Women at Kenyon College

Kenyon was near bankruptcy in the late 1960s. Through several meetings of trustees, faculty, parents, and other associations of the College, allowing women into Kenyon seemed the best solution to its monetary problems.

Architect's concept drawing for Kenyon's new women's college.
Kenyon was undergoing the process of departmental evaluation at the time of the planning of the women's college. The College realized that the humanities were suffering and that new departments were needed. In public meetings involving students, faculty, and administration, discussions centered on the impact of women on new humanities departments. Women at other colleges had typically been more interested in the humanities, while men throughout the country and at Kenyon had been attracted to the sciences. Sociology, anthropology, and other new additions were discussed, and all decided that it would be better to add such departments after the arrival of women, to ensure the success of the humanities.

In addition to new departments, Kenyon invited three women from Bennington College to speak to the community on academic alternatives. They introduced Kenyon to the pass/fail option, synoptic majors, and independent studies. According to the Bennington women, these paths would lead to a better understanding between instructor and student, men and women alike. If the College intended to add humanities departments, then all of the women's ideas were wise choices in their success.

The College held a drive to collect money for the construction of the women's college. What was at the time wooded hills would be razed to put in new dormitories and a women's union building, containing dining and entertainment facilities. Some Gambier citizens were unhappy with the plans to tear out a part of their beautiful village. They were proud of their quaint town, and destroying a section to erect a women's college seemed to be a departure from the village they had all enjoyed. The added traffic meant rerouting roads and destroying more natural areas. Moreover, they thought that the increase in population with the women's college would take away from the same sense of small, close-knit community. However, both the Kenyon community and the Village of Gambier would have to accept the women and the college as inevitable.

The Collegian covered the progress, referring to the women's college as a "skirt school". The men were used to being in the middle of Gambier without the presence of women and were isolated from the newborn women's movement. Such a term as "skirt school" is appalling to us now, but then it was only a manner of speaking for the male students. They were steeped in the male traditions which had been around since the beginning of the College. Their only regular association with women happened on weekends at dances or other gatherings. The male students of the College were disappointed to have to share their space, and especially their education, with women. When Kenyon first considered adding a women's college, the students had been consulted; but those students had long graduated, and the newer students, in the midst of planning had come to Kenyon under the assumption that it was and would remain a men's college.

Kenyon male "humor"

Click on image for larger view of TIME ad
To attract women, in 1967 Kenyon ran an ad in TIME announcing its decision to have women on campus. It came from a primarily male (probably all-male) committee, which showed its ignorance of and disconnection from the women's movement throughout the rest of the country. The ad for higher education included unnecessary, "girly" images of shoes and perfume, and refers to Kenyon students by the male pronoun, "his". (Though the students at the time of the writing were male, this was an ad geared toward women.)

In late 1968, the College elected its first Dean of Women, Doris Crozier. She immediately sought to add women faculty and administration to the Kenyon
Doris Crozier, first Dean of Women
community. Crozier encouraged the faculty, administration, and students to discuss the organization of the women's college. Before her arrival, there had already been debates over whether Kenyon should award equal diplomas from Kenyon College to both men and women, or give Kenyon diplomas to men and Coordinate College diplomas to women. For the first few years, men and women received separate diplomas.

The debates following Crozier's arrival centered around the government of the women's college, and organizations and clubs. Though the male students had fought earlier in the process of organization for separate governments, as the time approached for women to arrive on campus, they supported integrating the programs. Administration and faculty expressed concern over the possibility of women students losing their sense of identity having to share government with the males. They were already afraid of the women becoming "second-class students" in the largely male campus. The students, however, continued pushing for integrated clubs and organizations.

September 8, 1969 was opening day for the women's college. The buildings had not yet been completed, so some of the women had to stay in private homes around Gambier. From the first women to move in to the women who moved in over time as floors of buildings were completed, male students were there to help out. Even some of the most vocal male student critics were happily hauling luggage for the women upstairs to their new rooms.

Opening Day

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