A Century of Women at Auburn 1892-1992

By Leah Rawls Atkins


(Numbers in parentheses correspond to reference numbers at the end of this page.)

To students at Auburn in 1919, the overwhelming majority of whom were men, the Southern belle was "synonymous with flowers and laughter and sunshine; with gay voices and sparkling eyes; with beauty that is of paradise, hearts that are angel's own."(1) Little seemed to have changed since 1860, when planter Daniel R. Hundley described the perfect Alabama woman as a "true-hearted daughter of the sunny South," a simple woman unaffected in manners, pure in speech and soul, and "ever blessed with an inborn grace and gentleness of spirit lovely to look upon."(2) The Southern woman was expected to be quiet, self denying, and soft-spoken, a paragon of virtue who was protected by her man, be it father, brother, husband, or son. Antebellum society was male-dominated, fathers were the heads of their households, and a wife's duty was to obey.(3)

Hundley suggested that a daughter was best taught at home, where she could learn to be a happy companion for her husband, although wealthy parents were likely to send their girls to female seminaries. The young ladies who attended these finishing schools were taught poise and grace, learned how to sing, play the piano, and draw, and became familiar with poetry and some classics and simple arithmetic.(4) A few schools offered advanced courses in botany, French, and algebra.(5) Contemporary educational theory suggested that higher learning was too taxing for women and could be physically harmful, perhaps resulting in brain fever.(6) Higher education might make a woman "harder" and less feminine. In the words of Alabama congressman Henry W. Hilliard, society expected "to see every man manly, and every woman womanly."(7)

When fathers and husbands marched off to defend the South in 1861, they left these faint-hearted belles behind to cope with plantations and farms, families and businesses. Most of the women rose to the challenge, and they managed, some quite well.(8) The widows left with children shouldered even greater responsibilities. In the post-war South women outnumbered men, and the years of Reconstruction brought poverty so stifling that it was a decade before educational reform for females became an issue. Beginning in the mid-1870s, reformer Julia Tutwiler, known as "Miss Julia," led the movement in Alabama to create educational opportunities for women. Her father, a former professor at the University of Alabama and founder of the Greene Springs School in Hale County, had allowed young Julia to attend classes with the boys. After the war she studied at Vassar College in New York and subsequently attended school in Germany.(9)

Although there were a number of girls' schools in Alabama called colleges, none offered upper level courses or post-graduate programs.(10) It was no secret that their usual two-year curricula were not of the same high quality as those of male institutions, which refused to accept female students.(11) From her position as co principal of the Alabama Normal College for Girls in Livingston, which she founded to provide teacher-training for women, Tutwiler was determined to open higher education in the state to graduates of her school and to all women on the same terms as it was available to young men.

Tutwiler focused her attention on the nearby state university at Tuscaloosa.(12) But it was not to be the University of Alabama that took the lead in bringing coeducation to the state. The first institution of higher learning in Alabama to accept female students was the land-grant university, the Agricultural and Mechanical College, called the Alabama Polytechnic Institute from the 1880s before the name was legally changed in 1899 by the legislature. Whatever its official name, students always called it Auburn.

Founded in 1856 by the Alabama Methodist Conference as the East Alabama Male College, the liberal arts school opened in 1859, closed during the Civil War, and reopened in 1866.(13) For years it struggled financially. Times were hard during the Reconstruction era, and the Methodist Church was especially destitute.(14) Only determined support from the village of Auburn and dedicated leadership from the trustees, president, and faculty kept the college operating. In 1856 the Methodists also founded a female college at Tuskegee, perhaps to separate the sexes by geographical distance. Later this school was moved to Montgomery and became Huntingdon College.

During the 1867 constitutional convention, a Limestone County delegate introduced an amendment that Alabama take advantage of the 1862 Morrill Land Grant College Act to establish an agricultural and mechanical college in the state, perhaps as "a branch" of the University of Alabama. The federal act stipulated that no funds from land grants could be used for construction of buildings, and since the state had no money, it was necessary to find an existing campus to turn into the land-grant college. Most of the impoverished denominational schools, as well as the state university, proposed their college as the site for the A. & M. Institution. Even Colonel James R. Powell, the president of the Elyton Land Company, jumped into the fray, offering fifteen acres, a drill field, thirty acres for an experimental farm, buildings in Birmingham, and $20,000.(15)

The contest to establish the land-grant college was a prime example of Reconstruction politics that, historian Walter L. Fleming reported, included bribes and vote buying.(16) After parliamentary maneuvering that lasted for days and involved racial issues and sectional politics, Auburn was chosen. On February 24, 1872, the legislature established the state land-grant school in east Alabama and accepted the gift of the Auburn campus from the Methodist Church and 200 acres from the citizens of Auburn.(17) The real hero of the legislative battle was Lee County's representative in the House, Sheldon Toomer. Although seriously ill, he stayed on the floor and directed the fight. Toomer died in March, leaving a young son who two decades later would graduate in pharmacy from the college his father had helped create. With his stepfather, young Shel Toomer established a drugstore at the corner of Main (now College Street) and Magnolia in the late 1890s.(18)

