Found in the Archives: The Most Popular Girl in School

Since its inception, the U of I has been home to many illustrious awards and award-winners. One of the more unique titles, though, was awarded to an Illinois student one hundred years ago.

In April 1914, the Chicago Sunday Tribune named ten girls “The Most Popular Girls in College.” The

April 26, 1914

Article from the Chicago Sunday Tribune

girls selected represented schools from across the country, from Stanford University  in California to Wellesley  College in Massachusetts. According to the Tribune, the defining characteristic of all of the young women selected was “a gracious democracy.” They wrote, “[E]ach and all of the girls chosen possessed above everything else the genius for democracy. It was their certain loadstone of attraction.” The women were selected after correspondents from the paper sent photographs and a description of each girl, detailing “the traits which accounted for her being the universal choice of her school” [1].

From the 1915 Illio

Clara Cronk

One of the ten women selected was Clara Cronk, a senior at Illinois in 1914. The Tribune described Ms. Cronk as “the most popular girl at the University of Illinois,” who “is a senior, a member of the senior memorial committee, and has always taken a prominent part in class politics” [2].

The Tribune was right in choosing Clara as one of the most popular girls in school: she was a well-known institution to her class. Clara was known for her Southern upbringing; her family owned the Birmingham Hotel in Aurora, Alabama [3-4]. In the 1912 Illio, the editors joke that if Clara were a song, the title would be “My Friend from Dixie” [5].

From the 1912 Illio. In the same issue, she wrote, "Do you really think I will get roasted in the Illio?" (p. 199)

The above cartoon was included in the 1911 class calendar. The caption reads, “Feb. 18- Illinois subdues Maroons; Clara Cronk’s hat in front row.”

Clara had a packed social schedule. She frequently attended fraternity dances and social events.  She was a member of the Household Science Club, the Illio staff, and the first cabinet of the YWCA. She was also on the Woman’s League Advisory Board and the Woman’s League Social Chairman for the four years she was at the U of I. Her word was one sought after in campus politics; her opinion in favor of abolishing tango dancing at the University was published in a 1913 Daily Illini article [6].

From the 1914 Illio

Arthur Morris, Clara’s beau and future husband

Clara and her beau were a recognizable campus couple. Clara began seeing Arthur Marvin Morris after arriving in Champaign. Arthur was a member of Phi Delta Theta and Phi Delta Phi, president of the Athletic Association, and was a member of the Senior Hat committee. He graduated in 1913 with a degree in law. [7] The pair was mentioned in a poem on popular couples in the 1913 Illio, which read, “Behold, here comes Miss Clara Cronk,/ With Morris, you know Art,/ Why do they look so cheerful now?/ They’re pierced by Cupid’s dart” [8]. She was a frequent fixture at Arthur’s fraternity house; a joke meeting minutes for Phi Delta Theta reads, “President Conrad called the meeting to order but a quorum was lacking. Sergeant-at-Arms…instructed to call up Clara Cronk” [9].

From RS 41/20/238

A picture of the Phi Delta Theta dining room from Clara’s scrapbook, which is filled with witty remarks. “Clara here’s where your greatest fault was satisfied.”

After the Tribune’s article on popular college women, Clara Cronk was also named “The Most Popular Woman” in the 1915 Illio [10]. After Clara graduated, she and Arthur were married on September 12, 1914 in Chicago. The couple moved to Aberdeen, South Dakota, where Arthur opened a clothing store [11-12]. They had four children, Elmer, Arthur, Suzanne, and Mary [13].

Want to party like Clara? We’ve got a playlist of songs from a 1914 dance she attended.

A full view of the Tribune article is available on their website


[1]-[2] – “The Most Popular Girls in College.” Chicago Tribune. April 26, 1914. p. 35.
[3] – John Wiley. The Hotel Monthly. v. 14, n. 154. p. 29.
[4] – RS 25/3/17
[5] – Illio 1912. p. 517.
[6] – “Abolishment of Tango Favored by Co-Eds.” Daily Illini. October 17, 1913. p. 1, 7.
[7] – Illio 1914. p. 503.
[8] – Illio 1913. p. 547.
[9] – Illio 1914. p. 577.
[10] – Illio 1915. p. 195.
[11] – “Morris-Cronk.” Daily Illini. September 22, 1914. p. 3.
[12] The Alumni Record 1918. p. 503.
[13] – Arthur Marvin Morris. Star Tribune. April 2012.



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