The Smiffenpoofs formed in 1936 after a group of Smithies attended a Yale picnic where the Whiffenpoofs were performing. The ladies were so impressed by the Whiffs’ camaraderie and musicality that they decided to form the first women’s collegiate a cappella group in the nation, modeling their sound after the Whiffs’ and adopting a derivative name in their honor. As the story goes, on November 23rd, 1936, Smith president William Allan Neilson gave his official approval to the group, gifting them with a leather-bound journal in which to record their history.
The first group of Smiffenpoofs consisted of four seniors and four juniors, hand-picked from campus choirs by the group’s co-founders, Sue Becton (’38) and Jeanne Thayer (’38). They frequently performed with the Whiffenpoofs and other emerging a cappella ensembles, up until WWII. At that time, the Whiffs went off to war and the Poofs joined the war effort as Red Cross nurses. The Poofs did not disband during this period, but continued to perform regularly in area hospitals, bringing music and good cheer to soldiers returning home.
Now, 76 years later, the Smiffenpoofs have seen numerous changes, but the aim of the group’s founders remains intact — to expand an understanding and appreciation of vocal music to our community near and far, and to keep our level of camaraderie and harmony up to the highest standard! Our repertoire still includes old favorites like “Manhattan,” as well as our rallying call from 1956, “Softly.” We have also expanded our sound and style, hitting almost every genre of music (and even dance!).
Today’s Smiffenpoofs are honored to continue the a cappella tradition with as much pride and joy as the group’s original eight, and we thank you for your interest and support! Sing on, soldiers.