The A. & M. College struggled financially, in part because Alabama was the only state in the Union that did not supplement the interest funds received from the land-grant endowment for its land-grant college, although the legislature had mandated that two boys per county be allowed to attend the college tuition free.(19) In fact, it was 11 years before the state finally appropriated $30,000 to repair and construct buildings. (20)

Despite its financial problems, the agricultural and mechanical college attracted a competent and dedicated faculty. Student enrollment increased to 279 in 1879, and each fall the Western Railway dropped off more young men at Auburn. Some arrived directly from Montgomery, while some changed trains in Opelika and rode the "dummy," a little engine with one car and the butt of cadet jokes, to Auburn. Drays met the students at the tracks and hauled their trunks up the dusty hill to one of the many homes that offered room and board to the boys. The college had no dormitories, and all the young men lived in town, many of them with faculty or with widows who had moved to Auburn specifically to run boarding houses in order to support their families.(21)

After arriving, freshman went shopping "uptown"- located on a knoll higher than the surrounding area, the crossroads at Toomer's corner was never "downtown." Auburn had more men's clothiers than a community so small might require. They catered to the needs of male students and carried a selection of uniforms worn by the cadets. The 1906 A.P.I. uniform cost $15, came with two pairs of pants, and was worn every day by the students.(22) Military training was an important part of the land-grant college concept, and townspeople enjoyed watching formation drills by the cadets.

Auburn was located on land ceded by the Creeks in 1832 and settled by a group of Methodist families from Georgia. The small village was named by Lizzie Taylor, who quoted from Oliver Goldsmith's poem "The Deserted Village," saying, "Name it Auburn! 'Sweet Auburn, loveliest village of the plain!'" During the antebellum period Auburn was noted for its fine academies, especially W. F. Slaton's Male Academy and the Auburn Masonic Female College (which in 1853 boasted the largest auditorium in east Alabama-a wooden structure that was moved to the A.P.I. campus in 1883 and became Langdon Hall).

The commerce of Auburn was supported by area planters who sold a little cotton, sending it by wagon to one of the nearest navigable rivers. The Western railroad reached Auburn in 1847 and linked the town to the cotton markets of Mobile and Atlanta. In 1855 the Montgomery Advertiser testified to Auburn's healthy climate, "bracing air and excellent water," which many Montgomery residents enjoyed when they fled to Auburn during the yellow fever epidemic of 1854. The town was noted for elegant churches with large congregations and for a moral tone that would make it an appropriate community for a Methodist college.(23) The town had a flourishing economy. There were eight large dry-goods stores, shoe and carriage factories, grocery stores, a drugstore, a jewelry store, and a cabinetmaker's shop.(24)

When the East Alabama Male College became a land-grant institution in 1872, the board of trustees appointed Isaac Taylor Tichenor president. A Baptist minister, Tichenor was well known in central Alabama, having served before the war as pastor of the Montgomery First Baptist Church and as chaplain to the Seventeenth Alabama regiment at the battle of Shiloh. Tichenor was entrusted with the responsibility of integrating the agricultural and engineering curriculum into the liberal arts curriculum. But his primary chore was keeping the college operating without adequate funds from the state. The college received "$20,280 in depreciated money as interest on Auburn's land-grant endowment," but the principal "had been lost in the reckless financing of the Reconstruction years."(25)

In an important signal of change to come, on July 12, 1875, President Tichenor reported to the board of trustees that the Auburn faculty had passed a resolution requesting that the board "give young ladies the privilege of becoming students of the college." Tichenor noted that only one faculty member opposed the measure and that it "meets with very hearty approval." But the board took no action.(26)

Two years later in his annual report, Tichenor reminded the trustees of the faculty's request "to open the regular college classes to females" and stated that the faculty's opinion "has undergone no change." The next day, June 26, 1877, during the trustees' meeting, the committee on the course of study recommended that the question of female admission, which it had carefully considered, "be deferred until the next meeting of the Board."(27) Although Tichenor was the father of five daughters by his four marriages, he was not enthusiastic about coeducation. Nevertheless, he recognized that it would bring more money to the college.(28) Still, it would be 15 years before the admission of women to the A. & M. College was discussed formally by the board. By that time, the prevailing opinions in Alabama on the issues of higher education for women and coeducation were beginning to change.

