When women were first admitted to Emory College in the fall of 1953, a student handbook, separate from the men’s, was created to guide them through their foray into college life. Coyly entitled Dooley’s Rib, the handbook concluded:

The Rib has a last word . . . Emory’s ideals and standards will not change. But you who are among the very first women on Emory’s campus will have the exciting chance to help set the pattern for the Emory of the future. Dooley and his Rib expect you to change things for the better–to add the feminine touch–to help us achieve more rapidly the ideals we have cherished so long.

The University celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the “feminine touch” at Emory this year with an exhibit documenting the history of coeds on campus and two special events.

The Dooley’s Rib handbook, along with dozens of photos, documents, and memorabilia, was part of the scrapbook-style exhibit “To Change Things for the Better,” curated by University Archivist Ginger Cain and mounted in the Woodruff Library’s Schatten Gallery last year.

At the opening of the exhibit, Barbara Hund ’58C recalled what it was like to be part of the second official class of women ever to graduate from Emory.

“How did we fit in?” she said. “Very easily. The men were glad we were here. We were told we were to fit in with what was already here and no special arrangements would be made for us. . . . Women were actually held to higher academic standards, and that was pretty obvious in the classroom. By and large the professors were glad we were here, although one biology professor said women were not very good at science. He was sorry.” In general, the early women students’ grades were well above those of the men.

Before 1953, women did attend Emory College under certain circumstances–if, for instance, they were the daughters of faculty members, as in the case of the College’s first coed, “Mamie” Haygood Ardis 1888C, whose father was former University president Atticus G. Haygood. Women also attended the graduate and professional schools in small numbers. By the time the policy changed, some 1,500 Emory degrees already had been awarded to women. Still, the proposal that the College become coeducational was not met with unanimous approval by administrators and trustees, at least partly because of the University’s amicable relationship with nearby women’s colleges Agnes Scott and Wesleyan.

In the face of declining enrollment during the Korean War, climbing tuition costs, and rising calls for coeducation, however, President Goodrich C. White told the Board of Trustees in early 1953, “I am convinced that this action is inevitable, and that the present is a good time to take the initial steps.”

Unanimous vote or no, the women came, and with them the “feminine touch” that prompted a male freshman from that year to tell the Emory Alumnus, “I think it’s absolutely wonderful. I’ll go hog wild. It’s the greatest thing in the world–WOMEN!”

As part of the Celebration of Fifty Years of Women at Emory College, former First Lady Roslaynn Carter hosted a private reception and dinner for the Emory event’s host committee in December, honoring Mary Robinson, former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and former President of Ireland. Afterward, Robinson delivered the Rosalynn Carter Distinguished Lecture in Public Policy in Glenn Memorial Auditorium.

The next day, more than a hundred women gathered in the Miller-Ward Alumni House for a program sponsored by the College, the Women’s Center, and the Association of Emory Alumni to honor all Emory College alumnae.

The day began with a panel discussion, “Emory Women Through the Years,” featuring Ali P. Crown ’85C, director of Emory Women’s Center; Judith London Evans ’59C; Emory’s Director of Educational Studies Eleanor Main; Melanie Platt ’75C-’85L; and Aida Rita Sued Domenguez ’99O-’01C.

Following a luncheon, University Archivist Ginger Cain ’77C-’82G offered “A Historical and Humorous Reflection of Women at Emory 1953-2003.” The Honorable Tillie Kidd Fowler ’64C-’67L delivered the keynote address: “Career Sera Sera: Success Without a Plan is the Mark of Equality.” Fowler served from 1993 to 2001 in the U.S. House of Representatives, where she was chosen in 1998 to be the Vice Chairman of the Republican Conference, making her the highest-ranking woman in Congress when she retired. She also served for six years as deputy majority whip. In 2001, she joined the Washington office of Holland and Knight as a partner.

Funds contributed for these events–totaling almost $25,000–will go to a newly established Emory College Scholarship Fund, according to Marjorie Nunn ’61C, who co-chaired the celebration with Jaye Johnson Smith ’59C.

“We, as pioneers among the first women at Emory, felt privileged to come here, and we wanted to offer that opportunity to someone else,” Nunn said. –P.P.P.



© 2004 Emory University