WOMEN ON THE HILL:
A HISTORY OE WOMEN AT UNC
by Pamela Dean
THE LIBRARY OF THE
AT CHAPEL HILL
THE COLLECTION OF
WOMEN ON THE HILL:
A HISTORY OF WOMEN AT
THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA
Women's Studies Program
University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill
Printed on the occasion of the Dedication of the
Katherine Kennedy Carmichael Residence Hall
November 5, 6 and 7, 1987
Division of Student Affairs
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
WOMEN ON THE HILL:
A HISTORY OF WOMEN AT
THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA
Women's Studies Program
University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill
Printed on the occasion of the Dedication of the
Katherine Kennedy Carmichael Residence Hall
November 5, 6 and 7, 1987
Division of Student Affairs
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Katherine Kennedy Carmichael
WOMEN ON THE HILL:
A HISTORY OF WOMEN AT
THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA
By Pamela Dean
Fifteen years ago, on the occasion of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the first admission
of women to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Gladys Hall Coates published
a lively and meticulously researched article on the history of the University as a coeduca-
tional institution. Coates, who has a long history of participation in the life of this institu-
tion, provided us with our first look at the role of women at UNC. Ninety years after
the first coed enrolled, the University has chosen to honor another distinguished Carolina
woman, Katherine Kennedy Carmichael, who served as Dean of Women for twenty-six
years. At such a time, it is appropriate to retell the story, to build on Coates's excellent
foundation, and to bring the account up to date.
In addition to Coates I would like to thank Mary Turner Lane, Gillian Cell, Margaret
O'Connor, and Michael Martin for sharing with me both their experiences and their insights
into the changing position of women in the University, and Guion Griffis Johnson and
Norma Connell Berryhill for permission to quote from their interviews in the Southern
Historical Collection. The terms "Ladies of the Hill" and "Carolina Coed," with which
I have labeled two of the three periods in the history of women at UNC, are taken from
Mary Turner Lane's, "The University in Transition: The Female Presence!' [Alumni Review,
73:l(1984):4-6, 16-22], although my periodization differs from hers*
I would also like to thank Jane DeHart-Mathews for suggesting I take on this project,
Donald Boulton and the University for giving me the opportunity to do so, and Donald
G. Mathews for his generous encouragement and guidance.
•In addition to Lane and Coates, "The Coming of Women to the University of North Carolina," in By Her Own
Bootstraps, Albert Coates, (1975), other secondary sources used in this paper include Angela Lumpkin, "Women's
Physical Activity at the First State University: an Uphill Struggle;' presented at the NAPSE History of Sport Aca-
demy, 1978; Margaret Morrison, "Role Perceptions of Senior Women at the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill Based on a Questionnaire issued in 1958 and 19721' MA thesis, UNC, 1972; Betty M. Smith, "A Study of
the Backgrounds, Interests, Achievements, Academic-Vocational Programs, Post-Graduate Plans, and Vocational
Choices of the Undergraduate Women Completing Degree Requirements for Graduation in June 1949 at the Univer-
sity of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C.;' MA Thesis, UNC, 1950. All other material is from the North Carolina
Collection, the Alumni Association Archives, and the University Archives. Sources include the Daily Tar Heel,
the Yakety Yacks, the Handbooks for Women Students; the Alumni Review, the Dean of Women's papers, the
Dean of Student Affairs papers, interviews by the author cited above, in the author's possession, and additional
interviews from the Southern Oral History Collection, in the Southern Historical Collection.
The University of North Carolina was a men's college when it was founded; in 1795
there was no other kind. Women might be educated, but not at a University. Higher educa-
tion was intended to train the leaders of the new republic, and the public world of politics
and business in which these college men would move was no place for frail and gentle
women. Their sphere was limited to the home and their education to domestic arts and
the modicum of reading, writing, and arithmetic they needed to become good wives and
mothers, to read the Bible, keep household accounts, and raise their children to be good
citizens. Nonetheless, women have been involved with Carolina from the beginning. Mary
Leach Spaight, wife of the Governor of North Carolina, attended the first public examina-
tion, suggesting by her presence that the public for which those examinations were held
and to which educated young men were accountable included the women of the state.
In 1802 the women of Raleigh contributed a pair of globes and a compass and the following
year the women of New Bern donated a quadrant. Most important, through her tireless
fund raising and lobbying of state officials and other prominent North Carolinians, Cornelia
Phillips Spencer almost single-handedly brought about the resurrection of the college
after the Civil War. North Carolina women have given the University wholehearted support
during its entire lifetime. In return the institution welcomed them to commencements,
dances, and other public occasions. But for more than one hundred years the University
did not welcome women as students.
That story — the story of Carolina women as students — began on a summer day in 1897
when Mary McRae, daughter of the dean of the law school, was crossing the Chapel
Hill campus and met Carolina president Edwin Alderman. The preceding winter Alderman
had persuaded the University to admit women to advanced classes. Now he asked McRae
if she wouldn't let "Mary" be the first name on the roll of women at the University.
She agreed and with her enrollment, and that of her four classmates, an important chapter
in higher education for southern women began. For the first time, North Carolina women
did not have to leave their home state to obtain a degree equal to that available to men,
and even to women nearly everywhere outside the South.
More than thirty years earlier Vassar College had begun to offer women a full four
year liberal arts program modeled on the best of the northeastern men's schools. Such
opportunities expanded throughout the remaining decades of the nineteenth century with
the founding of the rest of the Seven Sisters and the growth of coeducational colleges
and universities, especially in the Mid- and Far West. This growing reliance on coeducation
was due in part to the relative poverty of these new states. They had neither the population
nor the financial resources to support two single sex schools. But even private colleges,
such as Cornell (1865), Boston University (1870), and Stanford (1892), which were not
noted for their lack of funds, opened their doors to women as well as men. As early
as 1870, coed institutions outnumbered women's schools by more than two to one.
The pattern in the South was quite different. In spite of the similar demand for educated
women to teach in the expanding school systems, in spite of equally restricted finances,
most southern schools were single sex. Southerners were not entirely opposed to educating
women; there were scores of schools calling themselves women's colleges and offering
a bewildering variety of degrees. But they were almost without exception junior colleges
at best; many were little more than finishing schools. Not until the twentieth century
would one of them offer a baccalaureate degree recognized as such by educators in either
the North or the South. Southern women continued to receive an education separate
from and inferior to that offered their brothers because it was widely accepted that it
was neither necessary nor desirable to provide them with more. True higher education
might unfit them for their roles as wives, mothers, and ladies. It could make them dissatisfied
with their place in society; even worse, the strain of studying might literally make them
sterile (by drawing the blood from the reproductive organs to the brain) or drive them
crazy. These concerns, common in the nineteenth century, lingered in the South even after
northern college women began to prove that at least some females were quite capable
of meeting the standards set by the male college curriculum.
Such attitudes, coupled with the chronic lack of trained teachers that afflicted the South
in the post-war years, insured that southern women seldom came to college ready to do
college level work. As a result, women's colleges had to devote a significant part of their
resources to preparatory departments. In 1910, for instance, at Meredith College more
than four-fifths of the student body were doing secondary-level work. But Meredith and
its sister colleges had few resources to spare. They often lacked the funds — more readily
available to men's institutions — to support the libraries, laboratories, and faculty that
would allow them to provide students with a first class* education. By 1911 only four of
the more than 140 southern women's schools were accredited by the Association of Colleges
of the Southern States. These were Agnes Scott in Georgia, Goucher in Maryland,
Randolph-Macon in Virginia, and Sophie Newcomb in Louisiana. North Carolina women
seeking a full college education went to one of these schools or went North. The latter
was not an option many parents were willing, or financially able, to consider. The only
other choice was to begin at a women's school and then transfer to one of the handful
of state institutions that in the late 1890s finally begin to admit a few women in the upper
division and graduate levels.
When Mary McRae and her classmates, Lulie Watkins, Cecye Roanne Dodd, Dixie
Lee Bryant, and Sallie Walker Stockard, signed up as UNC's first coeds, they were reaching
for something that was unavailable to most of their southern sisters. At the same time
they were part of a nationwide trend that would help change the roles of women and
irreversibly alter their society and culture.
Anomaly: Ladies on the Hill: 1897-1930
Women on the Chapel Hill campus were not a totally new phenomenon. In the nineteenth
century faculty daughters such as Cornelia Phillips, daughter of James Phillips, and Ellen
and Margaret Mitchell, daughters of Elisha Mitchell, sometimes visited classes and sat
in on lectures. Student William Sidney Mullins recorded several such visits in his diary
in 1841. "The Ladies of the Hill. . .attended our lecture on Wednesday morning, and
it is useless to add the interest of the proceedings [was] greatly enhanced . . .The Lecture
was not very interesting, however, and my eyes were on the fair faces oftener than on
the experiments." Nonetheless, as Gladys Coates observed, such visits were not common.
"Women were so rare on campus in those days that when any were unexpectedly glimpsed,
the cry would reverberate through the dormitories— Angels on campus!' This was a real
note of warning which, I suspect, had even more meaning in later years when the first
baths on campus, and the only baths for several years, were installed in the basement
of the library — the building now known as Playmakers Theatre. Men in varying degrees
of casual attire would cross the campus to and from the baths; Angels on campus' was
then sometimes, no doubt, a frantic cry of warning!"
Such phrases suggested exotic invaders, ladies in a place where ladies usually had no
reason to be; it is not surprising that when they attended lectures they were often relegated
to an anteroom so as not to distract the young men like Mullins. The segregation reinforced
the idea that women were not really supposed to be "on the hill!' Women should have
become less anomalous when the summer normal school opened in 1877 with an enrollment
that was nearly fifty percent female. But it shut down in 1884 and they were still exotic
intruders when, in January of 1897, President Alderman, a progressive administrator,
convinced the Board of Trustees to adopt the latest innovation in higher education and
admit women to post-graduate courses. Nonetheless, the reservations of the trustees were
reflected in their defeat of a proposal that "all the educational advantages of the university
be opened to female pupils" and in the observation of the visiting committee that the
doors of the university had been opened to women "to satisfy their demand, and . . .'to
silence envious tongues! "
President Alderman, recognizing that none of the women's colleges actually prepared
students for graduate work, interpreted the trustees' resolution broadly to mean junior
and senior level courses. Thus most women came to complete their education begun at
other schools such as Meredith, Salem, Guilford, St. Mary's or what was then the State
Normal and Industrial College at Greensboro (later North Carolina Women's College
and now UNC Greensboro). As such they were still visitors, part of a world beyond the
"hill" and therefore not a substantial part of the life of the University or the world which
the university represented.
Many would slip into the life of the "hill" for a year or two and then teach for awhile
before marrying. Mary McRae, a St. Mary's girl, taught Latin until her marriage in 1900
to Raleigh Times editor Robert Gray. Her classmate Lulie Watkins, who had been educated
at home by her father, took math courses for a year, then taught at Peace College until
she too married.