College education for American women began in women's seminaries in the North and Midwest during the first half of the nineteenth century. Coeducation was established at Oberlin College in 1833, and many colleges adopted it during the Civil War. When enrollment dropped, as students volunteered or were conscripted, many Northern universities admitted women, while the general egalitarian philosophy of the Western states encouraged gender equality. In the South, colleges were closed during the war, and many campuses were converted into hospitals for wounded Confederate soldiers.(29) After the war the South's poverty, traditional conservatism, and attitudes toward women prevented the development of coeducation. In 1871 the University of Arkansas became the first Southern state university to admit women,(30) but Alabama supported no institution where females could receive a college education until 1882, when the legislature gave Julia Tutwiler $2,500 for teacher-training at her Livingston school.(31)

In the 1880s Tutwiler was working toward two goals: the creation of an industrial school for girls (which was established in 1892 and eventually became the Alabama College for Women at Montevallo) and the introduction of coeducation at the University of Alabama.(32) With "relentless persistence" she worked to create a favorable public opinion for higher education for women.(33) One man warned that "you might as well give Miss Julia what she wants when she first asks for it for it will save time, as she always gets her way."(34)

In 1891 Tutwiler presented a paper to the Alabama Education Association on coeducation and character. She stressed the natural order of families, that "the loveliest women and the noblest men" she had known were "in families where brothers and sisters have grown up together-in genial companionship-sweetening and strengthening each others' lives and characters." She noted that in ancient days and biblical times the sexes were together, but segregation was "inherited from the days when monks and nuns were the only teachers." She thought girls were better able to select husbands after attending coeducational schools and that coeducation would "not harm 'distinctive womanhood.'"(35)

Opponents of coeducation on the national level gave many reasons for their opposition. Male students would be distracted by having females in the classroom, and they would be uncomfortable with women on campus. Since women were thought to be mentally inferior, coeducation would lower the standards of an institution. Opponents argued that women would also destroy religious beliefs, promote promiscuous behavior, force a change in the honor system, and ruin male camaraderie on campus. Coeds would encourage men to marry early, before they were established in their professions, thus having a pernicious effect upon the man's career.

College education would make women "inferior housekeepers," and advanced education was not needed to make a woman a good wife and mother.(36) Studying in competition with male students would be detrimental to a woman's health. One medical doctor claimed that a female needed special times to rest, especially during her monthly periods when there was "an enormous increase of nerve waste" and "poison" was retained in her system and acted upon "the gray matter of the brain frontal lobes."(37) In the South opponents particularly stressed that such commingling of the sexes would destroy "traditional ideals of genteel womanhood" best nurtured in female seminaries.(38)

But American women-and Southern women-were demanding the same access to higher education as men. Coeducation was economical, because many states were too poor to support high-quality institutions for both men and women, and a sense of justice argued for equal education for both sexes. Novels and childrearing guidebooks pointed out the stronger moral influence of the educated mother. Coeducation was "in accord with nature," girls would be a "refining influence" on the campus, and boys would be less inclined to "engage in improprieties if not vices" should females of high character be their associates in classrooms.(39) The Morrill Act of 1862 had increased the number of state universities, and "taxpayers demanded admittance of their daughters as well as their sons."(40) In the North the question of the rights of African-Americans brought to mind the rights of women, while in the South the discussion of women's rights was suppressed lest the issue of black rights become part of the dialogue. Nationwide, coeducation increased from 30 percent of educational institutions in 1870 to 70 percent by 1900.(41) Auburn was at the forefront of this movement in the South.

In 1882 Dr. William LeRoy Broun (his grandson insists the name is pronounced broon) became president of the A. & M. College. A Virginia graduate, he was commandant of the Confederate Arsenal at Richmond and was one of those brilliant young men associated with Josiah Gorgas and the Confederate Ordnance department who played significant roles in industrial development and scientific education in the South after 1865. Broun stayed at Auburn one year, left in a dispute over curriculum changes to improve the sciences, then returned in 1884 after his replacement, David F. Boyd, secured approval of his recommendations.(42)

Broun's leadership at Auburn was his "crowning achievement." Ralph B. Draughon pointed to Broun's "greatest genius" as "his ability to select and bring to the Faculty a remarkable group of young men, many of whom were destined to shape the institution and guide it for fifty years after his death" in 1902.(43) President Broun redesigned the curriculum to strengthen the sciences; established separate departments of Civil Engineering, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, and Physics; obtained land for an agricultural experiment station; and convinced the board of trustees to authorize the faculty to use, in addition to the legal name of the college, the words "Alabama Polytechnic Institute." The trustees approved this on August 27, 1885, but A.P.I. was not made the legal name of the college until legislative resolution in 1899. Broun also openly recognized fraternities (1883), which had been operating secretly since 1878; helped organize the Alumni Association (1893); approved bringing football to Auburn; and persuaded the board of trustees to allow women to matriculate.(44)

On June 13, 1892, in his report to the trustees, President Broun noted that "the question of the advisability of extending the privileges of the college to young women had been the subject of careful consideration for several years." Despite the efforts of Tutwiler in west Alabama, Broun said that "apparently, at present, there is no demand in our state for this privilege, still it is a well-known principle that, in matters of higher education, the supply must precede and create the demand, hence the initiative must be taken by those in authority." Perhaps bowing to the opposition evident on the board and still prevalent in the state, Broun noted that he was not recommending coeducation, but only that "in a limited way" the "privilege be given young women, who may be qualified, to enjoy the advantages of instruction" at Auburn.(45) In his private discussions with the trustees, Broun must have been convincing since later that day the board resolved that "young women eighteen years of age, who are qualified to pursue the studies of the Junior Class, may be entered as students of the College, under such regulations as the Faculty may prescribe."(46) Thus, the land-grant college at Auburn became the first university in the state to allow women to matriculate.

