Fall 2020: Women at UVA
Thank you for the fantastic special anniversary issue “Women at Virginia.” The embarrassingly overdue decision to admit women allowed my sister and two of my daughters to attend the University. My mother, Dr. Sarah Roberts Chitwood, graduated from the UVA medical school in 1948 (one of three women in her class). On the date of her graduation, one of her professors asked her to be his secretary. She politely declined and always regretted not telling him to go to hell.
H. Lee Chitwood (Col ’83)
The 1967–68 academic year was the first year African American women were accepted as residents in Mary Munford Hall, the only dormitory housing female students. I came to UVA with a BS in mathematics and a 10-year teaching certificate to teach mathematics in Virginia’s secondary schools. My roommate was the first African American woman in the law school. Two other African American women pursuing graduate degrees were in the dormitory. I graduated with a Master of Education degree in mathematics, envisioning becoming a professor of mathematics at one of the Ivy League schools. Six years after graduating and teaching mathematics at two universities, I did not renew my contract in favor of a higher calling: becoming a stay-at-home mom with three children. My kitchen became my classroom for teaching mathematics to our children, our grandchildren and 12 of the children in my communities.
Margaret C. Reynolds (Educ ’68)
The UVA School of Architecture conferred a BS in architecture on my mother, Lucie Guerrant Gillespie, on February 28, 1944. As our mother related to me and my sisters, when she applied to UVA she was denied entry because the director of the architecture program was dead set against a woman in his program. But she and her father traveled to Charlottesville and challenged the University to provide the legal basis for her denial. The University found itself stymied and had to admit her. She also said that another woman was admitted that year (along with the first Jewish person). The other woman did not complete the program, so we believe, as she believed, that she was the first woman to graduate from the University of Virginia architecture program.
Lucinda Greever Nicholson
Burke’s Garden, Virginia
When I began at the law school in 1968, UVA was very much a “boy’s school”! For example, the university swimming pool only permitted women on Friday evening, when it was open to the whole Charlottesville community!
Carol Olson (Law ’71)
My husband, William Stehle (Col ’72, Educ ’75), and I are remembering our days on the Grounds as we read the anniversary issue of the Virginia Magazine. Thank you so much for your coverage of these fascinating events in the history of the University of Virginia. On our frequent visits back to our alma mater, we are surprised that most of the students we talk with do not know that UVA has not always been coed.
When 450 women were admitted to the College in 1970, about 100 of them entered as third-year students. As a transfer from Emory University, I was one of those women. We graduated from the College in 1972—a year ahead of Virginia Scott. I had the special distinction of being not only in the first class of “Connie Coeds” but also a “townie.” In 1968 I had the privilege of graduating from Albemarle High School with Virginia Anne Scott and Sally Floyd. My husband loves to tell the story of how shocked he was to see long blond hair when he entered social psychology class in September 1970. We were married at the UVA Chapel in August 1972.
Thanks for the memories.
Teresa Booker Stehle (Col ’72)
I read with interest your review of the accomplishments of women over the years at UVA. One of only four women in my medical school class of 1972 entering in 1968 was Venus Jones. She was African American and female. Maybe the first at UVA. She was from Petersburg and became a neurologist and a career Air Force Officer. She died in an automobile accident several years ago. I suppose she might not have been the first Black female medical school graduate, but she was remarkable. I missed any mention of her.
Dr. John W. Seeds (Med ’72)
Not Without a Fight
Surely the ultimate outcome of the “fight” to enroll female undergraduates in UVA was celebrated by many Virginians—especially women. However, as proud alumnae of UVA’s “sister school,” Mary Washington College (now UMW), we felt the unflattering portrayal of our alma mater required our response.
No doubt Mary Washington suffered growing pains in the 1940s and 1950s as it transitioned from a state teachers’ college to a liberal arts institution. However, we feel comments in the article (from the Woody Commission Report) that attending Mary Washington would be a “comedown” for plaintiff Scott, and from the late feminist Kate Millett’s expert testimony that she found Mary Washington “to be deplorable” and disparities between UVA and Mary Washington “appalling,” not only sullied the good name of Mary Washington, but was also insulting to thousands of competent, intelligent women graduates.