Others used Chapel Hill as only the beginning of a higher education. Dixie Lee Bryant
(BS MIT 1891), who was also recruited for that first class by Alderman, had taught at
the Normal College at Greensboro for nine years before coming to Chapel Hill. She then
left for Germany to pursue a PhD. Guilford graduate Sallie Stockard received the first
degree granted by UNC to a woman in 1898. She stayed on for a masters degree in 1900
and later received one from Columbia University as well. Susan Moses attended UNC
1898 to 1901 before going to Cornell for her AB in 1902 and MA in 1903.
Like Cecye Dodd, the fifth member of that first class, more than half of those who
enrolled did not graduate. Some came to Chapel Hill because husbands or relatives were
associated with the University. Some came for specific courses they needed to reach certain
specific goals. Harriet Morehead Berry — who worked so hard for "Good Roads" that
her name now graces a portion of Interstate 40 — attended classes at Carolina when she
came to campus in 1901 to work for the state geological and economic survey, which
was located in Old East. Her presence at UNC was not part of the mission of the Univer-
sity — but of her own very individualized commitment.
The pattern of women's participation in the University continued to be sporadic, tangen-
tial, slightly eccentric — from the viewpoint of the men. In the first years at Chapel Hill,
the women were very much aware that they were there only on sufferance. At first they
were not included in the class pictures nor awarded their hard earned diplomas at gradua-
tion. Instead they received them later in private.
If college officials were so wary of women it is not surprising that male students should
only think of them as a closely watched experiment. The women dressed carefully, in
hat and gloves, and tried to slip unobtrusively into their classes. But as Mary Graves,
class of 1906, wrote, they ran a "gauntlet of critical eyes!' It was "the most nerve-racking
of all our experiences" she reported. "You always have a creepy feeling that your hat
is on crooked, or that your hair is coming down!' She continued, "One of the most remark-
able things about being a coed is the amount of room you take up. You start towards
an empty seat on the end of a bench and by the time you get there the whole row is vacant!'
She recommended buying a parasol for company. Cora Corpening, who became the first
woman in the medical school in 1915, braved opposition from the all-male student body,
who had voted against admitting her; she simply started going to class until she became
"one of the boys" and was formally enrolled. In contrast to Sally Stockard who was not
included in her graduating class's picture, Corpening was even given a place of honor
in the Yackety Yack's medical school photo; she is the one in the middle, just behind
Even after the novelty had worn off, male students still put their female colleagues
at arm's length in a mixture of pride and amused condescension. In the descriptive para-
graphs under the women's yearbook pictures, the Yackety Yack editors stressed that intelli-
gence (noteworthy and duly noted) did not interefere with femininity. For example, "This
little lady has most happily succeeded in combining the ability to make "ones" and "twos"
[the highest grades] on math and Latin with the ability to make friends of both sexes!'
When, as was frequently the case, the ages of the men were cited, all the women were
coyly credited with being "16, approximately!'
If their Chapel Hill experience was tangential to that of men, the ladies on the hill
were a vanguard for women. The same year Cora Corpening entered the medical school,
Harriet Berry's sister, Margaret Berry (Street), became the first woman to graduate from
the law school. Unlike many pioneer college women who often remained single, she was
able to combine her marriage with an active practice of the law. Kathrine Robinson (Eve-
rett), class of 1920, did so as well, practicing in partnership with both her husband and
son, and remaining active into her nineties. Others like Emilie Watts McVae (1900) went
on to distinguished careers in education. As the first women in so many things affecting
North Carolina and the University, they made it possible for other women to come after-
wards. Some like McVae, who became president of Sweetbriar, made substantial contribu-
tions as leaders of women's institutions. Others became active in community, state, and
national affairs without benefit of institutional support. None was more active than Gladys
Avery Tillet (1917), who worked for the woman suffrage and equal rights amendments
in campaigns sixty years apart, sandwiching between the two a commitment to public
life that should have shamed the men who voted against her in 1920 and the 1970s*
The marginal and anomalous existence of the ladies on the hill was underscored by
their living conditions. President Edward Kidder Graham attributed the small number
of women in the University to the failure to provide dormitories for them. His understanding
of the problem was undoubtedly furthered by his wife, Susan Moses, who had been one
of the pioneering coeds.
Many early students lived at home with their families or with faculty, as did Lulie
Watkins who tutored Professor F. P. Venable's children in return for her room and board.
Others lived in one of the few boarding houses that would take women at that time. Mrs.
Sophia MacNider's small cottage was favored by the first class because of its convenient
location across the street from campus, where the Franklin Street Post Office is now. Renting
rooms in their homes was one of the few occupations open to genteel widows and like
many others in this college town MacNider was able to educate her sons, Dr. William
MacNider of the medical school and his brother Sam, on profits from her rooming house.
♦North Carolina did not approve the Woman's Suffrage Amendment until the 1970s. During the same decade
they defeated the Equal Rights Amendment three times.
The question of housing was important because college was not just a place one went
to acquire knowledge. It was an experience that helped to shape one's character. The 1897
student handbook described the University as "a little world in itself, a sort of miniature
state, where young men of all classes, conditions, faiths, temperaments and talents mingle
freely together on terms of equality, breathe the atmosphere of liberal culture, and learn
the lessons of self-reliance, of respect for the opinions of others and of love for truth!'
And it was widely recognized that these broadening experiences were found outside the
classroom as much as in it. Thus while women were technically getting college education,
they were still being denied essential elements by virtue of their isolation from each other
and those fellow students who could have provided the camaraderie which is so much
a part of the college experience. President Graham, calling attention to the problem in
1917, stated: "To continue to admit. . . [women] in the half-hearted way, and to furnish
them with classroom instruction without the other features which make up college life,
is a rather doubtful kindness to them."
Two years later, Inez Koonce Stacy, widow of Dean Marvin Hendrix Stacy, was appointed
women's advisor and from the beginning she took up Graham's theme; year after year
in her annual reports she pleaded for adequate housing. "The students are scattered from
one end of town to the other, and lose much valuable time going back and forth . . . .They
have few comforts and in their social life none of the finer things which come from contact
with one another!'
By 1921 the University had begun to come around. It provided two houses on adjoining
lots to accommodate about forty-five of the sixty-five women enrolled. This too was quite
inadequate, Stacy charged, noting that one small sitting room with five chairs and a table
were all that were provided for the reception of callers. That was not all that was lacking
according to one resident, Norma Connell (Berryhill, 1925). Her story about Archer House
not only reveals the inadequacy of the housing, but also illustrates a pattern typical of
Carolina's relations with its women students.
"My roommate and I lived in what had been the servants' quarters over the kitchen,
where there was no heat, only a little pot-bellied stove. And to show you what it was
like, in a very, very cold spell we had no wood [which the university was responsible for
providing]. And we had to study that night, and the only place we could study was our
rooms. So I told my roommate to put on her warmest, heaviest clothes and to tie up
her head and come with me. Well, she was a very gentle soul and did just that. And we
went out on the campus to pick up twigs . . .The campus wasn't as well kept as it is now,
so little twigs were left on the ground for a while." The two women headed for the office
of President Harry Woodburn Chase. "And this was about twilight, and Mr. Chase and
his secretary, Claude Corrie, happened to be looking out the window. And Mr. Chase
said to Mr. Corrie, 'What is that out there?' We looked like peasant women with our
heads covered up. . .And Claude Corrie — he was a personal friend of mine — came out
and was amazed to find that I was the person that looked like a peasant woman there picking
up twigs. So he went back to Mr. Chase and told him what it was, that we had no wood
and we were just getting what we could for our rooms. By the time we got back with
our load of twigs, we found a load of wood arriving at Archer House to be taken up
to our rooms!' This pattern, of benign neglect and female initiative, followed by university
response, would be played out again and again. If Carolina was seldom hostile to women,
it seldom gave them a high priority.
Archer House burned down shortly after this, whether as a result of those little tin
stoves is not clear, but with its loss, the need for a dormitory to house the women was
even more apparent. With the support of President Chase, history professor Frank Porter
Graham, alumnae, and the coeds themselves, Stacy continued her campaign. She wanted
a woman's dorm to be called Spencer Hall, after Cornelia Phillips Spencer, that quintessen-
tial lady of the hill and long-time supporter of the University, if not of coeducation.
At the time Stacy's campaign shifted into high gear, women had begun to make a more
visible place for themselves within the University. Although Mary McRae had served as
literary editor for the Tar Heel and Sallie Stockard cast the deciding vote for senior class
president, most early coeds had remained "outsiders" in Mary Graves' words. Asked on
an alumni survey what her interests and activities had been, Julia Dameron (1908) replied
with some asperity, "There were no interests or activities for women in 1908!" But by
the early twenties a basketball team, two sororities, and the beginnings of student govern-
ment for women, parallel to that for men, offered the coeds more scope. Women were
also very active in the Carolina Playmakers from its inception in 1918, virtually dominating
it in the early years to the extent that Thomas Wolfe was at first the only man involved.
Yet these were all new organizations, most established specifically for women. They still
had made no significant inroads into traditional campus institutions.
By the early twenties, too, a few faculty members began to sponsor women students.
Howard Odum recruited a number of them for his sociology department, including Norma
Connell Berryhill, Harriet Herring (1928), and Katherine Jocher (PhD 1929). The latter
two would be among the first women on the UNC faculty. Odum took a serious interest
in his students, providing scholarships, finding jobs, and, according to Norma Berryhill,
reminding them that they too should take their work seriously. A friend had left his car
with her, she recalled. "There was a movie in Durham that sounded very intriguing. I
didn't have a class. And I really at that point, I'm afraid, felt that if you didn't have
a class, you had no responsibility. So Cara Mae Green (Russell) and I got the stripped-down
Ford. . .and went to Durham to the movie. And when I got back and parked the Ford,
the housemother said to me, 'You had a caller this afternoon, and he asked me to give
you a message, that he thought that was a lovely car that you were using these days. He
envied you that car! And I asked for a description of the gentleman, and it turned out
to be Dr. Odum. He never had to remind me that there was studying and research to
do again. And from that time on, I became a very serious student!'
Odum, whose department was a magnet for some of the brightest and most liberal
scholars in the South, was clearly committed to educating women. It must be admitted,
however, that more than one of his colleagues, while agreeing that women were entitled
to a college education, were sure that their own disciplines — history, or whatever — were
much too demanding for feminine brains. Female students were soon providing evidence
to the contrary. In 1900 Marcia Louise Latham won the Holt Medal, the highest award
in the math department, and in 1923 Julia Cherry Spruill received the William Jennings
Bryan prize in the history department. Even some of the most intransigent men began
to reconsider their position. Informed of Latham's award, Major William Cain, head
of the Department of Mathematics, who had been sure his department would not be
bothered with women, responded, "Now I believe they can do anything!"
By the early twenties, UNC coeds had established their competence, consistently main-
taining the highest GPA of any group on campus. They had created organizations of
their own and had increased in numbers to approximately eighty students. A significant
body of alumnae existed who were teachers, doctors, lawyers, club women, and civic
leaders. To these women and their allies in the faculty and administration, the need for
a women's dormitory was clear. While they had been comparatively unobtrusive and
undemanding before, they now mounted an effective campaign to win approval for the
construction of Spencer Hall. When it became clear that there was a real possibility they
would succeed, opposition to their presence on campus, equally unobtrusive before, became
active and vocal. What came to be known as the Battle of Spencer Hall began.