Behind the Auburn faculty's resolve and Broun's support for coeducation was a group of determined Auburn girls, especially faculty daughters and particularly Broun's own precocious daughter Kate Conway Broun. The Auburn Female Institute, the town public school for girls as well as boys, was doing a remarkable job of preparing students for higher education, but it did not offer a true college course of study.(47) The boys could matriculate at the A. & M. College, but not the girls. A few A. & M. faculty allowed town girls to sit in on their classes, and this had not been disruptive. Auburn had actively recruited women for the special summer college courses, offering classes in chemistry, French, German, and Latin for $10 to $20 a term.(48) The presence of women in summer classes proved no problem.

Times were hard, and Alabama families could ill afford to send their girls out of state to school. The depression that sent the nation's economy crashing in 1893 had already affected the South. Auburn professors found it beyond their means to educate their daughters anywhere but the local female seminary. Then, too, some mothers were reluctant to have their daughters travel so far from home, and considering Southern xenophobia of the times, fathers were no doubt loath to have their belles sent North and taught by Northern teachers. When Annie White Mell, wife of botany and geology professor P. H. Mell, talked about the reasons for coeducation at Auburn, she noted that 400 Southern "young ladies" were enrolled in Northern colleges in 1892 because their states were not providing quality higher education for them.(49)

When the trustees' resolution was announced, the Birmingham Age-Herald congratulated the agricultural and mechanical college for taking this progressive "step forward." The paper supported both coeducation at Auburn and Tutwiler's female industrial college, writing "why can't we have the privilege of educating our girls at Auburn and at a college of their own also? We can't have too much education along this line."(50) The Montgomery Advertiser bragged that the Auburn laboratories were superior to those found at either Vassar or Wellesley, challenging that "we will see whether in Alabama there is any demand among our young women for the higher scientific or linguistic education."(51)

On June 23, 1892, the Tuscaloosa Gazette announced that the A. & M. College trustees "took a long stride forward when they decided to throw the doors of the college open to young women seeking higher education. Now the daughters of Alabama will not be compelled to go to other states to enjoy the privilege of pursuing the higher branches of study such as are usually pursued by young men. Here in their own state, the opportunity is now open to them and every advantage will be afforded them in that direction."(52)

Six days later the University of Alabama board of trustees, aware of the action taken at Auburn, met in Tuscaloosa. The members had invited Julia Tutwiler to appear before the board behind closed doors and discuss admitting women to the university. She made a "strong and eloquent appeal in behalf of this movement."(53)

Following her meeting with the trustees, Tutwiler dictated a letter of appreciation, "in the name of the women of Alabama," to Auburn president Broun. She wrote that "it seems to me too good to be true, that what I have wished and hoped for 20 years has quietly come to pass." She attached a copy of her address to the University of Alabama trustees in which she commented that it was "an obvious injustice" that "the most stupid boy in Alabama can obtain, at our state university an education without paying tuition and the most brilliant girl is debarred from this privilege." Tutwiler felt that women should not be neglected because "God has given to men so much more bodily strength and vigor that they can more easily than women support themselves even when deprived of the assistance of education."

Tutwiler charged that when the federal government gave land in 1819 for the support of a "seminary for the education of the youth of the State" it did not exclude females, but big brother "grabbed the whole apple, and the little sister did not even get a bite." She reminded the University of Alabama trustees that the A. & M. College at Auburn had already "performed a tardy but praiseworthy act of justice by at least holding out the apple to the little sister for a bite," and she challenged them to follow Auburn's lead since "Alabama should not be the last to do justice to her women." Just before Tutwiler left the trustee meeting, a resolution supporting her position was introduced but not passed, although the men privately assured her that the University intended to move in this direction as soon as "suitable arrangements" might be made.(54)

On the sunny fall morning of September 13, 1892, three young ladies walked briskly toward Samford Hall (called Old Main Hall until 1929) to take examinations for admission to the junior class at A.P.I., the agricultural and mechanical college. Kate Conway Broun led the group, her black hair twisted into a bun at her neck with her "straight-forward gray eyes" under heavy brows watching the path before her. Like her companions, Willie Gertrude Little and Margaret Kate Teague, she wore a long dark skirt and "a snow-white shirt-waist with high, boned collar and long sleeves puffed at the top." Mollie Hollifield recorded that Kate took the girls up the south steps of Samford Hall and into her father's office. President LeRoy Broun smiled, aware of the historic nature of the moment.(55)

