Coeducation at Davidson had its beginnings in the 1860s, when the five daughters of President John Kirkpatrick were enrolled to increase the size of a student body depleted by the Civil War. From that time on, faculty daughters and qualified ladies from the town were admitted to courses. However, they could not earn degrees and were not afforded the full benefits of the college, such as dormitories, organized sports, or campus organizations. Many young women who began their college careers at Davidson transferred to Salem College or Queens. In 1901 Annie Brown completed all of the requirements for an A.B., but received only a certificate, not a diploma, from the school. In 1906, Gladys Summers completed requirements for a B.S. and received a certificate, but her accomplishment was officially announced at commencement. The end of the Second World War brought more women to campus, as wives of students returning from the war. The college provided housing for the families and an organization known as the G.I. Wives was formed as a social outlet for these women.

Susan Summers

Susan Summers Class of 1909

Miss Susan Summers '1909 "From the East to Western Ind, No jewel is like Rosalind.”

Last, but by no means least, in this list of remarkable biographies, comes Miss Susan Summers. On the twelfth of July, 18-, she made her appearance into the world, Davidson having the honor of her nativity. For four long years has she been the center of attraction of the College boys. We can not speak in too high terms of her, for she has been a loyal and steadfast member of the Class of ’09. Not only is her manner fascinating and her company engaging, but she is a bright and diligent student, as is evidenced by her being on the honor role. She is candidate for a B.S. degree. Gentle, kind-hearted, and loveable, she has won the respect and admiration, not to say affection, of the whole class. For her there will always be a warm spot in our hearts, and throughout our lives there will exist a sweet remembrance of our “Co-ed.”

Bertha Fleming

Bertha Fleming Class of 1909

Miss Bertha Fleming”Is she not passing fair?”

And now comes the most attractive part of all these biographies. Should any one doubt this statement, we would refer him to any member of the Class of 1909. This attractiveness consists
in the fact that now we are coming into the realm of the eternal feminine. The first day of May, 18-, ushered into the world the first of our “Co-eds.” Franklin, Tenn., has the good fortune of being the birthplace of Miss Bertha Fleming, who, although we have had the pleasure of seeing the campus made beautiful by her presence for only nine months, has nevertheless, made a lasting impression on the minds, and I fear, on the hearts also, of the ’09 boys. By her handsome appearance, winning personality, and amicable disposition, she has endeared herself to every one who has made her acquaintance, and we welcome her with open arms into our midst. Miss Fleming is pursuing an A. B. course.

Photo of the sign at the corner of Main Street and Concord Road, which says "Davidson College, a liberal arts college for Men, Founded 1837 by Presbyterians"; Sandra May '73 is standing next to the sign, holding a hand-made sign which says "and women."

Sandra May '73

Davidson took its first true steps toward coeducation when, in 1968, President Samuel Spencer Jr. ‘40 appointed a special advisory committee to study the issue. The following winter, the faculty voted to participate in a college exchange program with Hollins, Mary Baldwin, Randolph-Macon, Sweet Briar, Agnes Scott, Winthrop, and others . The 1970-71 term was the inaugural year for the Student Exchange Program, and during that year, Davidson was host to female students who were housed in local homes. Although these women were exchange students, their presence on campus was seen by many as a bellwether of the coming shift to coeducation. Coeducation was the hot issue in the fall and winter of 1971-72, and the women who attended that year paved the way for the eventual arrival of coeducation. The women who were transfer students in the fall of 1972 were the first female degree candidates. Their high level of scholarship, service, and involvement in campus life was a key factor in the decision to make Davidson a coeducational institution. On May 5, 1972, coeducation came up for a trustee vote. Davidson admitted  upperclass women as students the following year as full degree-seeking candidates. Vicki Switzer ‘74 was the first woman to enroll following the trustee decision. Art major Marianna “Missy” Boaz Woodward ‘73 was the first woman ever accepted by Davidson as a full candidate for graduation. She later graduated with honors as the only female among 217 graduates.

Works Cited

Beaty, Mary. History of Davidson College. Davidson, NC: Briarpatch Press, 1988.

Cavanaugh, Christine B. “A Davidson Woman Needs No Introduction” Davidson Journal, Fall 1993.

Lloyd-Steel, Robert. “Celebrating Women’s Sports. Davidsonian. 1 March 1993.

Author: Jason Hamrick
Date: October 1998

Cite as: Hamrick, Jason “Coeducation” Davidson Encyclopedia October 1998.

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