To mobilize the opposition, the Tar Heel published a special edition, with banner head-
lines reading "Shall Coeds Have a Dormitory Built Here? Representative Student Opinion
Says No!' Various student leaders were polled, most of whom agreed with the Tar Heel's
stand, wondering why the University should spend its money "on account of just the
mere preference of some girls!' A front-page article in the same issue characterized the
women's petition to the University trustees as "the most ludicrous assemblage of nonsensical
and sentimental rubbish that could be found in the history of grammatical phraseology!'
Tar Heel editors also circulated a ballot summarizing the arguments against coeducation:
except for graduate and professional students, coeducation was not needed because of
the availability of women's colleges in the state; it would prevent deserving young men
from matriculating at Chapel Hill; and it would cost too much. The administration had
yet to take an unequivocal stand on the issue — as late as 1917 President Graham was
still saying "If it should be decided to make a place for women at the University" (emphasis
added) — but the boys clearly understood what was at stake — the sanctity of traditional
gender roles. The ballot concluded, "This university has always been a college of, by,
and for men, which fact largely accounts for its strengths of character!'
Editorials headed "Women Students Not Wanted Here" and "Shaves and Shines But
No Rats and Rouge" reiterated these arguments, and further revealed the boys' deepest
fears. "We can think of nothing more distateful than [general coeducation] . . .The women
here would only prove a distracting influence, could do no possible good, and would
turn the grand institution into a semi-effeminate college which would certainly have no
attraction for us." It is not surprising to learn that, when the vote was taken, 937 agreed
with this position against a mere 173. The Tar Heel, along with most opponents, insisted
that they did not object to the few graduate and professional women who were already
attending. There were not enough of them to pose a threat. It was the possibility of increas-
ing numbers to which they objected and to the expenditure of money on women instead
The Tar Heel "ballot" was castigated by one professor who characterized it as an "appeal
to prejudice and expediency" and Tar Heel editorials as "prejudicial rot and poor logic!'
Indeed the faculty unanimously favored coeducation. Influential alumni and alumnae
across the state also supported it; they held meetings, wrote letters, and raised money.
May Bell Penn (Jones), president of the Woman's Association, spent much of one summer
traveling about the state seeking support from legislators. Penn, like most proponents
of coeducation, chose not to address the question of sexual equality head on, focusing
instead on the University's obligation to the women who were already there. President
Chase firmly pointed out in chapel that (limited) coeducation was already the established
policy of the University and not at issue. Frank Porter Graham argued that a university
education was a human right, not just a sex right. "My belief in co-education at the
university is part of my belief in the University, he declared.
Despite opposition from students, and from some alumni in the legislature who threatened
to block the University's appropriation, the women and their supporters carried the day
and $100,000 for Spencer Hall was approved. The Tar Heel editors, southern gentlemen
to the end, reported, "Thus ends a rather heated controversy. We congratulate the women
and commend them highly on the splendid attitude they have taken in the fight that has
ensued. We plead not guilty on all charges that we bear any grudge, and the stand that
we have taken, wrong or right, has been through our sincere best wishes for the welfare
of all concerned!' The Battle of Spencer Hall was over.
Spencer Hall opened in the fall of 1925 and over the next few years the number of
women at UNC continued to grow slowly. By 1929 Stacy began to realize the "battle"
had been less decisive than she had hoped. She discovered that, with 136 women enrolled,
seventy-seven housed in Spencer, and nine at the newly opened Pi Beta Phi house, fifty
students were either living at home or were still scattered across town in rooming houses.
Despite the victory six years earlier, housing for women still did not begin to meet the
demand. Spencer lacked two wings called for in the original plans, and when Stacy asked
the University's business manager, "When do you think I'll get my wings, Mr. Woollen?"
his only response was, "I think you'll get your wings when you get to heaven!"
Carolina Coeds: A College Within a College: 1930-1963
Over the next three decades the attitude of the campus community toward the presence
of women continued to be one of benign neglect. The pattern of slow but steady growth
continued; enrollment of women increased to 400 by 1940, then jumped to nearly 1000
during the war years. By 1962 1900 coeds constituted approximately twenty-two percent
of the student body. But change did not come in such a way or to such a degree as to
arouse intense reactions, either positive or negative. Women were present but peripheral,
virtually a college within a college, at but not really of the University. Housing, admission
standards, rules and regulations, governing bodies, and many extracurricular activities
for women remained separate and distinct from those for men. Women shared classrooms
with men but the University remained a man's institution.
Housing was one of the most extensive of the feminine enclaves. All women under
twenty-four were required to live in university housing where they would be "able to enjoy
University supervision, as well as training in the amenities!' Like the women themselves,
the dormitories came under the supervision of the Advisor to Women (later Dean of
Women) and continued to be a constant problem, absorbing much of the time and energy
of Mrs. Stacy and of Katherine Kennedy Carmichael who succeeded her in 1946. In addition
to making annual pleas for the construction of new dormitories, Stacy and Carmichael
also periodically begged, borrowed, and annexed men's buildings. Since security was always
a major consideration, they chose buildings close to the central campus and requested
improved lighting and additional locks. When Carmichael attempted to take over all of
the upper quad — Ruffin, Grimes, Manley, and Mangum — she was accused of trying to
banish men to south campus. She responded that faced with a choice between safe housing
for women and an integrated campus, she would take the former, thank you. To adapt
dorms designed for men to use by women, Stacy and Carmichael modified bathrooms,
created parlors and social rooms, and converted student rooms into suites for house
mothers or hostesses. Then they tastefully furnished and decorated the public rooms,
a process that, with frequent temporary conversions, came to be so time consuming that
they requested the service of a professional decorator.
Housing for freshmen and sophomores was not part of the problem, for there were
few of them and all lived with their parents. Only the daughters of bona fide local residents
were admitted as freshmen and sophomcres, beginning in 1917, and the bona fide was
always stressed. Moving one's family to Chapel Hill merely to provide a good education
for one's daughter was firmly discouraged, although it was acceptable for a widow with
sons to educate to move to town and open a rooming house, as Pattie Price did in 1921.
Her son Wright was a freshman that year; however his sisters, Mary, Mildred, Carolina,
and Branson, did not join him until after at least two years at Womens College.
Even for bona fide families, this privilege was periodically revoked or modified. Only
eight years after the first freshman women — Mary Louisa Cobb, Nell Abbie Patterson
Pickard, Mary Louise Stover, and Lillie Dell Witaker — arrived, the University restricted
freshman admissions to those in the pre-medical program. In 1931 it reinstated local ad-
mission, then cut it back again in 1935 as part of the consolidation of the university system —
and again reestablished it in 1940. Not until the Nursing School opened in 1951 did
freshman women from across the state find a place on the Chapel Hill campus. It would
be ten years later before other programs opened up to them.
Unlike freshmen and sophomores, graduate students were part of the housing problem.
From the beginning, Stacy had sought to give the older women a quiet place of their
own away from the undergraduates. Archer house was resurrected in 1936 and Graham
Dormitory converted in an attempt to meet this need, but the rising tide of undergraduates
overflowed from Spencer into Graham, defeating her purpose.
In spite of these efforts, many women still roomed in town. Emily Stevens (Maclachlan,
[MA 1932]), another of Odum's recruits, recalled that she lived "in a household of girls,
over on Macauley Street. . .up in the attic. . .There was a kind of a little commune of
girls upstairs, seven or eight of us. And we just really lived on a shoestring. Food was
very cheap. You could get buttermilk for five cents a quart, bread was ten cents a loaf
and we lived on prunes and oatmeal and turnip greens and buttermilk and a few eggs!'
When enrollment passed 400 in the late thirties, the University finally reaffirmed its
commitment to coeducation and added more dormitories for women, this time with con-
siderably less excitement than had been the case fifteen years earlier. Located conveniently
across the street from Spencer Hall, Mclver and Alderman had rooms for 100 students
each, plus social rooms and suites for the hosteses. Kenan, designed specifically for graduate
women, housed 130 and included two suites and four rooms with private baths.
While initially viewed as potentially divisive and a source of social snobbery, sororities
came to be seen as a partial solution to the housing crunch and were invited to start
chapters in Chapel Hill. The first sororities, Pi Beta Phi and Chi Omega, established
in 1923, got off to a slow start. In 1933, at a time when there were thirty-one national
fraternities on campus, Chi Omega had to give up its house due to small membership
and large expenses. Pi Beta Phi managed to rent the home of Mrs. C W. Bain, who acted
as house mother. Until Alpha Delta Pi came to Carolina in 1939, other national sororities
refused to establish chapters because of the University's restrictive admission policies.
But by 1952 there were six national sororities in Chapel Hill, five with houses of their
own, and nearly sixty percent of undergraduate women were members.
Despite the new dormitories and sorority houses, Archer was still in use in the forties,
Smith had been taken over from graduate men, and Carr had been annexed as well. Until
responsibility for housing women shifted to the Department of Residential Life in the
early seventies, the records of the Dean of Women's office continued to be filled with
memos, plans, and reports discussing where, oh where to put all the coeds.
The concern with overcrowding and the emphasis on providing pleasantly decorated
parlors stemmed from the fact that coeds had to spend many more hours in their dormitor-
ies than did their fellow (male) students. There lives were hedged about with a complex
web of rules governing closing hours and behavior and administered by multiple layers
of dormitory hostesses, residence assistants, women's legislative and judicial councils,
and the Dean of Women's office.
Even before there was university housing for women, there were rules. The women in
their boarding houses had been requested not to visit fraternity houses except "under
chaperonage and with the permission of Mrs. Stacy!' They were also not to "ride in the
evening unless a chaperone" was with them, to limit parties to Friday and Saturday nights,
to send visitors home at 10:30 on weeknights and 11:00 on weekends, and to maintain
quiet hours in the afternoon and evening. By 1930 explicit permission from the women's
advisor was not required to visit fraternity houses — although chaperones were — and the
prohibition on unchaperoned driving was changed to read, "Women students are asked
to make it a point of honor not to motor unchaperoned at such times or such places
as may bring misunderstanding upon the student and may injure the University!'
This wording, with its implications of the importance and fragility of reputation, was
an elaboration of the Campus Code. Along with the Honor Code, which covered lying,
cheating, and stealing, the Campus Code applied to all students. It stated firmly that
the Carolina student "conducts herself at all times as a lady" (or gentleman as the case
may be). More specific explanation was not considered necessary; Carolina coeds were
of course ladies and thus should know what it meant. The codes applied both on and
off campus. Strolling across campus, driving on Franklin Street, vacationing at the beach,
or visiting a cousin in Baltimore, wherever she went, she was a Carolina coed, a representa-
tive of her university.
Despite the assumption that coeds were ladies, or just in case they weren't, the University
kept close tabs on its young women. It established closing hours and a sign-out system
that applied to rooming houses as well as dormitories: ten-thirty on weeknights and eleven
on weekends were the limits to which coeds could safely be left loose on campus. The
limits were stretched slightly after 1937 when senior women who demonstrated their
seriousness and self-discipline by maintaining at least a "C" average were given "key privi-
leges" allowing them to stay out until 11:15 and 12:00. Graduate women generally had
an extra hour of liberty. The Dean of Women might grant special permission for late
sign-out for midnight movies, for concerts, and for the big annual dances such as Germans
and May Frolics.