For some time Kate had been determined to matriculate at Auburn, and the other two had joined her plea.(56) Willie Little's father was a businessman, farmer, and mayor of Auburn, while Kate Teague had come to Auburn from Arkansas after her mother's death to live with her aunt, Mary Teague Hollifield. Her Uncle Hal had helped prepare her for the examinations. The three girls were taken to a long room where many young men were taking entrance examinations for the freshman class. In order not to compete with the female seminaries of the state and to limit entrance to mature young ladies, A.P.I. had restricted admittance to those who were qualified to pursue the studies of the junior class, so it was necessary for the girls to do well on the exams.(57) They were required to stand examinations in mathematics and either English, History, or Latin.(58)

The three young women received good marks on their examinations and were admitted to the junior class. Strict rules excluded women from the campus except while attending class, but otherwise there were no rules since the girls all lived at home. They were required when they entered the campus to walk directly to class and to leave the campus immediately after class dismissed. No loitering or flirting with the cadets was allowed. Later a room in Samford Hall was furnished as a study and rest room where girls could stay between classes.(59)

Auburn male students made no objection to the addition of women to their classes, and "the general belief is that the association with studious, ambitious, earnest girls is very beneficial to a youth."(60) In 1893 President Broun reported to the trustees that coeducation at Auburn had been "widely published in the state" and recognized it as a movement in "the spirit of the age."(61) He noted that all the women who applied were accepted, and their rank was "with the best students" and their "influence eminently inspiring and beneficial." The Montgomery Advertiser wrote that the girls had proved "their ability successfully to cope with the best of their male competitors, and in some instances to obtain the mastery over them."(62)

The next month at Tuscaloosa, Governor Thomas M. Jones attended the commencement ceremonies and board of trustees meeting at the University of Alabama, staying in the presidential mansion as a guest of President Richard C. Jones. He was accompanied by his daughters and "the popular Miss Lidie Lane of Auburn."(63) During the trustees' meeting a resolution to admit women was introduced that was similar to the one approved the year before at Auburn.(64)

The Birmingham Age-Herald announced on the front page that coeducation at the state university met with the "unqualified endorsement of the friends of the institution" and editorially commended women for "emerging from cloister-like homes" to accept "duties that mean something more than the sewing circle or the teacup gossip of idle hours."(65) The Tuscaloosa News thought coeducation would stimulate "the boys to increased effort" for "the lords of creation" are "ever averse to playing second fiddle."(66) To comments that Southern women would be "a little slow" to attend "mixed universities," the paper noted that it was "high time that we shake off those shackles of a morbid public sentiment against co-education, which are born of ignorance and prejudice as well as man's conceit."(67) Two women enrolled at the Tuscaloosa campus in the fall of 1893.

In the late nineteenth century, commencement festivities at the Alabama Polytechnic Institute lasted an entire week, beginning on a Thursday and ending with graduation the next Wednesday. The town made ready for the influx of people. Everyone came "to enjoy the gaieties of the season": parents, friends, alumni, politicians, and lots of lovely girls who arrived at the train station with trunks filled with ball gowns. When a few hotels were finally built in the village, the inns were always crowded to capacity. Most visitors took rooms in private residences. Normally six passenger trains stopped at Auburn each day-three northbound and three southbound-but the Western Railway offered reduced rates and stopped every train passing through Auburn during the week of commencement. Trains from Montgomery arrived "with standing room only."(68)

There were dances every day, sometimes two-a tea dance in the afternoon and a formal dance in the evening, the senior hop, a German in the gymnasium, or the junior or sophomore cotillion in the basement of Langdon Hall. At night fireworks lit up the sky. Sunday brought a commencement sermon and a Y.M.C.A. address that evening. Afternoons were spent listening to oratorical contests, debates, or the alumni lecture. The alums also paraded and enjoyed class reunions and a luncheon at which toasts and tributes to "Old Auburn" and her "sons" resounded.

The A.P.I. cadets marched in drill competitions reviewed by the governor, his staff, and prominent leaders of the legislature. Young ladies, their flower-bedecked hats standing out among the sameness of the cadet uniforms, wore the colors of their sweethearts' companies, which competed for gold medals. The board of trustees met during the week, and the events were covered by state papers whose accounts of the festivities appeared on the front page the following day.