In his conclusion, the article’s author, Richard Gard, notes that Mary Washington has “gone on to become a full-fledged university” to which we would add: “And a darned fine one, at that!”
Barbara Burton Micou
Linda Gattis Shull (Educ ’71)
Charlotte, North Carolina
Since I graduated from UVA in 1961, I have rarely given more than a cursory look at Virginia Magazine. The special anniversary issue was a notable exception. I read every word. It was a fascinating trip, not only down memory lane, but to what had been done since I left UVA. Except for hitchhiking to Sweetbriar, Randolph Macon, Mary Washington and Chatham Hall, where I had a homesick sister, I only knew a nurse, a Bulgarian student in Mary Munford, and a few female graduate students. The anniversary issue made me wish I were 61 rather than 81.
Dan Joslyn (Col ’61)
Allow me to supplement your excellent coverage centered on the admission of women to the College of Arts and Sciences in 1970. The coverage properly relates the support of faculty and many administrators for the admission of women to the College. We should also emphasize another feature: the support of students in the College itself.
Those of us who ran successfully for election to the University Student Council as College representatives in 1968 and 1969 emphasized support of coeducation as part of our platform.
I appreciate your coverage of my Minority Report, which I took to the University Student Council, where it was endorsed by a unanimous vote on Sept. 23, 1969.
I am especially proud of an element of the Minority Report that evidently was considered by the Board of Visitors: the timing of implementing coeducation. Arguments had been raised about changes that would be necessary as to facilities and programs should women be admitted to the College. I discussed a two-year process in my minority report:
“If a large portion of the women admitted are in the first-year class (as they would be under an equal-admissions proposal) much of the difficulties regarding allocation of resources can be solved over a period of two years, since first-year students have most of their schedules filled with required courses.”
The Board of Visitors, in rejecting the long-term quota plan, approved a two-year transition plan, with fully equal admissions thereafter. I like to think my Minority Report opened the door to this approach.
Kevin L. Mannix (Col ’71, Law ’74)
Richard Gard’s narrative was a delightful read. At the time of the events in the article, I was the Daily Progress reporter responsible for their coverage. I learned 10 times more from Gard’s article just now than I knew at the time, despite numerous interviews with the principals and attending the Richmond hearings in person.
One minor aside: John Lowe and Kevin Mannix, during their times at UVA’s law school, served as chairmen of the Charlottesville branch of the ACLU.
Barry R. Plotnick (Col ’59)
Thank you, Richard Gard, for your splendid article. It has righted a wrong that has been a thorn in my conscience for a half-century.
In October 1970 I published an article about a similar fight that Mary Munford fought—and very nearly won—in the General Assembly of 1916. But in order to have the piece appear in The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, I had to cut eight words from the first footnote.
Even then, I knew those eight words, describing the final victory in 1970 “as the result of a class action suit,” were important. But the editor’s reader, Virginius Dabney, said they oversimplified a complicated situation since the Board of Governors had been working on a plan to admit women as undergraduates long before that suit was filed.
Still, to me, it felt wrong to make that cut. And I began to wonder if some other journal might be willing to accept the piece intact. Then Virginia McKenney Claiborne, my friend and collaborator from the Richmond Bryn Mawr Club—the woman who had virtually forced me to write that article and had helped enormously with its research—sat me down on the sofa in her living room. After a long sigh, she began to explain something she had learned from the years she spent as Mary Munford’s “lieutenant,” responding to often rancorous attacks in the General Assembly:
“Sometimes you need to accept a small defeat to keep the way clear to a larger victory. Your article belongs in that particular magazine which so many influential Virginians read.” So that’s why I let it go with those words in the footnote deleted. And why I’m grateful to you now for telling the whole truth and setting the record straight.