Conditions for visiting or entertaining members of the opposite sex were equally precise.
Specific hours and public rooms in the dormitories and fraternity houses were designated;
one never visited members of the opposite sex in their rooms. Parties had to be chaperoned
and registered in advance with the Dean of Women.
Increasing numbers, especially after resident freshman were admitted, brought more
and more detailed rules. A Carolina coed wore skirts and blouses for everyday wear, and
suits and heels for football games. She did not wear slacks or shorts which were not per-
mitted on campus until 1967. Even then they were not to be worn in the library, classrooms,
dining room, or South Building. Woe to the slacks-clad coed who encountered Dean Car-
michael; she was marched briskly to the Dean's office for a stiff lecture in the fern filled
room that, with its oriental carpets, appropriately resembled a Victorian parlor.
In dormitories the Carolina coed showed consideration for others by not taking showers
after 11 pm. She kept her room neat and ready for the weekly inspections designed to
promote good housekeeping habits. She attended the frequent, compulsory dorm meetings
(absence punishable by a twenty-five cent fine). For security reasons she never opened
external doors after closing hours (one woman was brought before the residence council
for putting out a stray dog that had wandered in earlier). She never kept alcohol in her
rooms, although when beer became a popular hair rinse she was often tempted. And
she did not chew gum!
Scrutiny extended to off campus-behavior as well. A woman could not spend the night
in town unless accompanied by her parents or with special permission granted only on
the formal invitation of a bona fide Chapel Hill family, a category which did not include
single women with their own apartments. She could not visit a man's rooms in a private
house nor go to a man's apartment unless there were six people present. When traveling
away from campus the coed had to leave in time to reach her destination before dormitory
closing hours. She had to register her full itinerary and expected date of return before
departure for vacations. Even when a woman ceased to be a registered student, the rules
pursued her. She was to leave not only her campus housing, but the town of Chapel Hill
as well, within forty-eight hours.
Under the campus code, violators of any of these rules were expected to turn themselves
in, after which an elaborate hierarchy meted out punishment. Minor infractions — being
less than ten minutes late for closing hours, missing a house meeting — might be dealt
with by the dorm president or hostess. Other infractions would go to the house council,
while repeated and serious violations — being more than an hour late, falsifying the sign-out
card, helping a friend sneak in late — would go to the Women's Residence or Honor
This kind of surveillance was so firmly identified with college women that male students
had feared coeducation would extend a similar restraint over themselves. This turned
out not to be the case for while the honor and campus codes applied to all students,
there were few explicit rules for men. With the exception of those governing visitation
hours and rooms in University housing, all of the above regulations applied only to women.
Some statistics on disciplinary procedures gathered by the Dean of Men's office for the
year 1951-52 illustrate the sharp dichotomy which characterized the lives of men and
women on campus. The Women's Council, which governed only one-seventh of the student
body, had handled twenty-five percent more cases than the Men's Council. The Dean
of Women hastened to point out that this did not mean that women were seven times
more unruly than men. All but two of the cases in the women's court concerned being
late or failing to sign-out. In a fifteen year period when twenty-two men were charged
with assault and twenty-four with conducting panty raids, 240 women faced disciplinary
procedures for excessive lateness and 117 for failure to sign-out.
The assumptions behind the differences in the rules were quite simple. Women were
fragile, vulnerable children. Walls of rules, of closing hours, locked doors, and sign-out
cards had to be built to protect them, both from the outside world, from sexual assault
or other physical harm, and from their own immaturity. Unlike boys, girls at twenty or
twenty-two still needed to be confined to ensure that they were not seduced by the pleasures
of campus life to the detriment of their intellectual development or the embarrassment
of the University. If a girl misbehaved, she could be sent to her room. The sentence of
"campusing," or social probation, handed out only by the women's court confined the
errant coed to the residential (non-visiting) section of the dormitory or sorority house
from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. "Strict social probation" could extend the hours even further.
These underlying assumptions were not unique to the University community of course.
The administration knew that parents always worry more about daughters than sons.
Few parents would be willing to send their young women to an institution that did not
watch over them carefully. Such rules applied in all but the most avant garde colleges
and, until the sixties, coeds themselves actively participated in making and enforcing them.
Although the administration determined that there would be closing hours, it was the
Women's Residence Council, elected by the dormitories and sororities, that determined
just what they would be. The council dealt with the dress code, the rules on town visiting,
and numerous other matters. The women's court, chosen by the coeds, heard all cases
involving women and passed the sentences from suspension to "campusment" to extra
dormitory desk duty. They worked closely with the Dean of Women's Office on these
matters. While Carmichael retained a seldom used veto, it was the coeds' active participa-
tion in the system that sustained the distinct women's code.
Although this code confined and cramped women in many ways, it also allowed them
to create a sphere in which they could exercise a degree of power their numbers would
not have warranted in the wider campus world. Through their work on the house councils,
residence and women's councils and courts, many coeds gained valuable experience in
leadership and working with groups. Carmichael recognized this and resisted the repeated
attempts to integrate the separate women's and men's governments, arguing that separatism
was the best way to insure that women's power would not be lost. The debate on whether
integration or separatism best serves the needs of women and other minorities is a long
standing one that continues today on many fronts. Integration would be the strategy for
women within the university context although some studies suggest a higher level of public
achievement among graduates of separate women's colleges.
In addition to student government, there were other opportunities for women to take
an active part in campus life although they continued to be primarily in new organizations
for women. Of sixteen university organizations listed in the 1925-26 UNC Catalog, only
two were included in the Women's Handbook for that year under the heading "Organiza-
tions Open to Women;" they were the North Carolina Club and Playmakers Theater,
which women had dominated from the beginning. In addition, women worked on the
various campus publications. Although Mary McRae had been literary editor for the Tar
Heel and a woman was nominated for the editorship of the monthly Carolina Magazine
in 1933, it was not until 1950, when Glenn Harden was named editor of the Daily Tar
Heel, that a woman headed one of these publications. Phi Beta Kappa, the two social
sororities and Pan Hellenic, established in 1926, along with women's government, rounded
out the available activities in the early years.
Enrollment accelerated in the thirties — the Library School opened in 1932, attracting
thirty-two women that first year; women's enrollment climbed to 283 from 136 just three
years earlier. As a result there were a steady increase in the number of organizations and
activities open to women. Asserting their ability to contribute to their community, the
coeds created the YMCA and Alpha Kappa Gamma — later the Valkyries — an honorary
sorority recognizing "leadership, character and service!' The Carolina Independent Coed
Association and the Town Girls Association (Chapel Hill Club) offered non-sorority girls
an opportunity for the "social education, leadership training, character and personality
development, and beneficial use of leisure time" that sororities fostered. The coeds also
established the women's glee club and infiltrated the cultural and political life of the college,
joining the University Symphony, the Cosmopolitan Club, the Wigue and Masque, the
political clubs, and most significantly perhaps, the Di and Phi, Carolina's traditional
debating society. Their place in Chapel Hill was sufficiently solid by the forties that,
when a new honorary society, The Order of the Old Well, was founded, women were
As women developed a more stable and complex life within the university community,
they became more concerned with what college could offer socially as well as academically.
The introduction to the "Women's Handbook" of 1940-41 reflected this trend. "In choosing
your future Alma Mater, one of the first things you consider is the type of girl who goes
there. You wonder whether she is the kind you would like to take home with you — the
kind you will remember after you graduate!' In dorms and sororities, in classrooms and
campus organizations, at weekly teas at Spencer, women met and formed lasting friend-
ships. But UNC was a coeducational school and much of the social life of course revolved
around the opposite sex. All those rules and regulations had been made in part to shape
and control the conditions under which Carolina men and women might come together.
Fraternity mixers, picnics, movies, concerts, and especially the big dances — Fall, Mid-
Winter, and Final Germans, and the junior-senior dances, when students from Womens
College, Meredith, Salem, Peace and other women's schools flocked to Chapel Hill —
were events that brought the sexes together. There were rules there too. Fraternities had
to notify the Dean of Women in advance of any functions. At the dances there could
be no drinking, smoking, or refreshments on the dance floor. Dancers could not leave
and return without taking a chaperone with them. Since the women from other schools
were bused in with little prior pairing up, dance committeemen, identified by their blue
and white rosettes, introduced "boys and girls" to each other*
And there were off-campus parties where the rules were ignored. Such situations could
be seductive in more than one sense and in them the Dean of Women saw the embodiment
of all the fears underlying women's rules. "Many come to this University!' Carmichael
warned, "because they have heard of its 'freedom and liberalism' and, all too often, have
misinterpreted these terms to mean a freedom in social life which easily borders loose
living. Their sense of proportion is often lost when dating, dancing, and week ends become
an end in themselves rather than a needed recreation after an absorbing class program!'
Most Carolina coeds did not indulge in such "loose living!' Many, beginning with Nell
Pickard, a member of that first freshman class, found an outlet for their energies in athlet-
ics. Wasting no time getting involved in campus life, Nell and five of her fellow coeds
started a basketball team. There was an athletic club and Patricia Parmelee instructed
the coeds twice a week in a health-exercise course. "The coed room and the ladies rest
room in Peabody Hall were transformed into a veritable gymnasium where eager coeds
were guided through the Weave, the Grind and the various movements of the 'Daily Dozen
set to Music! " By 1923 the women even had their own tennis court.*
A more formal program began when Gladys Angel Beard was hired as athletic director
in 1932. Physical education, which included basketball, folk dancing, baseball, tennis,
and archery, became mandatory for freshmen and sophomores. Intramural basketball
began the next year with male varsity players as coaches and an extramural component
was soon added when a Play Day brought girls from Duke, Meredith, Peace, St. Mary's
and Womens College. Under Beard's direction, physical education for women gradually
gained acceptance, but it remained essentially separate from the men's program, distinctly
second class, and governed by a philosophy that was the antithesis of the competitive
male model. For six years the women borrowed time in Bynum Gym before they were
given a gymnasium of their own. This facility, built jointly by the Navy and the University
in 1942, replaced space lost to the Navy during the war years. There was, however, no
replacement of the women's playing field, which was also given over to military training.
Men's and women's intramural activities, with few exceptions, remained two separate
entities. Not until 1974 was there a unified intramural department. The women's athletics
director and her two assistants taught courses and also planned intramural programs,
officiated games, and directed club activities for women; unlike their male colleagues,
they received no additional compensation for these activities. On occasion they even paid
trip expenses for the clubs out of their own pockets.
The philosophy on which the women's athletic program was based reflected the national
philosophy of the times, "a sport for every girl and every girl in a sport!' an approach
that favored participation and opposed intense intercollegiate competition. For the highly
skilled girls, clubs were formed to allow competition with other schools in particular sports,
with the emphasis maintained on playing for fun and social camaraderie, rather than
on winning. (The women's gym had a social room in the basement to which visiting teams
♦Visiting women were known as "dancing girls" in the forties and fifties. In the less elegant sixties, the buses
were referred to as "cattle busses!'
