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.

19the 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.

Board of Visitors

Mary Munford in 1920 was the first woman to serve on the 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).

Asian American Women

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.

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

  • The College of William and Mary : a history, Susan H. Godson, Ludwell H. Johnson, Richard B. Sherman, Thad W. Tate, Helen C. Walker, Williamsburg, Va. : King and Queen Press, Society of the Alumni, College of William and Mary in Virginia, 1993. Copies are available in the SCRC and Swem Library's stacks and Virginia Reference sections. LD6051 .W52 C65 1993
  • When Mary Entered with her Brother William: Women at the College of William and Mary, 1918-1945, Laura F. Parrish (M.A. Thesis, College of William and Mary, 1988). Copies are available in the SCRC and Swem Library's stacks and online.
  • The life histories of ten of the first women to attend the College of William and Mary [1918-1930], Diane M. Roy (M.A. Thesis, College of William and Mary, 1994), LD6051 .W5m Soc., 1994, R69. Copies are available in the SCRC and Swem Library's stacks.
  • President J.A.C. Chandler and the first women faculty at the College of William and Mary / by Carolyn Lamb Sparks Whittenburg, Dissertation, LD6051 .W5m Educ. 2004, W58. Copies are available in the SCRC and Swem Library's stacks.
  • The Southern Lady versus the Old Dominion: the battle for higher education for Virginia's women, 1910-1920, Sara S. Rogers, Thesis (Honors), LD6051 .W5m Hist., 1975, R63. Copy available in the SCRC.

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
  • Catalogues
  • 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;
A Note About The Contents Of This Wiki
Unfortunately, many of the early original records of the College of William and Mary were destroyed by fire, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The information available here is the best available from known documents and sources at the time it was written. Information in this wiki is not complete as new information continues to be uncovered in the SCRC's collections and elsewhere. Researchers are strongly encouraged to use the SCRC's access tools for their research as the information contained in this wiki is by no means comprehensive.