Samford University The BelltowerNovember 2003

The Tendency of the Times: Samford and Coeducation (Part 1 of 2)

"...The story of coeducation at Samford sometimes goes unnoticed alongside more spectacular moments in our history, but few events more strongly shaped the modern culture of the University..."

In 2002, female Samford students outnumbered male students 2,602 to1,764. That ratio represents a dramatic change for an institution that less than a century ago was still exclusively male and surprisingly martial. The story of coeducation at Samford sometimes goes unnoticed alongside more spectacular moments in our history, but few events more strongly shaped the modern culture of the University.

Beginning in the 1870s, all-male Howard College in Marion , Alabama , became increasingly militarized, with uniforms and military drill a fact of daily life for the Howard College Cadets. With its sister institution--Judson College--just across town, and with ongoing financial troubles, conflict with the State Baptist Convention and increased interest in relocation, coeducation was hardly a pressing issue at Howard in the '70s and '80s. By the early 1890s, however, Howard had moved to Birmingham and coeducation was already reshaping other Alabama colleges. The Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama (now Auburn University ) admitted female students in 1892. The University of Alabama followed in 1893. In the summer of 1894 Howard College, under the leadership of President Arthur W. McGaha, was poised to begin its own first experiment in coeducation. Some Alabamians opposed this trend, and an editorial in the Alabama Baptist in July 1894 predicted that time would prove them right:

"The 'Woman Craze' seems to be on us just now, and it must run its course. All the colleges are falling into line, only because it is the fashion, and not because there is any great demand for coeducation...Without claiming to be a prophet, we predict that, in the South at least, the time will never come when any considerable number of our young women will attend the male colleges which are throwing their doors open to them."

Key Howard College supporters disagreed with these sentiments, defended coeducation "on the grounds of justice and policy" and informed the Alabama Baptist State Convention that other institutions had "wheeled into line, and Howard proposes to stand abreast of them." Later that year the Alabama Baptist published the religious poetry of Annie Judge, one of two women enrolled in Howard College .

Records of the time suggest no great disruption resulting from the admission of Judge and Eugenia Weatherly, both of whom were from the East Lake community. In fact, some male students who looked forward to a soothing feminine influence on the toughest members of the faculty lamented the lack of change in their professors.

Howard College seems to have encouraged Judge and Weatherly and taken pride in their success. Both women were chosen to address their class as part of the college's 1895 commencement activities, and although we don't have the text of their addresses, their topics certainly sound appropriate. Weatherly spoke on the "The Tendency of the Times." Judge became ill and couldn't deliver her address--"The Coming Woman"--but its title was prescient. Howard College admitted three more female students, Lillian Butler, Estelle Holloway and Mattie Weldon, for the 1895-96 school year.

In 1896 Judge became Howard's first female graduate with a degree or certificate that apparently was something other than a traditional four-year degree. We know only a few tantalizing details about her life after Howard College . She married classmate J. W. Johnson not long after their graduation and relocated with him to Louisiana so he could study medicine at Tulane. For several years Howard alumni records listed Judge with a footnote indicating that she was Mrs. J. W. Johnson. Then, in 1902, Howard's alumni record listed her, under her maiden name, as deceased. In fact, Annie Judge wasn't dead, but she wasn't Mrs. J. W. Johnson, either. The couple had divorced and Judge had moved to New York and become an actress working under the name of Ann Johnson.

In New York Judge married Walter H. Schoellkopf, heir to a utilities company fortune, and began researching and writing history. In 1914, writing as Anna Schoellkopf, she published a history of the Great Lakes, and in 1924 published a biography of South American revolutionary Jose de San Martin. When Walter Schoellkopf served as First Secretary of the American Embassy in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, Anna likely accompanied him to Madrid . As little as we know about Anna Schoellkopf's life before the 1930s, we know even less about her life after that period, and so her story ends here for now.

College officials suspended coeducation after Judge's graduation in 1896, citing lack of proper facilities for women at a time when the campus truly was in need of new facilities of all sorts. The fate of the three women admitted in the '95-'96 academic year is unclear. Their names are not listed in alumni records. Whatever happened to them , Eugenia Weatherly somehow continued her studies at Howard because in1898 she became our second female graduate and the first with a four-year degree. She would be the last woman to graduate from Howard College for almost two decades.

Eugenia Weatherly left little room for doubt about the value of coeducation at Howard. She earned the ranking of "Distinguished" in Howard's School of Science for attainment of 90 percent, and was the only student to reach that level in the school for that year. She also was listed as Distinguished in the schools of Latin and Greek and was among the top ten Distinguished undergraduates in the entire college.

After earning her A.B. degree at Howard, Weatherly served as a teacher in Birmingham City Schools until she married and mostly likely had to leave her position as a result. Although the social conventions of the day excluded her from service in public schools, Eugenia Weatherly King continued to teach music privately. We know this only because she took on a young piano student named Lolla Wurtele, who went on to marry Leslie S. Wright, president of Samford University from 1958-1983.

We know little else of Eugenia Weatherly King's life after graduation from Howard College , but we do know that she returned to her Alma Mater at least once, in the spring of 1914, to address alumni on the subject of "Howard and Coeducation." It was an appropriate topic to end that academic year. Thanks in large measure to a Southern Baptist minister, coeducation had returned to Howard College .


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