Uncovering the mystery and tradition behind Senior Women apparel

Brooke Sheehy, administration beat lead

Most Edina High School students are aware of the senior women traditional sweatshirts and spirit wear that are sported by many senior girls a few times a month. However, most students are not aware of when or how the tradition started in the first place.

Like many traditions, the origins of senior apparel are hazy. According to Arlene DesJardins, class of 1956, the tradition had not yet been introduced when she attended EHS. “Wasn’t around when we were in school 1951-1956. We were only allowed to wear slacks, not jeans, on Fridays. Nobody complained, it just was expected for us to comply,” DesJardins said.

In a two week long investigation, connecting with Edina alumni graduates between 10 and 60 years ago, it has been concluded that the unofficial start of the Senior Women tradition was in the late 70’s, with its first traceable acronym: SWATS (Senior Women Add Team Spirit) from class of ‘78.

In the following five years, it appears that the senior “women” exclusivity of the acronym disappeared. The class of ‘80 acronym was SCREAM (Senior Cougars Raise Enthusiasm and Motivation) and class of ‘83 was SAVAGES (Seniors Advocate Various Activities Generating Enthusiastic Spirit). It appears the only similarity between the three acronyms is that they are all associated with enthusiasm and team spirit. It wasn’t until the class of ‘86 that the “Senior Women” exclusivity resurfaced with the acronym SWILL, and the message that this acronym and each one to follow changed from a message of school pride to a message of highly classified information, creating an ‘I’d tell you but then I would have to kill you’ code between the senior women and the rest of the school.  

In an article from the yearbook titled “The Reign of Swill,” the senior women of ‘87 were classified as a women-only organization that performed an annual skit at the pep fests, acclaimed for their tie-dyed shirts and distressed jeans. As the sophomores, wondered what the senior women group was, juniors and seniors were more interested in finding out the secret meaning behind the SWILL acronym. There were a variety of ideas floating around the school, but it remained amongst the senior women as to which one was the correct one.

What is interesting about the senior women tradition in ‘86 was that it was more than just female students wearing matching sweatshirts to school. Senior Women was an actual club at the school that participated in fundraising events and school activities. “They went on in November to collect 7,000 cans for the canned food drive, beating ABUF for the first time in the history of the organizations,” the anonymous yearbook staff writer of ‘87 said. ABUF (A Bunch Uf Fools) was strictly a men’s organization created with the purpose of getting people to participate in school activities. They followed the technique of competition, such as their bet with SWILL in the food drive) to amplify student motivation.

There is some question as to whether the Senior Women Organization started as a copycat of ABUF, to make a female equivalent to this ever so popular club at EHS. “The senior women of ‘86-’87 were a united group of girls whose participation in school spirit activities will not be forgotten. Swill was an excellent example for future senior women to follow,” the anonymous yearbook staff writer of ‘93 said. In the 80’s, the senior women tradition may have lost its team spirit acronym, but it appears to have evolved to be a widely admired organization for its physical participation in school activities.

The tradition of senior women being a true organization that works together to make a change in the school and community has been traced all the way to the class of ‘93 who used the acronym SWADM that year. Their biggest event that year was a Halloween party that the organization hosted at the local YMCA. All seniors, including boys, were invited to the party, and all entry fees went towards the canned food drive competition against ABUF, a tradition that seems to have lasted six years in the making.

What remains true to this day is the fact that the acronym chosen each year is a complete secret to those who are not senior women. However, what ever happened to the intention of the tradition: to bring school spirit and create a strong bond amongst all senior women? It appears that the true meaning of the tradition has been lost along with ABUF. EHS, maybe it is time to bring them both back, and restore a 40-year-old tradition that brought so much mystery and life to the school year.