The following account of women's athletics is drawn from Angela Lumpkin, "Women's Physical Activity at the
First State University: An Uphill Struggle!'
were invited after each game for cookies and sodas.) This pattern would hold through
the sixties until the federal government mandated equal access to sports facilities, and
varsity teams and sports scholarships became part of women's athletics for the first time.
The impact of the war years on women's athletics — gaining a gym, losing a playing
field — had been mixed. In other areas it was more consistent. Female enrollment nearly
doubled (the University actively sought to increase its coed population for the first time
since President Alderman recruited Mary McRae), the position of Advisor was upgraded
to Dean of Women, and the American Association of University Women finally consented
to recognize Carolina. The latter was the culmination of a long struggle by university
women as Katherine Jocher recalled:
"Many of us worked long years for this. Non-accreditation was never on an academic
basis but on such things as appointment of women to the faculty on the same basis as
men, recognition of the Dean of Women with full faculty rank and status, more adequate
University housing for women students, better physical education facilities for women,
etc. . . .Mrs. Wallace E. Caldwell and I were the delegate and alternate at the national
meeting that year  and felt the humiliation as the University of North Carolina
was read as one of those colleges and universities that had failed to meet the necessary
requirements for full accreditation .... I think our pride suffered, too, since the Woman's
College at Greensboro was accredited before we were."
AAUW recognition of Carolina did not mean that the era of second-class citizenship
for women had ended. Throughout the thirties, forties, and fifties, their presence was
tolerated by many but, with the exception of the war years, acclaimed by few. Few schools
or departments admitted women to the faculty, other than sociology, which was under
Odum's enlightened leadership, and, in the fifties, education and nursing. As students,
women accepted this situation without significant protest, content to pursue their own
goals within their own sphere. The Carolina Coed accepted as givens the rules that sur-
rounded her; she joined a sorority (as fifty-eight percent did in 1953), got involved in
the women's student government and the YWCA, eagerly attended teas, receptions, mixers,
parties, and dances, played tennis and golf, and, of course, went to classes.
There were some significant differences between these coeds and the pioneers of the
first thirty years. Many of the early students had been aware that they were a vanguard,
charting new territories for women. They approached their studies with great seriousness
and a comparatively high percentage of them became doctors, lawyers, and leaders in
education and social work. Many remained single, almost a requirement then for a woman
who wanted a career, which was considered by society in general and most prospective
husbands in particular to be wholly unreconcilable with women's "proper" role as wife
and mother. Sallie Stockard, while perhaps not typical, exemplifies the independence of
her generation of college women. She married and had two children before taking back
her maiden name, a subject of no little controversy, apparently. As she explained, "I have
supported myself and brought up two children from birth without help. I am under no
obligations to any man for the use of his name. ... I do not hide behind any other name
than my own .... Shall I have to be cremated to keep that man's name off my tombstone?
Wooden headed tradition!"
By the thirties, college was becoming less the exception than the rule for middle-class
women and they more closely reflected the norms of their society. They no longer attended
college primarily to prepare for a career; many came to find a husband — to get an MRS
degree was the cliche — majoring in education, English, and sociology and pursuing teaching
or social work only until marriage. The war years sent them into new fields. In a 1945
survey alumnae reported they were working in 47 different vocational fields, including
actress, doctor, pilot, insurance claims adjuster, editor, engineer, draftsman, lab technician,
translator, and cartographer as well as the more traditional occupations such as teaching,
library science, social work, nursing, and secretarial work. But in the postwar period,
like their sisters everywhere, they returned to the home and family and to those traditional
jobs. Ninety-six percent of the class of 1949 reported that marriage was their ultimate
aim for life; only fifteen percent expected to work after marriage. Even Julia Cherry Spruill,
whose pioneering book, Women's Life and Work in the Southern Colonies, published
in 1938, is still an inspiration to historians of women, described herself as "a housewife
[who does] a little research in history and writing!'
In Loco Parentis Fink 1963-1972
Between 1951 to 1972 the University made several changes in the standards of admission
for women. Although it was never the intent, these changes brought an end to the era
of the Carolina Coed and gave birth to that of the Carolina Woman, comparable at last
to the Carolina Man, presumably fully integrated into the University, and finally (numeri-
cally) superior as well. Programs initiated in the fifties began to draw more women to
campus. In 1951 the School of Nursing admitted freshman women; three years later the
Schools of Medical Technology, Dental Hygiene, and Physical Therapy did the same.
Enrollment of women increased almost fifty percent in the late fifties, from fewer than
1000 at the beginning of the decade to more than 2000 in 1963. In that year the Trustees
voted to admit freshman women to the fine arts programs; shortly thereafter they extended
it to all other programs as well. This was still not an unequivocal endorsement of the
presence of women at Carolina. The familiar caveat, "housing permitting," was tacked
on, in effect requiring that coeds meet higher academic standards than men if they were
to be awarded one of the scarce dormitory rooms allocated to women. Over the next
decade much of the time and attention of the Dean of Women's office continued to be
taken up with the scramble to find space for coeds. Despite limitations, enrollment increased
inexorably until, in 1972, there were approximately 6500 women at Carolina. This was
a rise from less than fifteen percent of the student body to more than thirty percent.
Then, in 1972, in a culmination of many trends of the sixties, the final change came.
Pressured by students and parents and faced with a federal mandate to eliminate sexual
discrimination as it had earlier eliminated that based on race, the University began to
admit women under the same standards as men.
Chapel Hill was not exempt from the uproar of the sixties with its student and sexual
revolutions. The concept of in loco parentis, of the university as parent, was challenged
from all sides, and in this battle the growing number of women had the full support of
male students. While riots spread across other American campuses, at UNC a more peaceful
process gradually pushed and pulled the university community into accepting greater stu-
dent autonomy and an equality of the sexes that was almost the antithesis of its traditional
attitude toward the Carolina Coed. By the early seventies, the requirement that women
live in university housing was gone, closing hours were gone, the dress code was gone,
the separate women's government was gone, the walls of women's rules were gone. Even
the Dean of Women was gone; women were on their own.
Four major issues arose between 1963 and 1972 around which the students rallied in
their quest for equality and autonomy. These were the "dual standard" that is the separate
men's and women's courts and the resulting dual standards of punishment; "self-limiting
hours," or the replacement of set closing hours with a system that allowed women to
come and go as they pleased; "visitation" a system permitting visiting in the dorm rooms
of the opposite sex; and the "junior apartment privilege!' the repeal of the requirement
that women under 21 live in university housing. Over all loomed the honor code and
campus code with their emphasis on the responsibility of individual students to police
their own behavior and that of their peers, a responsibility that was implicitly denied
by the many rules surrounding the coeds and by the power of the office of the Dean
In each case a similar pattern emerged, a theme with variations, as these issues surfaced
one after the other, overlapping in time, and eliciting similar responses from each of the
contestants. Some event triggered student dissatisfaction; Tar Heel editorials were dashed
off; marches mounted; petitions circulated. University officials rejected student demands,
then appointed committees. Students charged delaying tactics and marched some more.
The committee reported; changes were made. Students in turn accepted the outcome,
with reservations, then pushed for further change.
As each controversy arose, students argued vehemently that they had a right to run
their own lives, that learning to do so was an important part of the university experience,
for women no less than men. The Carolina coed was still missing important elements
of a college education. As one student charged, "Four years of college and she can evaluate
Stephen Dedulus' [sic] behavior but not her own. Four years of college have rendered
her incompetent to think for herself. In performing the admirable function of in loco
parentis, the University has shortchanged its students as well as itself!'
University officials, on the other hand, stressed their obligation to maintain standards
of conduct acceptable to the community at large. Carolina has traditionally been the
center of liberal thought in the state, a veritable "hotbed of radicalism" according to
some. But both the Board of Trustees and the state legislature kept a close eye on doings
at the University and the imposition of the Speaker Ban Law* illustrated the dangers
of getting too far ahead of public opinion. Chancellor J. Carlyle Sitterson and President
William Friday both walked a fine line between the demands of students for more freedom
and those of parents, trustees, and legislators that they maintain proper control of their
Some credited (or blamed) the innate conservatism, or docility, or good manners of
southerners for the lack of violent confrontation at Chapel Hill. But at least as much
credit for this comparatively peaceful transition must be given to Sitterson. Eschewing
the intransigence of his colleagues at Berkeley, Columbia, and Harvard, Sitterson adopted
instead a policy of involving students in the decision making process. Each committee
he appointed to review rule changes included from one-third to one-half student representa-
tives along with faculty and administrators. And in nearly every case Sitterson accepted
the committee recommendations.
Both by personal inclination and by virtue of her position as Dean of Women, Katherine
("Kitty") Kennedy Carmichael, who had succeeded Inez Stacy in 1946, was at the forefront
of the resistance to changes. An Alabama native, she was an experienced English professor
with a PhD from Vanderbilt University. As Dean of Women she essentially forsook her
teaching career to devote herself completely to Carolina women. Although she continued
to teach an occasional English class, she was not formally affiliated with any department.
The University and its female students were the center of her life for twenty-six years.
*In 1963, the state legislature passed the Speaker Ban Law banning Communist speakers on all campuses of the
state university system. The University was threatened with loss of accreditation because the law interfered with
Despite her own long experience as an independent career woman, Carmichael continued
to see women as "small, fragile and precious!' Because of this she rigorously fulfilled
what she took to be her mandate from the University, the state of North Carolina, and
especially the parents of her "girls": to protect and guide them, to be mother, friend,
and counselor, and to ensure that they, individually and collectively, did nothing to jeopar-
dize their position in an institution in which they were still a minority, and, in the eyes
of many, an anomaly.
While her position may seem anachronistic, all who knew her agree that her concern
for women students was strong and genuine. It was also firmly grounded in her years
of experience with college women and the problems and dangers they faced. Most coeds
had come from homes and from women's schools (if junior transfers) that had given
them little if any preparation for independent living. Every semester Carmichael and her
staff counseled students who were having trouble balancing the allure of Carolina's social
life and campus activities with its academic demands. And there were other potential
hazards. The periodic assaults on the women's dorms by male students or off-campus
elements might be harmless entertainment, like the panty raid on Spencer and Mclver
dorms in April 1963 that netted only one pair of panties dropped from her window by
an encouraging coed. It was more serious when cherry bombs were thrown into some
of the dormitories in July 1966. Women were sexually vulnerable also. Birth control pills
were not distributed by student health and University rules required temporary withdrawal
from school in case of pregnancy. Assault, rape, and what we now call date rape were
ever present possibilities. And in 1965 Suellen Evans was murdered in the Arboretum.
These events and possibilities were not mere chimeras that Carmichael saw, nor simple
rationalizations for an outmoded concern with propriety and reputation; they were real
threats to the lives and health of her charges, and, equally important, to their ability
to stay in school and acquire the education she valued so highly.
Women themselves sounded the first call to battle. In 1963 the Women's Council declared
that it would no longer enforce the so-called apartment rule, that long-standing regulation
that a woman could not visit a man in his apartment unless at least one other couple
was present. Even this was less stringent than previous standards, which as Carmichael
recalled, had been taken quite seriously at one time. In the 1950s, Joel Fleishman, who
would later become vice president of Duke, lived in an apartment in Roberson House.
