Women at William & Mary

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The first female students were admitted to the College of William and Mary for the fall term in 1918.

19th Century

On February 6, 1896, the Faculty of the College of William and Mary approved a resolution "that ladies of town and College be permitted, at Dr. Hall's discretion, to attend his lectures on Shakespeare."

On October 2, 1896, Minnie G. Braithwaite petitioned the faculty of the college to allow her to attend chemistry lectures. The faculty assembly voted 4-3 to deny her request. Six days later, after much discussion about Braithwaite’s appeal of their decision, the group rejected a more sweeping resolution that would have allowed women into the science lectures.

Admission of Women in 1918

Departments created as a result of the admission of women included Home Economics.

For extensive information about the admission of women to William and Mary in 1918, see the following online exhibits as well as the resources listed below in the Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library.

The first woman to receive a graduate law degree was Virginia Mister in 1937. She received her Bachelor of Arts from William & Mary in 1935 and her Bachelor of Civil Laws, a predecessor to the Juris Doctor, in 1937.

Asian American Women Students

List in-progress

Hatsuye Yamasaki was the first known Asian American woman to attend William and Mary and one of the first Asian American students. Entered the College in 1933 and graduated in 1937. During her time at the College, Yamasaki was part of the Judicial Council and the Women's Sophomore Tribunal. She was also Brown Hall President, Spanish Club Secretary, an Intramural Sports Representative, and on the Indian Handbook staff. Yamasaki hailed from Washington DC. See the 1937 The Colonial Echo page 86-87.

Beatrice H. Fujiwara Sakai of Honolulu, Hawaii entered the College in 1949 and graduated in 1953, majoring in biology. She was a member of the Biology Club. See The Flat Hat of April 24, 1951, page 7. See also the Colonial Echo.

African American Women

An African American woman with a Bachelor of Science in Education from Temple University was admitted on September 20, 1955, and was the first African American woman to attend the College, but she withdrew at end of that academic year. The first female undergraduate African American students, also the first black residential students, were Karen Ely, Lynn Briley, and Janet Brown, who arrived as freshmen in fall 1967. The women roomed together. At that time, there were three black male undergraduate students, all part-time, and one black male graduate student, who all lived off campus. All three women graduated from the College of William and Mary. (Flat Hat, 20 October 1967, p 16)

Lillian Poe, a doctoral candidate in history, was hired as assistant dean of admissions in summer 1970, becoming the College’s first black administrator.

Board of Visitors

Mary Munford in 1920 was the first woman to serve on the Board of Visitors. Kate Waller Barrett was the second woman to serve on William and Mary's Board of Visitors.

Anne Dobie Peebles, class of 1944, (BOV 1974-1987, Vice-Rector 1982-1984, Rector 1984-1987) was elected the first woman Rector of the Board of Visitors in William and Mary's history. The second was Susan A. Magill, class of 1972 (BOV 1997-2006, Rector 2004-2006).


The report, "The Status of Women at the College of William and Mary" compiled in 1973, showed that 39 women constituted about 13% of the instructional staff of 305. In 1984, the College established numerical quotas for hiring women faculty and in 1985 they had risen to 51 or 12.5% of the faculty of 408. (From "The College of William and Mary: A History" (1993), p. 861, the 2-volume history of the university)

Department Chairs

Margaret L. Hamilton was the Chair of the Department of Government from 1973-1978 and she also acted in that capacity in 1968-1969. (BOV resolution marking her retirement, April 25, 1986) Margaret L. Hamilton appointments: Acting Assistant Professor of Government, 1953-1955; Assistant Assistant Professor of Government, 1955-1964; Associate Professor of Government, 1964-1969; Professor of Government, 1969-1986; Professor of Government, Emerita, 1986.

Elsa S. Diduk was chair of the Department of Modern Languages in the late 1970s. Diduk's appointments: Instructor in Modern Languages, 1966-1968; Assistant Professor of Modern Languages, 1968-1974; Associate Professor of Modern Languages, 1974-1978; Professor of Modern Languages, 1978-1990; Professor of Modern Languages and Literature, Emerita, 1990.


The first woman librarian at the College of William and Mary was Blanche Trevilian Moncure from l899-l9l5. According to an essay by Julia Oxrieder (Mss. Acc. 2000.57 (WHRA)) regarding women who voted in Williamsburg, Virginia in the l920 Presidential election, Blanche Trevilian Moncure was retired at the age of 50 when she was registered to vote. The essay shows she was married to Dr. James Moncure, superintendent of Eastern State State Hospital.

Women's Studies Program

The Women's Studies Program was established in 1990.

Administrative Units

Student Organizations

This list includes administrative organizations like the groups formed for athletics and student government as well as student groups.

Online Exhibits from the SCRC

Material in the SCRC

Note that there are many published resources available about the history of coeducation in the United States and the American South. Researchers are encouraged to consult Swem Library's online catalog and databases for these secondary sources.

Published Sources

Manuscripts and Archives Collections

  • Laura Parrish Papers, survey responses of women who attended William and Mary in the 1920s through the 1940s
  • Martha Barksdale diary; the diary and other material from the papers of Martha Barksdale are also available online.
  • Student Handbooks
  • Colonial Echo; the 1918 edition (p.36) includes a note regarding the beginning of co-education.
  • University Archives Oral History Collection (see http://scrc.swem.wm.edu/controlcard.php?id=6613 for how I found the following interviews for you to review): Yelverton Kent, p. 3-4, 8-10, 23, 39; Henry Irving Willett, p. 4; Janet Kimbrough, p. 28-33;

Need help?

To search for further material, visit the Special Collections Research Center's Search Tool List for an overview of the Special Collections Database, W&M Digital Archive, Flat Hat-William & Mary News-Alumni Gazette index, card catalogs, and other tools available to help you find material of interest in William & Mary Libraries Special Collections Research Center.

Questions? Contact the Special Collections Research Center at spcoll@wm.edu or 757-221-3090, or visit the Special Collections Research Center in the Earl Gregg Swem Library at William & Mary.

A Note About The Contents Of This Wiki
The information available in this wiki is the best available from known documents and sources at the time it was written. Unfortunately, many of the early original records of William & Mary were destroyed by fires, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. Information in this wiki is not complete as new information continues to be uncovered in Swem Library's Special Collections Research Center and elsewhere. Researchers are strongly encouraged to use the Special Collections search tools for their research as the information contained in this wiki is by no means comprehensive.