Strict Women's College Entertained Local Community
As published by the Daily News Journal, Sunday, November 28, 2010
By Greg Tucker, President Rutherford County Historical Society
The sweater ban and window prohibitions were eventually eased, but
rides and movies still involved chaperones, and any contact with the
For nearly four decades (1907-46), the Tennessee College for Women (TCW)
was the pride of Murfreesboro. Not only was it known
Unofficially, there were also night swims and memorable dating opportunities.
The college was chartered in 1905, organized in 1906, and opened for
students in 1907 by the Tennessee Baptist Convention as "Tennessee
The land was given to the new school by the local trustees of
Murfreesboro's long defunct Union University.
for TCW was supplemented
Built in the center of a 21-acre campus on the north side of East Main Street (six blocks from the courthouse), the main TCW building was "of pressed brick, trimmed with stone." Three columned entrances faced Main Street. According to a 1921 description, the building was "two hundred and fifty-six feet long, one hundred and twenty-eight feet deep, and three stories high...(plus) basement. Laboratories are in the basement. On the first floor are offices, parlors, a faculty room, recreation rooms for students, dining hall, lecture rooms, an assembly hall, and the library ... The rooming capacity of the dormitory is one hundred and fifty." A swimming pool and other athletic facilities were added on the north side of the campus. (Boys living in the neighborhood in the decades between the wars regularly climbed the pool fence and swam in the county's only swimming pool while the TCW women slept.)
From its outset, TCW offered 4-year degrees (Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts).
Other two-year "certifications" (such as "Secretarial Sciences")
were also available. Additionally, "thorough training in piano,
voice, violin and art"
The first four-year degrees were conferred in 1912 to Alice Eaton Burnett, Julia Brown, Louise Hibbs and Ophelia Selph. The first reunion of graduates was held in 1917 and the first graduates were honored on the fifth anniversary of their graduation. Hibbs (Mrs. Roscoe Meadors) was given special recognition as the first to marry and the first to have a child.
From its beginnings, TCW required "proper behavior" and manners.
A 1917 student handbook prohibited "unnecessary noise...at any time"
Proper ladies were expected not to throw things on the campus.
They also did not wear pullover sweaters, except for athletic
activity or picnics in the
Social contact was also closely regulated. "No young lady shall encourage the attention of young men while she is off the campus." Sophomores could receive "young men callers" on campus once a week; freshmen once every two weeks. Upperclass women with "satisfactory scholarship" enjoyed more liberal regulation: "They must make no social engagements which in their nature are contrary to the wishes of the college administration."
1940, window and sweater concerns had disappeared, but cooking in
rooms was banned, no typing after 10:30PM, telephone calls had to be
Dating activity was linked to class level and grades. Freshmen and sophomores could have two dates a weekend; upperclass women could date more than twice on a weekend. Underclass students on the Dean's List got one extra date opportunity and Dean's list seniors were without numerical limits.
Chaperones were still required, however, for movies and car rides. Casual social contact was apparently still a concern: "Freshmen shall not meet and talk with young men in town or elsewhere. Sophomores may have the privilege of talking to young men. This privilege does not include previously arranged meetings, picture show engagements, extended conversations, or privilege of taking a walk."
Wordna Bragg Black (1939-41) was one of a dozen or so students that lived at home. "The local girls were always popular in part because we could take classmates home for the weekends," explains Black. "As far as we were concerned, if a student went on a weekend visit in a local home, she was beyond the reach of the college dating rules."
The college had many traditions, remembers Florence Cox McFerrin (Class of '36).
Among these was the "daisy chain." In anticipation of the annual Easter program and senior week, the sophomore class was sent to Burnt Knob to pick bushels of daisies. McFerrin remembers earning a painful sunburn for her efforts, and Black recalls an attack of spring allergies. The daisies were woven into a chain that was used imaginatively for the Easter and Senior celebrations.
The daisy picking created a special memory for Mildred Harrell
Carmack (1939-40) who was working in the college dining room in 1940
Music was an integral part of college activity, and was also used
quite effectively as a recruiting tool. The Wandering
Minstrels, a choral group of
Pageants and theatrical productions were also
shared with the community sometimes with an admission charged, but
often free to the public. The
Greg Tucker can be reached at email@example.com.