Demia Butler was born in Irvington, Indiana, where she attended the Girl’s Classical School in Indianapolis. She entered the University of Chicago in 1892, received her Junior College certificate in 1897, and her Ph.B in English in April of 1898. Her diary, written during her first year at the university, documents her life in "the Beatrice," the women’s dormitory on campus. Due to the unfinished state of the building, the women were forced to sleep on mattresses piled on the floor during entrance examination week. Later diary entries recount interactions with professors and their wives, the President Harper, and the advantages of being at the University of Chicago. An excerpt from her entry on Monday, October 17th, 1892 reads,
In the afternoon Mrs. Palmer [the Dean of Women] addressed the women of the colleges. She spoke of the great advantages of college life, and of college life in the midst of a great progressive city, urging the students to make the most of their advantages in musical and artistic matters; and to cherish well and thoughtfully the strengthening companionships of student life.
Butler also wrote about extracurricular affairs. She mentioned one evening spent in the company of Amos Alonzo Stagg, the head football coach, who outlined the sport's basic premise:
In the evening the Beatrice gathered in the reception to hear Mr. Stagg talk on the Foot Ball.. He drew the “field” on a sheet of paper and hung it on the wall, making the position of the men with dots and crosses. He explained the different movements very clearly. After he told us of this great physical, mental, and moral strength the fame demanded, and what a fine discipline it is in all those times we were prepared to enjoy it with greater gusto (?) than ever.
In later entries, she discusses various issues at the university, talks, meetings, hangouts, and extracurricular activities such as chorus and orchestra concerts.
The Demia Butler Papers may be viewed online or in the Special Collections Research Center in the University of Chicago Library.