Commencement week at Auburn in 1894 was the largest graduation week ever held to that time, and it represented a "new departure" as three women were awarded "degrees and all honors." Kate Broun, Willie Little, and Kate Teague received their diplomas "amid thunderous applause."(69) Governor Jones rose from his chair on the dais to congratulate each one. They had accomplished what many thought impossible, and President Broun said they did it "with ease."(70) But it was many years before Auburn's male commencement speakers learned not to address the "young men of the graduating class," as Governor Joseph F. Johnston did in 1897 when Annie Heard and Estelle Whitaker received degrees with their class.(71)

Until the turn of the century Auburn enrolled increasing numbers of female students, and they represented a greater percent of students than at Tuscaloosa. For instance, in 1896 Auburn had 13 female students out of a total enrollment of 361 (3.6 percent) while the University of Alabama enrolled one female in a total student body of 167 (.6 percent).(72) The number of women enrolled at Auburn rose to a high of 19 in 1897 and 1898, then declined and held steady at about 10 until lows of five were recorded in 1908 and 1909.

Yet more women at Auburn did not guarantee them equal treatment. In the historical section of the 1962 Dean of Women's report for the Auburn University Self Study, the slow growth in female enrollment at A.P.I. was blamed on the "little if any recognition in class" that women received "except to have their names called from the roll." The tradition was "that no woman student was ever called on to participate audibly in class room work" and that "for many years the attitude of townspeople and college students was one of mere tolerance of coeducation."(73) This is substantiated from early coeds like Leland Cooper, who graduated in 1907 and recalled in a 1972 interview that her physics professor would not call on the girls. The women "just had to attend class and pass the tests."(74) When one professor called on Mollie Hollifield Jones, she "burst into tears" because she did not know the answer, and Annie Terrell Basore said the professor never again called on a girl. The professors usually greeted the girls at the classroom door and ushered them to the front seats.(75)

Since Auburn coeds in the early years were all daughters of townspeople and faculty, including the president's daughter, the notion that coeducation was merely tolerated seems incorrect. It also does not fit with the contemporary newspaper accounts and other documentation. The question remains of just how integrated women were in the life of the college and how crucial a factor this involvement might have been in a woman's college choice.(76)

A better explanation for the slow growth of coed enrollment might be found in the lack of a women's dormitory and the limited selection of majors in areas that could lead to jobs for women. Both these issues were addressed by the college in the early 1920s. By 1920 Auburn's total enrollment had increased to 1,075, including 18 women (1.7 percent). By contrast, the University of Alabama student body numbered 1,661, including 293 women (17.6 percent). Although there were more women at Tuscaloosa, female students there complained of "rudeness from the men" and of the lack of university housing for women and in 1911 wrote a "Declaration of the Rights of a Co-Ed" for the student newspaper.(77) Auburn coeds were not so uncomfortable on campus.

Following World War I and during the relatively prosperous years of the Roaring Twenties, total enrollments at both universities increased, Tuscaloosa's more than doubling. The 1929 Depression slowed the growth of attendanÝlleges, but by 1938 women represented almost 26 percent of the 5,210 students at the Tuscaloosa state university. It was 1961 before women represented more than 26 percent of Auburn students (in a total student enrollment of 9,270). Auburn's high ratio of men to women, especially before 1959, was one of the college's most attractive features to young women interested in meeting a future husband and was frequently mentioned by women in reminiscences of A.P.I. college days.

There were differences in the female students attending the two institutions. Faculty daughters also attended the University at Tuscaloosa, but coeds at Alabama were more likely to come from distant hometowns than those attending A.P.I., who with rare exception came from Auburn, Opelika, and Lee County.(78) This meant that women who attended Auburn during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries lived at home and walked to the campus or rode the train from Opelika, rising early to catch the 6:00 a.m. train for Auburn.

Later as A.P.I. attracted students from a wider area, the women boarded with families in town just as the boys did, although the homes in which girls lodged were more carefully selected, and boarding houses were not mixed by sex. There were no college rules for their behavior because they were "grown young ladies" who "behaved themselves at home and elsewhere with dignity and discretion" and needed "no matron."(79)



1. Glomerata, 1919, 14.

2. Daniel R. Hundley, Social Relations in Our Southern States (New York: Henry B. Price, 1860), 72.

3. Anne Firor Scott, The Southern Lady From Pedestal to Politics, 1830-1930 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), 4-5.

4. Robert Eno Hunt, "Organizing a New South: Education Reformers in Antebellum Alabama, 1840-1860" (diss., University of Missouri-Columbia, 1983), 372-73.

5. Shirley Ann Hickson, "The Development of Higher Education for Women in the Antebellum South" (diss., University of South Carolina, 1985), 214-16. Hickson studied only one college in Alabama, Judson. The diplomas granted by women's colleges in the antebellum South were not "Bachelor's Degrees." See page 256.

6. Anne Firor Scott, ed., The American Woman, Who Was She? (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1971), 59.

