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This Diploma from 1923 Shows How Far Women Have Come in 100 Years

My favorite secondhand wall art thrift store finds.

By Lissa BayPublished 3 years ago 4 min read
Top Story - April 2021

There’s more than enough stuff in the world already, so I get practically everything I own secondhand. I do it both for environmental reasons and because vintage stuff is way cooler! From clothing to furniture to appliances to home décor, I’m constantly on the lookout for unique items that people have cast aside for reasons that shall remain forever a mystery to me.

My favorite to collect is wall art. I don’t care for mass-produced stuff. In my view, there’s nothing special about art from IKEA or Target. When I go to a thrift store, I’m searching for something one-of-a-kind to fill my white apartment walls with style and beauty.

I’ve been lucky. I’ve scooped up a lot of rad original art from thrift stores. My best advice for doing the same is to avoid big stores like Goodwill or The Salvation Army. They’re picked over. My favorite shops are the small ones run by a church or charity. I’ve occasionally found some cool threads from the big stores, but rarely any high-quality unusual art.

20" x 24"

This bird in a cherry tree, for instance, came from a tiny and quite filthy shop in Oakland, California. The bird and leaves are painted in rich detail on glass. Behind the glass pane, there's a blue painted background on paper.

It’s got a tag on the back that says “Bluebird & Cherries by Thelma Winkelman.” I haven’t located the artist, but I dig her. It cost $20, which is a steal for fairly large original art with a custom frame.

14" x 16"

Here are some other blue birds. I bought this little find from a church shop over a decade ago in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. I like how the image is done in glazed paint on pottery, but my favorite part of it is the stunning custom wood frame.

The artist signed it "Lucey" and I have no clue who that is. It cost $10, but if I remember correctly, I also picked up some boots, a scarf, and two outlandish dresses on the same trip. They gave me a bulk discount!

30" x 36"

And then there’s this original painting I bought cheap from a guy selling all kinds of crazy crap at a flea market. He seemed happy to part with it. I figure it was hard for him to bring it from place to place without damaging it because it’s large, doesn't have a frame, and didn't fit with the other stuff he sold.

The artist is George Verancio. "Portuguese Artist," he's signed under his name in parentheses. I picked it up for $50, which may sound expensive, but it’s a very large original painting. In my opinion, it’s lovely. I adore the colors.

Each of these items have the artist’s name on them, but none are familiar to me or Google.

The same can be said of my most prized secondhand find of all, an 8th grade graduation certificate awarded in 1923 to a “Miss Lolita Maria Lloyd.” Its fascinating wording illuminates the way expectations for girls have changed in almost 100 years.

18" x 15"

Issued by the Sisters of Mount St. Joseph’s Collegiate in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, I purchased this item nearby, from a small shop in Upper Darby. I believe it cost $15, but I would have paid double for such an unusual item. I’ve never seen anything else like it in all my time of thrifting for treasures.

It appears normal enough at first. I have it hanging over my desk as if it were my own college diploma. Like the good Catholic school girls who received the honor of such a certificate, it doesn’t draw much attention to itself. But if you look closer and read the words printed there, its peculiarity leaps out from behind the antique glass pane:

“To Miss Lolita Maria Lloyd For having attained required average in Deportment, Order, and Neatness, and having passed satisfactory examination in Class Eighth this Certificate is awarded.”

The priorities for girls of that era are striking. The most important part of getting the little Lloyd girl to high school was her “Deportment, Order, and Neatness.” Then, as an afterthought, oh yeah, she also passed all her scholastic tests.

The word “deportment” refers to someone’s manners. If one deports herself well, that means she’s behaved impeccably. Achieving that, combined with being neat and orderly, were the main qualities school sought to instill into Lolita.

Nowadays, reading, writing, and arithmetic are prioritized over neatness and order for girls, boys, and non-binary children alike. Which is a good thing, because the focus in the 1920's would necessarily exclude children with low parental involvement, kids who lack access to regular bathing, new clothes, or clothes-laundering, and neurodivergent kids.

I picture Lolita Maria Lloyd wearing a dark schoolgirl’s jumper, her short clean hair pinned back, her white socks pristine and black shoes shined. And I think about myself at her age. Here’s an actual picture of me from 8th grade.

8th grade, 1996

We've come a long way, baby!

I’m the one rocking the Lemonheads t-shirt and the hair with no discernable part. Something tells me that if my school had required my punk ass to have attained a required average in deportment, order, and neatness—especially considering my love of raggedy old thrift store clothes—I’d still be there, never graduating to high school.

Me wearing a thrifted dress, boots, cardigan sweater, scarf, and purse. Everything but the stockings, which I wore until they were more holes than stockings.


About the Creator

Lissa Bay

Lissa is a writer and nanny who lives in Oakland, California. She enjoys books, books, playing Disney songs on ukulele for kiddos, books, and hanging out with her deeply world-weary dog, Willow. And, oh yeah, also—get this: books.

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