One autumn he called her office "frantically!' saying, "Girls are raking leaves in my yard.
They need to go to the bathroom. What are they to do?" "Take them to your bathroom!'
she replied calmly. But, he reminded her, "you have a rule against it."*
By 1963 the rule was widely viewed by students, and not a few members of the faculty
and administration, as so archaic and unenforceable as to promote disrespect for the
whole structure of regulations governing women. But the Dean still saw merit in it and
she was sure her colleagues and the parents agreed. "I tell my daughter it's just not being
done!' she quoted a friend as saying. In addition, if the apartment rule was unenforceable
for those who wished to ignore it, it could still provide a bulwark for those who found
themselves in situations for which they felt unready. She cited the case of two coeds who
told their dates they could not go parking because the Dean of Women would not permit
it. There was no such rule, Carmichael noted, but she was happy to have her name invoked
*As this account illustrates, Katherine Carmichael enjoyed telling a good story and was willing to see the humor
in her position. Another example concerns the fraternity initiates who were often required to "kiss the Dean of
Women on the steps of South Building!' Carmichael always patiently accommodated the line of pledges, gravely
thanking each one.
whenever necessary. No doubt the apartment rule could be similarly useful; in addition,
it served that essential function of maintaining appearances.
Carmichael, disturbed over both the implications of revoking the no apartment rule
and the defiance by the Women's Council, vetoed the Council's decision, pointing out
that student government existed by delegation of authority from the administration and
that the council made rules only in consultation with the Dean's office. As Carmichael
later recalled, "the campus was upset with me over my insistence [on enforcing the rule].
Just before spring examinations, 1963, the howl became a roar!' A mediation committee
met. "Hours were spent, not much was accomplished" she concluded. But in the Handbook
for Women Students, issued the next year, the rule now read, "optional for upperclassmen,
mandatory for freshmen!' Carmichael's assertions to the contrary, it is obvious that some-
thing had been accomplished; through negotiations, a compromise had been struck that
both students and administration could live with — at least for the moment.
Two years later when the issue of the double standard of justice leaped into the center
of controversy, the administration was nearly as adamant in condemning it as the students.
The precipitating incident was the sentencing of the student body president and his girl
friend for spending the night together in his fraternity room. He received an official repri-
mand, a notation on his University record; she was expelled. Outraged at both the offense
and the inequity of the sentences, the administration demanded that the president resign
his office for behavior unbecoming a representative of the University.
Many student leaders supported the goal but emphatically rejected the intrusion of
the administration into what they viewed as strictly a student matter. After convincing
the administration to withdraw its demand, students themselves, led by Women's Residence
Council representative Sharon Rose, instituted a recall petition. The petition failed for
technical reasons, and the president served out his term. But in dramatizing a double
standard the incident had raised an issue that did not die. Over the next few years reform
of the honor and judicial systems was a major student concern. The end result was a unified
student government, with a woman, Juli Tenney (1974) as the first speaker of the new
student legislature, and with one standard of conduct for both sexes. The campus code
became sex neutral, dropping the concepts of "lady" and "gentleman" to require all stu-
dents to conduct themselves "so as not to impair significantly the welfare or the educational
opportunities of others in the University Community!'
The double standard was also the focus of the so called "self-limiting hours" issue.
In the fall of 1966 when a Daily Tar Heel columnist suggested that men be confined to
their dorms on alternate nights so that coeds would be free to roam the campus, he clearly
was not serious. But the Women's Residence Council [WRC] was quite serious the following
winter when it proposed that women over 21 and seniors with parental permission be
exempt from closing hours. Although the Administrative Board of Student Affairs ap-
proved a modified version of self-limiting hours, Sitterson's rejection was as decisive as
Carmichael's veto of the no apartment decision had been — and just as short lived. "Univer-
sity residences assigned for occupancy by women students must maintain set closing hours!'
he declared on 28 February 1968. By late March, in response to an appeal by the WRC,
the chancellor had appointed a joint committee of nine members, three each from the
administration, faculty, and student body.
The latent issues behind the initial opposition — concern for female vulnerability and
the possibility of "illicit sex"— were clear to both sides. Charging that "UNC coeds are
treated with maximum suspicion and minimum respect!' one Daily Tar Heel contributor
pointed out that, "Whoever devised the rule for closing hours believed that as long as
you had women in their dorms by 2:00 you would preserve their chastity!' But, he concluded
"anything you can do after 2:00 you can do before 2:00!'
Throughout the fall of 1968, at the same time the joint committee was meeting, another
series of events, which would have far reaching consequences, focused attention on that
underlying leitmotif of female vulnerability. Reports of prowlers in and around the women's
dorms brought stepped up security measures such as better lighting and alarms in the
rooms. Still feeling insecure, nearly eighty percent of women students signed petitions calling
for night watchmen. One of the administration's major arguments against self-limiting
hours, the bottom line so to speak, was that it could not afford to hire the additional security
personnel necessary to ensure the safety of late returning coeds. Now, however, it appeared
that such measures were required to protect women under the current rules. The University
in good conscience could not place monetary considerations above the safety of its women.
Less than a month after receiving the coeds' petition, Sitterson announced that guards
would patrol the women's dormitory areas from midnight to 6 a.m.
In the meantime, the committee was surveying parental opinion with equivocal results.
A majority thought that the current system was satisfactory and opposed any change,
but a similar majority, sixty percent, also would permit their daughters to participate
in self-limiting hours. With no major opposition and the question of security already
settled, Sitterson quickly moved beyond extant recommendations. In mid November 1968
he announced that junior as well as senior women could, with parental permission, have
self-limiting hours. WRC chairwoman Libby Idol was delighted, calling the Chancellor's
action "farsighted!' The Daily Tar Heel joined in, praising him for acting without prodding.
The mutual admiration faded rapidly however when the WRC objected to the retention
of the sign-out system (which the DTH called "a device for insuring that someone's little
girlies are all safe and sound!') The administration briefly held firm, insisting "no sign-out,
no self-limiting hours!' But by March a compromise had been reached; the question of
whether their daughters would have to sign out was left up to parents. Step by step, over
the next two years, the program was extended, first to sophomores, then to second-semester
freshmen, and then to all women over 18. By 1972, fewer than 100 women under eighteen
were subject to closing hours. UNC women were now as free to come and go as were
As the last vestiges of closing hours were swept away, two other remnants of in loco
parentis were also being challenged. In the controversy over visitation and junior apartments
the themes of sex, equality, and student autonomy surfaced again. In early 1968 men
students were beginning to push for some sort of regular policy that would permit them
to entertain female friends in their rooms. Faced with imminent confrontation and having
learned from past experience, Sitterson skipped right to the committee phase, appointing
six students to the twelve member group. As the committee met, students gathered 4000
signatures on a petition and an estimated 1000 students marched to Lenoir Hall, site
of the committee's deliberations, chanting, "The arb [arboretum] is cold!" and "We want
visitation!" The committee took these attentions in good humor and assured their visitors
that they were giving the matter serious consideration.
Outside the University community, however, the response was not so amiable. Guberna-
torial candidate Jim Gardiner condemned such activities and said if elected he would
not allow such things at the state tax supported University. He would, he said, "have
the courage to stand up for what's right and decent . . ." The Daily Tar Heel called him
a "blowhard" and a "demagogue."
In December the committee produced a plan so weighted down with detailed, inflexible
rules and procedures as to be unworkable. The complex regulations provided ample scope
for complaint from those, like the Tar Heel editors, who sought complete student autono-
my. But the major sticking point was the "open door" rule. This required that dorm room
doors remain open during visits. How far "open" was the question? All the way? The
width of a book? A match book, perhaps? Realizing that privacy was the goal of any
policy, and that "open doors" in the high rise dorms meant opening them to the elements,
the committee, in May 1969, simplified the other regulations and suggested the open-door
rule be scrapped. The Administrative Board of Student Affairs endorsed the action despite
"varying degrees of distaste for the practice of visitation" and, especially in the case of
the open-door rule, "reservations [about] . . .the possible impairment of the University's
image in the state!' President Friday, however, could not dismiss public opinion as briskly
as the Tar Heel dismissed Gardiner. Wary of public response, he declined to accept the
committee's recommendation. The open door rule stayed in. Nonetheless, the administra-
tion had given enough in other areas to mollify the students for the moment, and in
time, one by one, most of the remaining regulations were eliminated.
The last of these recurring controversies came up in the spring of 1969 when the WRC
asked that juniors be allowed the same right to live off campus as seniors and women
over twenty-one. Ironically, the University, which had for so many years been reluctant
to provide women with sufficient housing, was now reluctant to let them go. This stemmed
from two major concerns, the first was that the university remain a residential rather
than commuter college, the second was with the potantial loss of income to the university
housing system. Just as Inez Stacy and Edward Kidder Graham had argued fifty years
before, the University now affirmed that women would miss crucial elements of the college
experience if they lived off campus. In addition, with ninety percent occupancy required
to finance the dormitory system, the loss of any significant portion of the fifteen percent
who were women posed a serious threat to it.
Deploring the fact that "maintaining a truly 'captive' market is the only method by
which the financial problem is now being handled" student leaders pointed out that "the
possibility that many residents are there against their will is certainly not a source of
strength for the residence college system." Committee members agreed. Their solution
to the problem affirmed the value of a residential college, and offered a long range answer
to the occupancy question. They recommended that all incoming freshman, male as well
as female, be required to live on campus for two years, with transfer students having
to do so for one. Previously men had been required to live on campus only in their freshman
year. Requiring them to live under the more stringent standards applied to women was
a revolutionary advance in sexual equality. The committee then took the concept even
further, suggesting that the solution to the occupancy problem was to increase the number
of freshmen women by standardizing the admission requirements, that is, by admitting
women on the same terms as men. Chancellor Ferebee Taylor accepted the first part of
the committee recommendations in 1970. By 1972, when Title IX of the federal Education
Amendment mandated an end to discrimination on the basis of sex in admission, financial
aid, housing, and other "comparable facilities'' the residential requirement for transfer
students had already been waived and supervision of women's dorms had been transferred
from the Dean of Women's office to the newly established Division of Residential Life.
Virtually all of the legal apparatus that had kept women separate and unequal for so
many years had been demolished.
It is ironic to reflect that hiring guards for the women's dorms may have been the most
decisive as well as the least controversial action taken by Carolina in this whole chain
of events. There was never any question that the University should take all feasible steps
to protect its coeds. No one, let alone a southern male, would have considered doing
otherwise. Once this decision was made, however, the rationale for closing hours was irre-
trievably weakened. And if women were capable of deciding when to return to their dorms,
why should they not be capable of managing their own lives off campus as well? And,
if they could stay out as late as they wished and live in their own apartments, what could
possibly happen to them behind closed dormitory doors during visiting hours that couldn't
happen elsewhere. Like dominos the rules fell, pushed initially by that one uncontroversial
Of course, more powerful forces than the domino effect had also been at work. Feminism
and the women's movement provided the impetus behind Title IX, which had given the
University the last decisive push over that hump of lingering technical discrimination.
