Margaret Sutherland Coleman

Margaret Sutherland Coleman (Educ ‘49) came to UVA from Atlanta when her husband, James Coleman Jr. (Law ‘51), began Law School. As undergraduates, women could only attend classes in the education and nursing schools, so Coleman had to make a decision. “I had two choices: teaching or nursing. I chose teaching and I loved it.

Margaret Sutherland Coleman (Educ ‘49)

“I just felt like everything about Virginia was topnotch,” says Coleman. She participated in social activities with her husband’s law class, which was already coeducational, and befriended women who were law students. With World War II only just ended, Coleman remembers the late ‘40s as a particularly serious time at the University, when the newly returned soldiers were catching up on their studies. “We were studying a whole lot harder than people are studying now,” she says. “We were all coming back to an empty world. It took a lot of working and caring to make it worthwhile to win that war.”

Coleman in front of a house she shared with her husband

The School of Education

Established in 1905, the Curry Memorial School of Education first admitted women in 1920; by 1922, five women earned degrees from the school in a class of eight students. From that time on, women constituted the majority of the student body. Indeed, more than half of the degrees conferred on women from UVA between 1920 and 1970 were from the Curry School.

Next: Janet Blakeman’s experience as a law student in the ’50s