7. Quoted in Kenneth R. Johnson, "White Married Women in Antebellum Alabama," The Alabama Review 43 (January 1990): 7.

8. Anne Firor Scott, "The 'New Woman' in the New South," South Atlantic Quarterly 61 (Autumn 1962): 474.

9. Paul M. Pruitt, Jr., "Julia S. Tutwiler: Years of Innocence," Alabama Heritage 22 (Fall 1991): 38-44.

10. While not part of this story, it is interesting to note that Judson College in Marion, Alabama, was founded in 1838 by a group of Baptists who appointed Milo P. Jewett principal. Jewett resigned in 1855 and returned to the North, believing his efforts to develop a strong academic course for girls were frustrated by the Baptist leadership. In the 1860s Jewett brought his Judson experience with his dreams into a partnership with Matthew Vassar's money, and together they founded Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, an institution that soon became the premier women's university in the nation. See Frances Dew Hamilton and Elizabeth Crabtree Wells, Daughters of the Dream: Judson College, 1838- 1988 (Marion, Alabama: Judson College, 1989), 52-54.

11. Elizabeth Lee Ihle, "The Development of Coeducation in the Major Southern State Universities" (Ed.D. diss., University of Tennessee, 1976), 72-73.

12. Paul M. Pruitt, Jr., "Julia S. Tutwiler: Years of Experience," Alabama Heritage 23 (Winter 1992): 31-33.

13. Charles Wesley Edwards, "The East Alabama Male College," Alabama School Journal (December 1953): 6-9.

14. Charles Wesley Edwards, "EAMC Becomes State School" Alabama School Journal (January 1954): 8-10.

15. William Warren Rogers, "The Founding of Alabama's Land Grant College at Auburn," The Alabama Review 40 (January 1987): 14-25.

16. Walter L. Fleming, Civil War and Reconstruction in Alabama (New York: Columbia University Press, 1905), 616. Fleming, who received his B.S. from A.P.I. in 1896, cited "the men who furnished the bribes." He produced the manuscript of this book as a dissertation at Columbia.

17. "A History of the Alabama Polytechnic Institute," Orange and Blue, January 2, 1895. The act was signed on Feb. 26, 1872.

18. Neil 0. Davis, "Tales From (and About) Toomer's Corner," Auburn University Founder's Day Address, May 3, 1980.

19. Rogers, "Founding of Land Grant College," 24-37.

20. Montgomery Advertiser, February 28, 1872; Willis G. Clark, History of Education in Alabama, 1702-1889, No. 8, Bureau of Education (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1889), 139-140.

21. These widows and their boarding houses show up in the U.S. Census where women listed as heads of households with young children have occupations as "keepers" of boarding or lodging houses. Many of them lived on Gay Street and on Magnolia Avenue. One example is Kate R. Curtis, age 38 with four children ages 16, 12, 6, and 4. The number of women giving occupation as "cook in boarding house" is also remarkable.

22. Adolph Weil to Ralph B. Draughon, May 31, 1967, file 87, Draughon Papers, AU Archives.

23. Montgomery Advertiser, May 2, 1855, quoted in Earle Russell Smith, "History of The East Alabama Male College Located at Auburn, Alabama" (Master's thesis, Auburn University, 1932), 4- 7.

24. Mary Reese Frazer, "Early History of Auburn," Alabama Historical Quarterly 7 (Fall 1945): 439.

25. Malcolm McMillan and Allen Jones, Through the Years: Auburn from 1856 (Auburn University Publication, 1973; revised 1977), 5.

26. A. & M. College, Board of Trustees Minutes, July 12, 1875, 1: 200, AU Archives. Volume and page numbers are from typed transcripts, but quotes have been checked for accuracy with bound manuscript copy.

27. A. & M. College, Board of Trustees Minutes, June 25, 1877, 1: 229; June 26, 1877, 1: 244.

28. Joel Colley Watson, "Isaac Taylor Tichenor and the Administration of the Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College" (Master's thesis, Auburn University, 1968), 25, 87.

29. Geraldine Jonçich Clifford, ed., Lone Voyagers: Academic Women in Coeducational Universities, 1870-1937 (New York: The Feminist Press, City University of New York, 1989), 5.

30. Ihle, "Coeducation," 99-100.

31. Ralph M. Lyon, Julia Tutwiler (Livingston University, 1976), 9-10; and Charles William Dabney, Universal Education in the South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1936), 1: 325.

32. Anne Gary Pannell and Dorothea E. Wyatt, Julia S. Tutwiler and Social Progress in Alabama (University: University of Alabama Press, 1961), 98-99. A.P.I. is given credit for admitting women before the University of Alabama, but Auburn's scientific and technological curricula are misrepresented.

33. Wade H. Coleman, "Co-Education of the University of Alabama," 3, typed manuscript dated May 1931, and undated newspaper clipping "Julia Tutwiler: First Citizen of Alabama" by Helen Christine Bennett both in Julia S. Tutwiler Collection, Livingston University Library.

34. "Julia Strudwick Tutwiler," 3, typed manuscript, no author, no date, Tutwiler Collection.

35. Julia S. Tutwiler, "Co-education and Character," Alabama Education Association Proceedings and Papers of the Tenth Annual Session (Birmingham: Silver Book and Stationery Company, 1891), 73-76.

