June 9, 2009

June 9, 1919: Annual Report from the President

On June 9, 1919, outgoing President Lyon G. Tyler submitted his final annual report to the Board of Visitors. President Tyler provided an overview of the academic year at the College of William and Mary including attendance numbers, average age of the students, and resignations of professors. Within his report, which was also published as his farewell address, President Tyler commented on the state or experience of admitting female student to the College of William and Mary:

"The experiment of admitting women to the College has been fully vindicated by the results of this year. The young ladies were models of decorum and stood among the first in their classes. I rejoice that it helped in the Legislature to have William and Mary take the lead among Virginia colleges in this particular, and hope soon to see women fully accorded all the rights of the law and suffrage, which justly belong to them. Miss Baer's Department of Economics was also put upon a good footing, and she was herself useful to the state by visiting at the request of the State Superintendent many of the high schools of the Commonwealth. It is to be hoped that next year, with the certain influx of women students already guaranteed to us, her classes will be fully attended, which was too much to expect from the late hour at which she was called to the College last session. She asks for an assistant to round out her courses."

Later in President Tyler's report, he mentions the pioneering class of women when discussing the history of enrollment at the College:

"When we come to the attendance of students at the Institution we note that the largest number ever at the College before 1888 was in 1840 when the number reached 140--30 of whom were law students. The year before the European War (1916) the number was 237. The introduction of women, through the Bill introduced in the Legislature by Hon. Aubrey Strode, doubles the opportunity for development, and when normal times return the attendance of the College should reach readily 500."

It is clear from President Tyler's comments in this report to the Board of Visitors and in previous reports, the addition of women as students was beneficial to the College of William and Mary. In addition, President Tyler's support of the women students and their rights as human beings was important to Tyler, as he mentions his desire for women's suffrage. While this may have been a political and financial move, the College of William and Mary and President Tyler, were pioneers in furthering the social, cultural and political stance of women in Virginia.

This post was composed by Jeffreen Hayes.

For additional information about the first women students at the College of William and Mary see: When Mary Entered with her Brother William: Women at the College of William and Mary, 1918-1945 by Laura F. Parrish; "The Petticoat Invasion": Women at the College of William and Mary, 1918-1945; The Martha Barksdale Papers; and the Women at the College of William and Mary page on the Special Collections Research Center Wiki.

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