Students of both sexes, as well as the administration and faculty, had had their conscious-
ness raised during the push-me-pull-you incremental process of negotiated change. All
of this had contributed to the demise of concept of the Carolina Coed and the emergence
of the Carolina Woman.
This new woman of the seventies was quite different from the coed of the forties and
fifties. She expected to marry later, to have fewer children and to have them later, and
to work longer than had her predecessor. Since a majority of women in 1972 had spent
four years in a coeducational school — as opposed to only one-quarter in 1958 — they were
less concerned with the social aspects of college life. Far fewer of them cited that as a
major reason for coming to Carolina and sorority membership had dropped from a high
of nearly sixty percent to less than twenty percent.
Carolina women recognized that with liberation came new responsibilities not faced
by earlier coeds. This was a central theme in many of the student arguments for change,
one that the older generation came to recognize with some reluctance. Mary Turner Lane
stressed that she had learned much from her long hours in meetings with students. She
evoked her own background as a Salem student in the forties and a Carolina graduate
student in the fifties when she wrote to Chancellor Sitterson, "I also came to recognize
more strongly than ever that today's students are vastly different from those of our genera-
tion and want to assume responsibilities that you and I never desired!'
Carolina Woman: A New Majority
With in loco parentis discarded and much of the structure enforcing it abandoned,
women turned their attention to creating a new place for themselves in the university
community. In 1968 the Women's Residence Council, the women's legislature before the
men's and women's governments merged, became the Association of Women Students
(AWS) with the emphasis on the role and status of women rather than on rules. In the
spring of 1971, the chair of the AWS suggested changing the name of the joint student-
faculty-administration Implementation Committee, which had been established the year
before to assist Dean Carmichael with rules changes, to the Women's Forum since she
believed that the changes were complete.
From outside the University (the federal government's Title IX and affirmative action
legislation) as well as inside (students and female faculty), came demands for new programs
and an end to lingering manifestations of sexual discrimination. Female varsity sports
and sports scholarships were offered for the first time. An affirmative action program
was established to increase the number of women and minority faculty members. The
lively publication She, and the plethora of women's groups among both students and
faculty, testified to a "raised consciousness" and a female solidarity that typified the period.
Katherine Carmichael, now Assistant Dean of Students for Supportive Service and
no longer burdened with the heavy load of rules to enforce and dormitories to run, turned
her efforts to giving women more visibility and recognition on campus. In this she worked
closely with the Women's Forum. They nominated women for honorary degrees and Distin-
guished Alumnae awards, proposed female speakers for commencement, advocated better
facilities, especially in physical education, and in general acted as advocates.
More than advocacy was needed in some cases, and women began turning to the law
in both symbolic and substantive attacks on lingering inequities. In 1977 UNC teachers
and students filed sex-discrimination charges over the distribution of lockers in Woollen
Gym. Although there were more female physical education students than male and women
made up forty percent of the student body, men were assigned eighty-five percent of the
lockers. Earlier rumors of a similar suit had encouraged the Morehead Fellowship Trustees
to open those prestigious scholarships to undergraduate women.
One of the joint efforts by Carmichael and the Forum was much less confrontational
but nonetheless had significant long term consequences. They collected and disseminated
information on courses about and of particular relevance to women. While this promoted
interest in such offerings, it also heightened awareness of how few such courses existed.
Out of these efforts came the proposal to establish a women's studies program.
When compared to the response to building Spencer Hall, that to the women's studies
proposal illustrates just how much had changed in the previous fifty years. When, in
March 1974, it was suggested that the Faculty Council investigate the possibility of estab-
lishing such a program, the proposal met with virtually no opposition, and an ad hoc
committee was immediately appointed. For many of the women in the group, mostly
young and untenured, it was, as one said, a labor of love. For the men, including Kenan
professors and department chairs, it was a duty they took on with some skepticism but
also a willingness to explore the idea thoroughly.
Much of the opposition to women's studies stemmed from inertia. UNC had, after
all, always been a male institution, and both the faculty and administration contained
a significant number of devoted alumni who, despite the upheavals of the previous few
years, still could not imagine otherwise. Nonetheless, the spirit of the times had changed
and, unlike 1923, there was little overt resistance. Questions, especially within the ad hoc
committee, were what any new untried program would provoke. What would one study
in a women's studies course? How would the program be structured? Would it attract
enough interest to justify the expense? When Kenan Professor of Philosophy Maynard
Adams wondered if enough students would want to major in such a program, Margaret
O'Conner, assistant professor of English, threw the question back to him. How many
majors did his department have? Rather sheepishly he reported at the next meeting that
there were only nine. Adams and the rest of the committee concluded that, since a major
university without a philosophy department was unthinkable, programs should not be
judged on the number of majors they might attract.
One of the most articulate and effective advocates of women's studies was history profes-
sor Joan Scott. Responding to the charge that it was simply a passing fad spawned by
a political movement, with no inherent academic merit, she persuasively argued that in
fact what "began as a political movement has become an intellectually legitimate field
of inquiry,' one that raised new questions and addressed "issues of importance to historians,
sociologists, economists, anthropologists and psychologists!' As such, she suggested, it
was an especially appropriate addition to a major research university.
Other compelling arguments for women's studies focused on its remedial benefits.
"There has been neglect, bias, and omission in the fields of study and traditional disciplines
which should include the study of women," the committee concluded. "In virtually every
conventionally organized course in the humanities and social sciences there is the subtle
distortion inherent in the fact that human experience is implicitly understood as male
experience." Since "a major goal of a liberal education, particularly in the humanities,
has been to learn to place oneself in the perspective of an honored cultural tradition"
this omission left women, like blacks, with little with which to identify. In addition, "because
the systematic scholarly study of women has not been fostered, there is no accurate presen-
tation of female experience and this absence of substantive information 'undermines the
accuracy of generalizations about human culture derived from traditional scholarship
in the humanities! "
These proved to be persuasive arguments, and in 1977 the committee's recommendations
were accepted. Women's Studies would constitute a major in the existing interdisciplinary
studies degree program. Mary Turner Lane, who had been deeply involved in so many
of the rules committees in the sixties and had amply demonstrated her interest in UNC
women, agreed to serve as the half-time director. Broad involvement of the university
community and close cooperation between the director and the advisory board, which
included teaching assistants and students as well as faculty, were hallmarks of the program.
Joan Scott, president of the program's advisory board, undertook to develop, with Lane,
the first women's studies course, Women's Studies 50, an "introduction to multidisciplinary
approaches to the study of gender!' which brought faculty from many departments to
lecture on women from the perspective of their disciplines. In addition to the extensive
administrative details, Lane took as one of her primary responsibilities publicizing the
program and encouraging the involvement of the university community as a whole. With
other women faculty, she initiated a national search for women speakers and scholars,
such as Margaret Mead, to bring to the campus for major adddresses and departmental
seminars. During Lane's tenure the Duke-UNC Women Studies Research Center was estab-
lished with a $225,000 grant from the Ford Foundation. Her untiring efforts gave the
program a visibility and respectability that was invaluable in those early years. In 1979,
more than 300 students were enrolled in women's studies courses and the program graduated
its first major, Sandra Jo Martin of Elkin, NC. Martin had been the editor of She and
an intern with the Council on the Status of Women.
By 1981 the program was established and Lane was ready to return to her work in the
School of Education. Dean Samuel Williamson's decision to mount a national search
for her replacement affirmed the stature of Women's Studies within the University. Jane
De Hart-Mathews, historian, first director of the women's studies program at UNC Greens-
boro, and editor of a major women's history anthology, was chosen as Lane's successor.
De Hart-Mathews strengthened and expanded the program, adding a course on women
and public policy to the core curriculum for majors, developing the internship program,
continuing to encourage development of new courses on women and gender studies, and
securing funds for course development awards. Between fifteen and twenty-five students
per year receive course credit for working with local, state, and national groups from
the Orange County Commission for Women, and the Women's Center, to the National
Organization for Women. The program also sponsors faculty seminars, campus-wide lec-
tures, discussions and films that raise theoretical questions and present new research related
to the study of gender. Under De Hart-Mathews leadership, major symposia were held
on topics such as "Southern Women and Activism: The Legacy of Gertrude Weil," and,
in 1986, "Black Women's Leadership: Challenges and Strategies!'* Today the program
*The latter was dedicated to Pauli Murray, Durham native, activist, feminist, civil rights lawyer, author, and
Episcopal priest, who was not a UNC alumni. As the program for the symposium explained: "Murray's life exempli-
fied the contradictions inherent in race relations in this country. Her great aunt Mary Ruffin Smith, who was
white, donated land to the university which fifty-three years later, in 1938, denied Pauli Murray admission as a
graduate student because of her race. In 1976, she returned to Chapel Hill to the church of her ancestors, the
Chapel of the Cross, where, as the first woman to be ordained a priest by the Episcopal Church, she delivered
her first sermon!'
reaches over 800 students in thirty-three courses, most of them cross listed with other
departments including history, sociology, anthropology, English, RTVMP, nursing,
Romance languages, health education, philosophy, and political science.
One of the continuing goals of the program has been to help Carolina women make
vital connections between themselves, their academic work, and the world beyond the
university. In 1976, when for the first time women outnumbered men in the freshman
class, the Chapel Hill Newspaper predicted that the state's future business and political
leaders would no longer be predominantly UNC graduates, and that there would be a
consequent decline in public and private support. Responding to this prediction, Joan
Scott argued that women's studies could contribute to cementing the loyalty of women
to the University. "Policy makers continue to think in traditional terms when they think
of how to increase alumnae gifts to the University',' she charged. "Football teams and athletic
programs will not secure female support. The more subtle ways of encouraging and devel-
oping 'loyalty' have not been considered. . .As professionals and wage-earners women
are in a better position to contribute to alumni funds. And, having had the sense that
the University provided them with training and with the intellectual and emotional support
for their adult lives, they are more willing to express gratitude and loyalty in economic ways!'
Part of the difficulty women had in identifying with the University lay in the lack of
role models and mentors among the almost entirely male faculty and administration.
If women students were finally claiming their place in the University in the seventies, women
as faculty still had a long way to go. Emily M. Coe had been the first woman to teach
a class at Carolina — in the summer normal school in 1878. But nearly one hundred years
later when, as undergraduates, women were rapidly approaching fifty percent, only sixteen
percent of the faculty at all ranks were women; at the level of full professor four percent
were women. To address this problem, the University instituted an Affirmative Action
Program in 1973.
Sallie B. Marks had been the first woman to join the regular faculty. She became an
assistant professor of elementary education in 1927. Katherine Jocher actually had began
teaching before Marks but did not receive faculty recognition. "When I came to the Univer-
sity in 1924, this was strictly a man's university!' she recounted. "There were no women
on the faculty, not even in the professional schools. But they needed a teacher of casework
and I qualified. But how to manage this. Dr. Odum, always resourceful, had an idea.
The course would be listed as given by Mr. Steiner (a professor of sociology and social
work) and others. I became the "and others" and was so designated by many of my col-
leagues!' Jocher's formal admission to the faculty did not come until 1934, five years
after she had received her doctorate and nearly twice that since she had begun teaching.