36. Mabel Newcomer, A Century of Higher Education for American Women (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959), 31.

37. Ely Van de Warker, Woman's Unfitness for Higher Coeducation (New York: The Grafton Press, 1903), 70-73.

38. Clifford, Lone Voyagers, 5.

39. Thomas Woody, A History of Women's Education in the United States (New York: The Science Press, 1929), 2: 265-67.

40. Newcomer, Higher Education for American Women, 36.

41. Elene Wilson Farello, A History of the Education of Women in the United States (New York: Vantage Press, 1970), 188.

42. McMillan and Jones, Through the Years, 6.

43. Ralph Brown Draughon, Alabama Polytechnic Institute (Newcomen Society of North America, 1954),15.

44. Minutes of the Board of Trustees, August 27, 1885, 1:312; McMillan and Jones, Through the Years, 7.

45. A. & M. College, Board of Trustees Minutes, June 13, 1892, 2:233.

46. A. & M. College, Board of Trustee Minutes, June 13, 1892, 2: 241.

47. Mrs. I.M.E. Blandin, History of Higher Education in the South Prior to 1860 (New York: Neale Publishing Company, 1909), 105-06; Ann Pearson, "The Auburn Female Institute," article for the Auburn Bulletin, about 1978, copy of MSS provided to author by Pearson.

48. See particularly the ads in the Montgomery Advertiser for June 3 and 4, 1892.

49. See Mrs. P. H. Mell, "Co-Education in Alabama," an address to the Alabama Federation of Women's Clubs, May 4-6, 1897, Mell Scrapbooks #5: 64, Petrie Collection, AU Archives.

50. Birmingham Age-Herald, June 16, 1892.

51. Montgomery Advertiser, June 14, 1892.

52. Tuscaloosa Gazette, June 23, 1892.

53. University of Alabama, Minutes of the Trustees, 1888-1895, June 29, 1892, 352-53, Hoole Special Collections, University of Alabama Library.

54. Julia S. Tutwiler to William LeRoy Broun, July 11, 1892, with attachment "To the President, Faculty, and Trustees of the University of Alabama," Broun Papers, AU Archives; and Helen Delpar, "Coeds and the 'Lords of Creation': Women Students at The University of Alabama, 1893-1930," The Alabama Review 42 (October 1989): 293.

55. Mollie Hollifield, Auburn: Loveliest Village of th(1955), 24-25.

56. Co-Etiquette: A Handbook for Women Students (Auburn: A.P.I. Women's Student Government Association, 1943), 5.

57. Catalog Agricultural and Mechanical College, 1892-93, 39, and 1893-94, 28-29, and Mell, "Co-Education in Alabama."

58. Robbie Smith Sparks, "A Handbook of the Alabama Polytechnic Institute" (Master's thesis, Auburn University, 1935), 225.

59. Sparks, "Handbook of the A.P.I.," 225-26.

60. Mell, "Co-Education in Alabama."

61. A. & M. College, Minutes of the Trustees, June 12, 1893, 2:261.

62. Clipping from Montgomery Advertiser, March 31, 1893.

63. Tuscaloosa News, July 5, 1893.

64. University of Alabama, Board of Trustees Minutes, June 28, 1893, 439.

65. Birmingham Age-Herald, June 30, 1893.

66. Tuscaloosa News, July 5, 1893.

67. Tuscaloosa News, July 12, 1893.

68. William LeRoy Broun to Col. E. M. Tyler, General Manager, Western Railroad of Alabama, June 5, 1893, Broun Papers.

69. See especially the coverage in the Montgomery Advertiser, June 10, 13, and 14, 1894.

70. Mell Scrapbooks, #8: 46.

71. Mell Scrapbooks, #5: 5.

72. Statistics for Auburn are from Gerald S. Leischuck to Leah R. Atkins, April 3, 1992, with attachment "Enrollment by Gender," and for the University of Alabama from the chart in Delpar, "Coeds and the 'Lords of Creation,'" 294.

73. AU 1962 Self Study, Dean of Women's Report, 14: 2. There is no footnote citation for the quotation.

74. Quoted in the Auburn Alumnews, May 1981, 19.

75. Montgomery Advertiser, June 2, 1955, AU series-Women, file #708, AU Archives.

76. Elisa Litvin, "Women at the Alabama Polytechnic Institute, 1892-1915," 10-11, AU Archives.

77. Delpar, "Coeds and the 'Lords of Creation,'" 294-97.

78. See the students listed in the Auburn Glomerata for the years 1897-1907; Sparks, "Handbook of A.P.I.," 228; and telephone conversation with Dr. Jerry Oldshue, University Historian, University of Alabama, June 18, 1992.

79. Mell, "Co-Education," Mell Scrapbooks #5: 66.


Blossoms, part 2

Blossoms, part 3