From the Archives

History, documents, and photos

Wofford’s first women students

Written By: information_management - Jan• 11•08

Neither Benjamin Wofford’s will nor the college charter made any declaration about the college being open only to men. In the late 1890s, the college began an experiment, a short-lived one, as it turned out, in admitting women. In the fall of 1897, two women enrolled, and two more in each of the next two years.

In a student body that numbered 188 in 1900, 1898sb_2
eight women could certainly expect to feel isolated. The college provided no housing for men or women, though it had occasionally allowed students to live in Main Building. These women were expected to board with families in the town. None of the faculty members were women, there was no dean of women, and it’s likely that they did not feel especially welcome.

James H. Carlisle Jr.’s memories of Wofford college tells the story.

ChapmanolA striking illustration of how trustees can misjudge the wishes of their patrons is given in the following account of their admitting young ladies into the institution.  I asked one of the trustees, “Why did you admit young ladies into Wofford College?”  He replied, “There was such a great demand from all over the state for us to admit them that we could not refuse.” The next fall, when only a few took advantage of the opportunity thus afforded them, I asked the same trustee, “If there was such a universal demand, as you trustees thought, why did not more young ladies take advantage of your offer?” He laughed and said “We were mistaken. The demand was not as great as we thought.”

Several young ladies graduated, taking A.B. degrees… but it was not a success, and after a few years, it was thought best, as father [President James H. Carlisle] would say, to quietly let the matter of admitting the young ladies drop.Tarbouxmv

The college’s first experiment in coeducation ended with graduation in 1904, though a few of the early women also took master’s degrees at the college. The college would have the occasional woman student until the early 1970s, when first day student, then full residential coeducation was implemented.

Photos – of the first four women, Ione Littlejohn Paslay ‘1902, Carrie Nabors Skelton ‘1902, May D. Wannamaker ‘1901, and Puella Littlejohn True ‘1901. The large photo is of the
student body in 1898, with faculty members on the front row. The individual photos are from the college’s 1904 yearbook, the first one published, and are of Olive Chapman ‘1904 and Marie Tarboux ‘1904.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

429 North Church Street, Spartanburg, SC 29303-3663
864-597-4000 | RSS Feed | Login