In the first decades of the twentieth century, formal dances comprised a significant component of the social life of Northwestern University students. Behavior at these formals followed relatively strict rules of etiquette. Gentlemen could solicit dances from any of the young ladies present; however, the young women were allowed the privilege to either accept or decline any solicitations they wish. Once a gentleman's request was accepted, however, the young lady had to honor her promise.
To keep track of her engagements, the woman recorded the name of her promised partner in her dance card. These small booklets, usually attached to a cord she could wear on her wrist, listed the evening's scheduled program with a space next to each dance where the partner's name could be penciled in. The young men also carried dance cards.
Although the dance cards served the practical purpose of reminding the dancers of their schedule, they were also a decorative souvenir of the event. The covers were fabricated from paper, cardboard, leatherette, wood, metal, or celluloid. Hand-decorated or printed, embossed or otherwise embellished with the logo of the organization, the cards reflect the prevailing styles of the era. Although the cards very seldom show the names of the women who carried them, they furnish usefu1 information about student activities and dance trends and document a social form that endured over the course of several decades.