudge. Illicit fudge-making parties swept from school to school, the chief offenders being Vassar, Smith, and Wellesley, each with their own variations on the recipe. Students would melt chocolate and sugar together over gasoline lamps, alcohol burners and other heating implements. This propensity for sweets was disparaged by college leaders. It is even said that the founder of Wellesley, Henry Fowle Durant, once declared that "pies, lies, and doughnuts have no place at Wellesley College." The Wellesley Composite certainly proved him wrong on this one. Wellesley fudge went on to become so well-known that it was adapted into a chocolate cake recipe. Local restaurants and tea rooms served Wellesley fudge cake to students and their visitors. The recipe achieved widespread popularity when featured in a Baker's Chocolate advertisement in the 40's and more recently in Cook's Country Magazine's 2010 roundup of ultimate comfort foods.

For an in-depth look at fudge parties of the early 1900's, we recommend this article from Atlas Obscura.

A 1941 Baker's Chocolate Ad featuring Wellesley Fudge Cake, a dessert inspired by Wellesley Fudge 

Learn how to make Wellesley Fudge Cake by clicking on the video below!

Click here to return to the Stepsinging home page

Click play below to listen to the Wellesley Widows perform The Wellesley Composite as recorded for their 1976 album, Sentimental Journey


Some think it worth their while to go to college
And so do I! 
And so do I!
Some think that only men are fit for knowledge
But not so I! 
Oh no, not I!

I love to spend my days and nights dissecting
The slimy frog
rom marshy bog
And see the sine and cosine intersecting
With monstrous log
Near mossy log

Wellesley, Wellesley, only to be there
Drives away each melancholy care
She charms my eye,
My muscle trains,
And gives me information rare
Alma Mater fair, since thou art mine, my heart is thine

Some think it worth the world was made for grinds and drudges
To groan and sigh
But not so I!
Some jeer at bunny, scorn sardines and fudges
And chocolate pie
But not so I!

In mathematics I may be defective
I ween 'tis true
Of not a few!
But sports and pastimes are my chief elective
I'm on the crew
And golf club too!

Wellesley, Wellesley, only to be there
Drives away each melancholy care
She charms my eye,
My muscle trains,
And gives me information rare
Alma Mater fair, since thou art mine, my heart is thine

Some think it fun to take examinations
But not so I!
Oh dear, not I!
A fact that's proved without a demonstration
I'll not deny
No use to try!

But to the barge my feet are often flying
My woes to drown
In Boston town
Non credits shall not keep me always sighing
Nor teacher's frown
Crush light heart down

Wellesley, Wellesley, only to be there
Drives away each melancholy care
She charms my eye,
My muscle trains,
And gives me information rare
Alma Mater fair, since thou art mine, my heart is thine