Anne Hobson Freeman (Grad ’73)
It Was About Time
In the timeline of women at UVA, it says that in 1972 Duke became coed. This was rather a surprise to me, since I entered Duke as a woman student in 1967. It is true that the Women’s College and Trinity (the men’s college) did not technically merge until 1972, but for all intents and purposes Duke was a coed institution years before that.
Emily Williams Kelly (Grad ’86)
Awesome to see the article, but this entry on the timeline is not accurate. The women’s swim team competed starting in 1974–75. The governing organization was the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, as the NCAA wasn’t quite ready for us. Prior to 1974, there were woman swimmers and divers competing on the men’s teams and representing UVA at the University Games.
Dorothy “Dottie” Dilts (Engr ’78)
There were three women on the men’s swim and dive team in 1973–74. Ellen Feldman and Susan Allen were swimmers. I was a diver.
They did start the women’s program in the 1974–75 school year with seven swimmers and three divers. Dottie Dilts was one of the swimmers, and was an All American swimmer.
Anita O’Quinn (Educ ’78)
Falls Church, Virginia
A Legend in Residence
I saw with pleasure that Virginia Magazine included a piece on William Faulkner and his residency. It was engaging and colorful. But I wanted to know what his classes were like, not just his appearance and quirks of personality and dress.
I attended UVA in the mid-’70s, one of the student body’s first women. Faulkner, though 20 years gone from his residency, was everywhere apparent. I loved how my thorough instruction about his work at UVA was enhanced by that earlier presence.
Mary Helen “Lenny” Granger (Col ’77)
Columbia Falls, Montana
During my first year at law school in 1954, I was studying for an exam at the apartment of my classmate Paul Summers and his wife, Jill. I noticed a beautiful set of leatherbound books and asked Paul about them. They were Jill’s father’s books—William Faulkner. My wife, Telsa, was friends with Jill and visited her in the hospital after the birth of her son. As Telsa walked into her room, Jill introduced her to “Pappy.” Telsa was flabbergasted to see William Faulkner in the room; it was a moment she never forgot.
Several times a week I would see this distinguished gentleman wearing his famous tweed jacket and hat, smoking his pipe and strolling down Rugby Road to meet with his students—a sight I think about quite often.
Arnold H. Leon (Col ’55 Law ’57)
Your article “A Legend in Residence” acknowledges that William Faulker “said things that were paternalistic at best.” But what about your reference to the highly regarded author Caroline Gordon as “the wife of poet Allen Tate”? My mother was a student at the Woman’s College of UNC (now UNC Greensboro) when Allen Tate and Caroline Gordon were both in the English department there. When I was a graduate student in the early ’70s, one of my professors knew both Gordon and Tate. My professor, who was loyal to Gordon, claimed that it was she who was offered a position at Greensboro and that Tate had come as what’s now known as a “trailing spouse.”
Christopher Gould (Col ’69)
Hendersonville, North Carolina
What the ’Hoo
The Athletic Department’s changes to the logos is a clear case of fixing something that wasn’t broken. When I first saw the shield logo, my first impression was an eyeball with a large eyebrow. The Athletic Department’s announcement included an explanation of the nuances of the logo details that I would never have recognized without their written description. A logo should impart its message clearly and instantly. As for the new faceless Cavalier with Carolina blue accents that is intended to be more inclusive, almost everything in life is deemed offensive or exclusive to someone. Where does it end?
E. L. Brickner (Engr ’70)
Las Vegas, Nevada
Fall 2020 Corrections
We want to correct the record on a few items in “It Was About Time,” the fall issue’s timeline on women at UVA:
- Women’s swimming and diving became a varsity sport in 1974. We gave an incorrect date.
- A graduate school at Virginia State University was established in 1935. We wrongly said the university itself was founded then.
- We cited the official start of coeducation at Duke University as 1972, the year all-male Trinity College merged with Duke’s co-ordinate women’s college, though actual coeducation was occurring before then.