Jocher and her female colleagues found that their formal admission to the faculty was
just that, a mere formality that did not bring with it the prerequisites of rank. "When
we first attended faculty meeting, no man would sit next to us. We always had a complete
row of seats to ourselves!' she continued, echoing Mary Graves description of the 1906
coed's experience. "Nor were we admitted to the Faculty Club when it was organized.
In fact it took the name of Men's Faculty Club. One young professor glibly remarked,
'Of course, there would be ladies nights to which faculty women would be invited! This
to us was no compliment for it deprived us of professional recognition. I think our greatest
resentment came when, on one occasion, we were not even permitted to sit in after lunch
when the President of the University addressed the Club!' Not until the fifties were women
admitted to the Faculty Club and the "Men's" dropped from the name.
Guion Griffis Johnson found the history department much more in tune with the Faculty
Club than with Odum. "I overheard, I think it was Dr. Hamilton* who was talking in
*J. G. deRoullhac Hamilton, department chair and founder of the Southern Historical Collection, for whom
Hamilton Hall was named. His attitude to women was, however, more "progressive" than his attitude to blacks.
the hall when I was passing by, who said 'No woman is competent to teach a class in
history. No matter how qualified, no woman is competent to teach courses except on
the public school level — elementary or high school. But in the university, no! "
Unlike his colleagues in the math department, Hamilton is not known to have changed
his mind about women's capabilities when a woman won the department's top prize. How-
ever, his successor, Albert Newsome, hired Johnson as an associate professor when the
war years increased the demand for, and reduced the supply of, qualified teachers. Johnson
recalls that the response of the military men she taught was considerably warmer than
that of her colleagues. "I remember so well when I walked into my first class in 1943,
the men arose. They were all in the Navy and they were supposed to rise when a superior
came in the room, so they promptly rose, and some of them whistled. And when I ascended
the platform and motioned for them to be seated, I said, 'Thank you very much, gentlemen.
I've never been so flattered in all my life. But from here on out, I will do the whistling!
And they cheered!'
Johnson's stay in the history department was brief — she was never given tenure de-
spite her distinguished record as a scholar and her wartime appointment as an associate
professor — and it was not until 1965 that the department accepted a woman, Gillian Cell,
in a tenure track position. Similarly, as late as 1970, among approximately sixty members
of the English department there was only one woman. Outside the humanities and social
sciences, the pattern tended to be even more rigid. The history department was typical
of the University in these matters, and Cell's progress reflects the changes in the last twenty
years. She was hired initially as a lecturer, despite her PhD. Her colleagues, still finding
the female presence somewhat anomalous, segregated Cell and the only other woman,
an instructor on a one-year appointment, in a small, unairconditioned office on the top
floor of Saunders Hall. "It was really a matter of status whether you got a window air
conditioner or not" Cell explained. "And certainly instructors and fixed term faculty
did not merit air conditioners. At some point early in my first year one of my senior
colleagues came into our office with a tape measure and that was when we discovered
that they had hired another woman and then there were three of us in the office. . . .When
it got ridiculous was when it so happened that the three of us became pregnant at the
same time. This was a very difficult thing for the department to deal with. They had
barely got used to having women around, let alone pregnant women, and I don't think
anybody ever looked at us below the neck . . ."
In due time Cell became the first tenured woman in the history department and, continu-
ing the pattern, the University's first full time affirmative action officer (1981-83), the
first woman to chair the history department (1983-85), and, in 1985, the first female Dean
of the College of Arts and Sciences. As affirmative action officer, Cell stepped into a
position created ten years earlier in response to federal authorities' assessment that the
University was not in compliance with the new affirmative action regulations intended
to ensure equal opportunities for women and minorities. At that time Chancellor Taylor
had appointed Douglas Hunt affirmative action officer in addition to his duties as vice
chancellor. To monitor the AAO's progress, Barbara Schnorrenberg, Cell's former office
mate in the history department, headed University Women for Affirmative Action (UWAA).
The group, in which Cell was an active participant, objected to Hunt's part-time attention
to the issues and argued for the next ten years that a member of the faculty should have
the position on a full time basis.
When Christopher Fordham succeeded Taylor in 1981, he announced his commitment
to affirmative action. He agreed with UWAA and challenged Cell to, in effect, put her
money where her mouth was by becoming his affirmative action officer. She took the
position despite its inherent potential for alienating both advocates and opponents of
affirmative action. "It was a matter of commitment, an opportunity to see If [I] could
do something, and a feeling that it was important to try, [that it was] worth the risk!'
In her new job, Cell joined a handful of women in administration, where their presence
was even smaller than in the faculty. Of the ten deans of professional schools, one — the
Dean of the School of Nursing — was a woman. Of 138 chairs and directors of departments,
curricula, and programs in both Arts and Sciences and Health Affairs, less than ten percent
were women. "Lack of experience" was one of the reasons cited. This was, in effect, a
circular argument since women were seldom given the opportunity to gain experience.
As an associate dean of the graduate school whose abilities were highly respected, Cell
herself had been passed over for dean in favor of a man who had chaired a department
and had been vice chancellor.
Cell's task as affirmative action officer was not simple. Figures for the ten years following
the inception of the affirmative action program showed little progress. The percentage
of women in the faculty had increased little if any, especially in tenured positions. The
problem was not so much that women were not being hired. It was that they were not
being tenured. Advocates such as UWAA suspected that some departments felt that they
could establish new positions if they were able to hire a woman or a black faculty member.
It appeared that they were either hiring very casually — appointing people who were not
tenurable — or, from a more cynical perspective, hiring people and letting them go, but
expecting nonetheless to retain the position. Such concerns led the group to consider
a class action suit and led Cell to accept Fordham's offer.
Cell found the job even more difficult than anticipated, the goals less easy to achieve
than they appeard to be from outside the office. The concept of affirmative action quotas,
or goals, was originated for business and industry, and its application to academia was
complicated by the decline in hiring levels after the boom of the sixties, a decline that
coincided with the initiation of affirmative action. Jobs had been filled by white men
and too few were resigning or retiring to allow hiring emough women and minorities
to redress the imbalance quickly.
If those were the cold, objective facts — the hard reasons that made it difficult to change
the numbers — there were also subjective reasons. These were just as difficult to change.
Cell's years of experience within an academic department helped her deal with both the
real constraints under which departments labored and those areas where change was pos-
sible, and to recognize the difference. She thus placed her emphasis on sensitizing her
colleagues to the needs of women and minorities, especially those who were the only
non-white-male in a situation where the perception of collegiality or the lack thereof
might be the deciding factor in gaining tenure. Told by one chair that his department
had failed to give tenure to any of several women they had hired, one after the other,
because none had not been collegial, Cell suggested that they were either, for some reason,
hiring women with a particular personality problem, or that the problem was within the
department itself. While this message was not well received in this case — the chairman
walked out on her — she worked to spread it throughout the University.
Along with her departmental experience, Cell credited her "support group" with helping
her do her job. Cell, Mary Turner Lane, Joan Scott, and a small handful of other faculty
activists had met weekly to share information and to plan ways to address the problems
women were facing. One participant recalled that, since each one of the small group was
strongly identified with women's issues on campus, they predicted that, if they ever appeared
together at one table in the Carolina Inn, they would be suspected of plotting to overthrow
the university. When they finally did meet for lunch at the Inn, that was precisely the
greeting they received from the men at the next table. While the comments were made
in jest, they do reflect an awareness of the change women were fostering on campus and
a half-serious notion that they might indeed be capable of bringing it about.
Collective as well as individual action contributed to both the notion and efficacy of
female power. Faculty women created organizations to strengthen their position; in 1974
they supported a proposal by Professor Rhea Stambaugh to the Faculty Council to establish
a committee on the status of women. The committee includes men as well as women
and has presented studies and significant recommendations annually to the Faculty Council
and the Chancellor. Three years later in 1977, they started the Association for Women
Faculty as a support network and forum for discussion of women's issues in the university.
The Association's recently established Mary Turner Lane award for "outstanding contribu-
tions to the lives of women on the UNC-CH campus" is a recognition of the continuing
need for strong role models and mentors among and on behalf of Carolina women.
Much has changed in the twenty years since the walls that kept women on the margins
of university life began to fall. Today women constitute approximately sixty percent of
undergraduate students, fifty-five percent of graduate students, and thirty-nine percent
of those enrolled in the professional schools; they receive thirty-four percent of doctorates
awarded. While numerical growth within the student body has been significant, at the faculty
and administrative level it remains more a matter of style than of substance; twenty-one
percent of the faculty are female, compared with sixteen and one-half percent in 1972,
but among tenured faculty, less than thirteen percent are women. Nonetheless, the Affirma-
tive Action Office, the Women's Studies Program, and faculty and student organizations
keep issues of gender before the university community and no one today would say, as
the Daily Tar Heel did in 1923, "Women Not Wanted Here!'
Bit by bit women have pushed their way into the University. And it has required pushing
on their part. Since Alderman opened that first door, women have had to take the initiative.
Once the battle of Spencer Hall was over, resistance tended to be passive, a matter of
benign neglect and inertia, rather than active opposition. Women were welcome to come,
if they wished. But except for the prodding of the Dean of Women's office, little thought
was given to their needs, nor with the exception of the war years, was any specific attempt
made to expand their role in the University. This does not mean that women acted alone.
From Alderman's initial efforts, to Graham's advocacy of the women's dormitory, to Ford-
ham's appointment of Gillian Cell as Dean, some men have recognized the legitimacy
of women's claims on Carolina. If there have been many Hamiltons, there have also been
The University is a microcosm of its society and what has happened here has not occurred
in a vacuum. In admitting women, Alderman and his trustees were responding to the
growing perception that at least some women were entitled to pursue careers and and
to develop talents that would be valuable to their families and communities. The Battle
of Spencer Hall was a reprise of similar events at other colleges and illustrates a recurrent
theme in the history of women and minorities. As they move into new areas of occupations,
women are initially tolerated or ignored as long as their numbers are few and they are
quiet and reasonably well behaved. However, once their numbers increase they begin to
insist on being acknowledged as legitimate participants in the activities, resources, and
power of the institution, they then are perceived as a threat and find themselves under
attack. This was precisely what happened when women and their supporters began than
campaign for Spencer Hall.
However, having given in once, then twice, the University could not turn back. As college
became a common way for middle-class women to spend a few years before marriage,
their numbers at Carolina slowly increased. But not until a critical mass was reached
in the sixties and seventies, not until women themselves, inspired by the women's movement
and supported by the mandate of the federal government, threw off the parental control
of the university and demanded an equal share of its power and benefits, could it be
said that Carolina was no longer just a man's school. In the last twenty years women
have come out from the attics and corners of university life; they have ceased to be anoma-
lies, out of place in world not meant for them.
The men of 1923 who feared that the presence of women would alter their university
were absolutely right. Carolina has changed. It is no longer the institution they sought
to preserve. Women are here, they are an inextricable part of the college community and
curriculum. Ninety years after they first entered classrooms, the University is beginning
to provide them with a college experience comparable to that which has made it so dear
to generations of Carolina men, one which will enable them to grow in the understanding
of themselves and their connection with the larger world. Now we will begin to see just
what this "experiment" in coeducation really means.
FOR USE ONLY IN
THE NORTH CAROLINA COLLECTION