Cities: Athens

Women Students at UGA

In this WSB clip, a reporter interviews Mrs. Alice Walter Stancil, a 1921 graduate of The University of Georgia.  A resident of Monroe, Georgia, Stancil attended UGA as Alice Walker (her maiden name), enrolling in 1919, and she was one of the school’s first female students.  She participated in a number of organizations, including the Pioneer’s Club, the Student Government Association of Women, and the Zodiac Club.  After graduating in 1921, she married and later served as editor for the Gainesville Morning Newspaper. She passed away in November 1969 in Dalton.  During this interview, she discusses opposition to the enrollment of women and their tireless efforts to gain an education. 

Formal discussions concerning co-education at UGA began in the late 1890s.  In 1896, the National Society of The Colonial Dames of America and the Daughters of the American Revolution collaborated to petition the Board of Trustees to admit women.  In 1899, the state General Assembly passed a law to establish an additional branch of the university, The Georgia Normal and Industrial College at Milledgeville, for female students.  The Trustees argued against admitting women to the University since such normal schools offered them both industrial training and teacher certification.  For many years, petitions for women’s access to higher education were ignored because of the perception that their presence would diminish the quality of men’s education. 

By 1903, women could enroll in summer school courses for teacher training at UGA, yet this did not grant them official admission.  Julia Anna Flisch, a graduate of the Lucy Cobb Institute, became the first woman to earn a degree from UGA.  In 1911, the University Trustees voted to allow female students to earn an M.A. for work completed during summer school. On June 17, 1914, Mary Dorothy Lyndon became the first woman to earn an M.A. for work completed at the University, and later was appointed the first Dean of Women.  Still, it would be several years before The University of Georgia granted full admission to women.  Meanwhile, in the years leading up to this milestone, Dr. Thomas J. Woofer, Dean of the Peabody School of Education, and faculty members of the School of Agriculture were faithful advocates of co-education.  Finally, in September 1918, the Trustees agreed to admit women to the junior and senior classes at UGA. 

The female students admitted to UGA encountered inadequate housing accommodations on campus, and were forced to reside in boarding houses and private homes. Generally, they majored in home economics and education. In 1920, female students created the Student Government Association of Women, which operated in conjunction with the Dean of Women, in order to address gender issues on campus. Not until 1977, with the founding of the Institute for Women's Studies at UGA would a department focus specifically on issues of gender equity and women's rights.

Four decades after the University dismantled the gender barrier in its admissions policy, activists would fight against racial segregation on campus and face similar challenges. Those resistant to the admission of women and other minority groups perceived that integrating the campus would prevent qualified white male applicants from being admitted. Opponents to the admission of women and other minority groups have also expressed concern that cultural differences would cause tension between old and new students and adversely affect school spirit. These issues have not only been limited to the history of school integration but also have played out in corporate America, in government, in neighborhoods and in sports and entertainment.

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Discussion Questions

1. Read the essay on the New Woman of the 1920s on the web site of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.  Why did the creation of the Student Government Association of Women coincide with this phase of the women's movement, and what obstacles did women who earned degrees at the University in the 1920s face in the professional world?

2. Visit the Institute for Women's Studies homepage of The University of Georgia. Discuss how the Institute engages issues that concerned educated women like Stancil in the first two decades of the twentieth century, and how its coursework and mission also reflects twenty-first century attitudes and opportunities.

3. Read the story on Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter-Gault at The University of Georgia on the Freedom on Film Athens pages. Compare the processes by which both women and African Americans were admitted. Why did it take litigation to admit African American students whereas the admission of women came about by a vote of the University Trustees? Why did the campus community respond differently to the admission of African Americans than to women?

Take it to the Streets!

Read the essay on the Library of Congress American Memory web site about on the industrial education of African Americans at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Next, view the Tuskegee University Libraries Digital Collections images of students and faculty in the early days of Tuskegee Institute. Finally, view the image from the Library of Congress website of African American female students at the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute in Augusta. Make a scrapbook or web-based slideshow of female students and faculty around your own school and introduce it with a short   2-3 page essay comparing women's roles in education then and now.

Writer: Lauren Chambers   
Editors: Kamille Bostick, Christina L. Davis, Mary Boyce Hicks, and Professor Barbara McCaskill  
Researchers: Lauren Chambers, Professor Barbara McCaskill
Web Site Designer: William Weems

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