The front page of the November 4, 1921, Cosmos joyfully reports
the return of Sadie Finkelstein to campus: "This news will be hailed
with joy by her host of admirers on the Coe campus, and the Freshmen
are urged to become acquainted with one of the most renowned personages
in recent Coe history." Her arrival, tinged with gossip, was recorded
on the calendar of the 1922 Acorn as well: "Friday, the 17th:
'Sadie' makes her first appearance on the campus for the coming year.
Understand that she wears a rock on her left hand." Perhaps the most
surprising part of learning of this engagement is the fact that Sadie
was not a real person at all.
Created as a joke by students in Professor Leroy Coffin's freshman
mathematics class, "Sadie's" name was secretly placed onto the roll
sheet, and a female student would quietly say "Here!" to continue the
charade. Students went so far as to complete an exam for Sadie after
finishing their own, and both the professor and registrar were
impressed by the excellent grades Sadie managed to pull in.
The November Cosmos issue explains Sadie's absence from Coe in
this discreet manner: "She was suspended in 1919, because of rather
unpleasant notoriety in connection with a flirtation with a prominent
member of the T.N.K. But Sadie bravely lived down this scandal and is
now respected by all who know her. She is a star pupil under Professor
Coffin, who no longer worries over her chapel absences."
Sadie's fame was not limited to the
classroom, however. The Nov 5, 1920 Cosmos reports that at the
Halloween dance, "Sadie Finkelstein and her sister, clad in very brief
skirts and very, very bright red hose, gaily romped from one end of the
gym to the other…." Miss Finkelstein wrote a letter to the editor of
the Cosmos for the February 17, 1922 edition on the subject of
fraternity and sorority initiation practices of the day. The
letter begins, "This place is gettin' crazier every day what with one
thing an' another goin' on ter sort of get a person mixed up an'
thinkin' he sees things when he don't and don't when he does. For
instants I'll jest tell you what I've been livin’ amongst the last few
weeks so if you hearn tell of me bein' a inmate of one of these here
nut houses you can bet it ain't my fault." The letter continues in this
vernacular to describe the variety of strange sights on the campus,
including guys using gunny sacks for book bags, and girls "wearin'
heathenisher close than ever lately. The only sensible thing I
recollect wuz several dunce caps that somebody sed they wuz wearin' to
The Sadie Finkelstein hoax left the campus with the class of 1922, the
group of students who created her. In the final Cosmos
issue, June 7,1922, the joke apparently ended:
tragic accident which marred the happiness of Commencement time at Coe
and plunged the senior class into deepest grief, occurred two weeks ago
when Sadie Finkelstein abruptly departed from this life.
Her leaving was
as spectacular as the rest of her career; she was peacefully making her
way down First Avenue when she suddenly became tangent to an on-rushing
Ford, described an angle of forty-eight degrees, and was boosted into
The funeral was held in T. M. Sinclair Memorial Chapel, Friday morning,
May 26. William Burger, president of the senior class, had charge
of the services, the obituary was read by Ray Peterson, and Bruce West
“came to bury Sadie, not to praise her.” The entire senior class
followed the bier, each member wearing deep mourning.
was born in Nonesuch, Iowa, and was graduated from the city high school
in 1917. She enrolled as a freshman at Coe the following autumn,
and soon distinguished herself as a student, displaying unusual ability
in Professor Coffin’s mathematics class.
was a popular member of Carleton literary society, and a habitual
subscriber to the Acorn, The Cosmos, and the Y.W.C.A. The only
blot on her career was her suspension from college during the year
1919-20, following a romantic adventure.
Miss Finkelstein was posthumously awarded
a gold medal by her former instructor in mathematics. Her
diploma, which she was to have received at the Commencement exercises
today, was withheld by the faculty.
Miss Finkelstein is survived by one
sister, Rebecca Finkelstein, a member of the class of 1925.
With the graduation of the Class of 1922, it seemed the Great Sadie
Finkelstein Hoax was over. But Sadie was not gone forever.
According to Coe at 125, the published radio scripts from Coe's
125th anniversary, Sadie had the last laugh at the 50th
reunion of the class. One of the alumni received a telegram from
a Miss Sadie Finkelstein, conveying "her greetings to her old friends
in the class and her sincere regret at not being able to attend the