Sarah Elizabeth Swift Lathers would not have received a college education if her father and some other men had not insisted that women had the right to study, too. Sarah was a member of the class of 1878, graduating sight years after women were formally admitted to the University. Her daughter, Gladys Lathers, lives in Ypsilanti. She remembers that one of her mother's classmates was Charles Mills Gailey, who wrote "The Yellow and the Blue." Miss Lathers still has her mother's diploma - she was one of the outstanding scholars in her class. "President Angell referred to my mother as one of the most brilliant women he had ever met," the daughter said proudly. But women had quite a struggle before they were allowed to put their brains to work at the University. A woman asked to be admitted in 1850 and by 1858 there were many requests. The University realized that the admittance of women would have to be considered. The opposition was strong. One man at that time summed up the feelings of many men: he worried about the ill effects women would have on scholarship, manners, morals and health. Did women possess enough intelligence to come to the University? Would men stop coming to the University? And where would the women live? What would they do for fun? While Henry S. Frieze, a Latin professor, was serving as acting president, women were finally admitted. The Regents passed a resolution in January, 1870, stating that "no rules exist . . . for the exclusion of any person from the University who possesses the requisite literary and moral qualifications." But the battle had only begun. Madelon L. Stockwell of Kalamazoo entered as the first woman student on Feb. 2, 1870. Her fellow students were "studiously unaware of her," according to Howard Peckham, director of the Clements Library. As other women followed Miss Stockwell to the campus, they were referred to as "mister" in the classroom or simply ignored during recitations. When plans were formulated for a University gymnasium, the women students learned that the men did not want to share it. Frustration and the desire for their own meeting place gathered the women together to organize a major fundraising effort for another gym. Two Regents contributed money and the women worked to get the rest. They distributed, for a fee, an edition of "Inlander," a campus magazine. It contained the texts of supportive letters they had received from prominent people all over the country. For additional cash, they cut the signatures from the original letters and sold them as autographs. The women would have a gym so President Angell appointed a deán of women to run it. Dr. Eliza Mosher took the position in 1896 and the gym opened two years later. 1898 was also the year that Mrs. J. Leslie French entered the University. A member of the class of 1902, Mrs. French lives in a white house on Oakland Street. She has retained a wealth of information about her days at the University in her pictures, her scrapbooks and in her anecdotes. By the time she arrived in Ann Arbor, the town had recovered from its initial aversión to women. She did not find it as difficult to rent a room as the first women students had. As a freshman, she remembers her Bible classes with President Angells wife, a tuition fee of $40 a year and an unending registration line, which must have been bom with the University. She was appointed class poetess and recited one of her poems at the freshman class banquet and dance in the sorine. The freshman girls were lucky to have escorts because the sophomore boys tried to catch the freshman boys on the way to the dance and shave their heads. ''I was rushed," she recalled, "but my mother was n o t impressed- she thought that sororities were undemocratic. I never joined. "For fun we had picnics, concerts and lectures. I remember cakewalks across bridges and almost breaking my legs when I rode 'headlight' at the end of State Street on a toboggan." When Mrs. French went to college, the women had no hours or supervision- they could stay out as late as they pleased. In 1906 Mrs. French, the former Edna Cumming, married the Rev. French, who became the student pastor. Mrs. French joined him in his work with the students. They established Westminster House, the first organized residence hall for women. In 1918 the first three women to hold professors' seats were appointed. Mrs. Margaret E. Tracy came to Ann Arbor in 1925 as assistant professor of personnel management in the School of Business Administration. Now a professor emeritus, she makes her home on Ridgeway Street. When Mrs. Tracy came to the University, there were not many women professors. Most of them were concentrated in physcial education or nursing. "We were a little more on trial, but never really discriminated against," she said. "However, we were subjected to numerous prejudices." For many years women entered the Union only through the side door. They were not allowcd to eat in the main dining room. accent on women A special dining room was set aside for the women and if a man accompanied a woman to the Union, he was r e quir ed to e a t in the women's dining room. "I presented a major problem to the economics department," Mrs. Tracy grinned. "They used to form a flying wedge to get me by the head waiter! "Everything was so simple then. We all knew each other so well. There were no masses of concrete walks; the d i r t was covered w i t h board walks in the winter and I remember the h o r s edrawn snowplow which cleared the walks. And there was no parking problem!" Mrs. Tracy feels that women professors have always "worked so quietly in their special fields that nobody really hears about them. "During the 1930s we decided to bring the women of the faculty together and in 1938 the Women of the Faculty was officially organized." Mrs. Tracy mentioned some of her colleagues who lave served for many years it the University - Dr. Elizabeth Crosby, a professor ïmeritus in anatomy; Prof. Sylvia Thrupp, an Alice Freeman Palmer professor of his:ory; Prof. Murial Meyers, a irofessor in internal medicine ind associate director of the simpson Institute, and Dean f R h o d a R. Russell of the School of Nursing. Her list went on to name many other women who are continuing to serve at the University. To honor these women educators and their women students, the University is celebrating the lOOth anniversary of the entrance of women this year. A 16-member committee, including Regent Gertrude V. Huebner and Acting Vice-' president Barbara Newell, has been working to plan the activities. The Alumnae Council will meet April 10 and 11. Representatives of the local alumnae clubs will decide how to observe the centennial in their home communities. An Alumnae Day, scheduled for May 1, is b e i n g planned by Mrs. Paul Robertson of Franklin. Discussions will be presented on ecology, students and the Center for the Continuing Education of Women (CEW). The highlight of Alumnae Day will be a luncheon honoring former Regent Irene Murphy of Birmingham. Guests will watch a fashion show, illustrating clothing changes during the past century, visit the Museum of Art and attend a reception at the home of President and Mrs. Robben W. Fleming. Events scheduled for the fall include a meeting of the Alumnae Council, an exhibit of the work of former Life Magazine photographer Margaret Bourke-White and a teach-in on women. The CEW wül hold its annual conference, "Women on Campus" and the centennial will be observed by other academie areas as well.
Rights Held By
Donated by the Ann Arbor News. © The Ann Arbor News.