More Than Lore

Chapter 10: The King of France

Marion Talbot

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The King of France went up the hill
With twenty thousand men;
The King of France came down the hill,
And ne'er went up again.

ONE fine day in 1902 when the world seemed to be going on its way quite serenely, a member of the Faculty, walking on Lexington, later University, Avenue, noticed that on the lot north of the President's House some timbers had been placed upright at regular intervals about a large area. Shortly afterward, meeting Professor Shorey, he said, "Have you seen the President's hen coop that is going up?" "Hen coop," flashed back Professor Shorey, "coup d'état!" Evidently something dramatic was happening. Would it turn out to be

( 171) a tragedy or a farce? Perhaps after more than a generation one can judge from the following description of the plot and action which it was, if either.


SCENE: The United States

ACTORS: President Harper

   Prominent professors with daughters not interested in intellectual pursuits

   Small but resolute group of Faculty determined to have real, not pseudo, co-education

   A still smaller group nurtured at eastern men's colleges deadly opposed to co-education

    Large majority not especially interested but good-naturedly acquiescing in the plans of the administration

   A large body of fighting alumnae

Chorus of newspapers, educational journals, and college and university authorities scattered throughout the United States

ΡLOT:    Substitution of separate instruction for co-instruction of the sexes in the University of Chicago.

The length of the play covering a period of three years of constant action naturally precludes verbatim repetition in this place. A bare outline will have to suffice.

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SCENE I:  Original agreement of organizers of the University (1892), viz., that "the privileges of the institution be extended to persons of both sexes on equal terms."

SCENE 2:  Separate sections for men and women suggested by President Harper in his annual report for 1899.

SCENE 3:  At the meeting on July 3, 1900, of the University Congregation (that grandiose organization which never lived up to President Harper's expectations and, after a period of coma, finally expired) the following topic was recommended for discussion:

Resolved, That better educational results would be secured in the University by teaching the sexes in separate classes.

  This question was amended by the Executive Committee March 20, 1901, by changing the term "University" to "Junior Colleges" and was discussed by the Congregation on the same day when it was referred to the University Council for consideration and report. The Council, however, did not take up the discussion of the question.

SCENE 4:Discussion by the President and members of the Board of Trustees and sketches of the proposed Women's Quadrangle were prepared by the University architects.

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SCENE 5:  The President requested the Senate on October 12, 1901, to postpone a vote on a motion to divide the attendance of Junior College students at Chapel Assembly alphabetically, instead of by sexes, as was being done.

SCENE 6:Discussions by the Senate at five different meetings.

SCENE 7:  February 1, 1902, the Senate voted 13 to 8 in favor of having the Trustees accept a gift of a million or a million and a half dollars for the erection of buildings for women, with recitation halls and laboratories exclusively for women in the Junior Colleges, the plan having been considered by the Trustees on January 28 and later on February 18, 1902, adopted unanimously by the Trustees, including the plan to organize the work of the Junior College women as a separate division.

SCENE 8:  Great outpouring of protests and petitions from widely scattered alumnae and friends, with voluminous correspondence and editorials in newspapers and journals.

SCENE 9:  Agreement by President and Trustees to reopen whole question for discussion and separate it from any financial consideration.

SCENE 10 et seq.Series of meetings of Junior College Faculty, Senate, Congregation and Trustees,

(174)  votes of disapproval, reconsideration, changing of votes, votes of approval. The Congregation finally decided to acquiesce in the plan.

On October 22, 1902, the Trustees took final action as follows:

The action of the Junior College Faculty recommending that, in the development of the Junior College instruction, provision be made as far as possible for separate sections for men and women, having been presented to this Board by the President of the University, with the indorsement of the University Senate, and the various protests and objections on the part of the friends of the University interested in the subject to the recommendation, together with a memorial of protest from members of the Faculty, having been duly read and considered:

It is resolved that the recommendation of the Junior College Faculty and Senate of the University, reported to the Board by the President of the University, be approved and adopted as the action of this Board; and the President of the University is requested to formulate a plan for its practical administration and present the same to the Board for its approval.

Fifteen of the Trustees were recorded as favoring the action and four as opposing it.

What was the cause of the turmoil? The alleged reason was the overcrowding of Cobb Hall, which made the development of plans for the Colleges seem timely, if not pressing.

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The rapidly increasing proportion of women undergraduates was creating alarm in certain quarters and, in the opinion of one at least who heard the discussions of small responsible groups, was more truly the cause of the proposition than were some of the other alleged reasons. The proportion of women students to men students was 24 per cent in 1892-93. For the following years the proportion was: 33 per cent; 35 per cent; 36 per cent; 37 per cent; 38 per cent; 1898-99, 43 per cent; and in 1901-2, 52 per cent.

It is worth noting that in 1898-99, 50 men and 52 women received honorable mention, honor scholarships, and honors in departments. An explanation of this situation is hinted at in the remark of a bumptious young man student who was serving as a messenger in one of the administration offices, "Νο man can lower himself by competing with girls in the classroom."

One way of meeting this danger, as I pointed out at the time, was to make the University more attractive to men. Within three or four years the following means of serving men were inaugurated: Bartlett Gymnasium, Reynolds Club, Hutchinson Commons, Hitchcock Hall, the Law

( 176) School, and the School of Commerce and Administration.

President Harper, calling himself (after experience in institutions for men only, women only, and for both men and women) a strong believer in co-education, expressed himself as confident that important progress was to be made in this department of educational thought and practice. He believed that "the forward steps should include at least (1) a closer definition of the term itself; (2) a larger elective privilege on the part of the women as to the extent to which they shall or shall not mingle with men; (3) a similar larger election on the part of the men; (4) a larger possibility for the cultivation of what has properly been termed the `feeling of corporate existence' in the institution concerned on the part of both men and women; (5) a larger opportunity for cultivating the life which is peculiarly woman's life and, on the other hand, the life which is peculiarly man's life."    .

President Harper was also quoted as saying: "Certain limitations have already clearly fixed themselves. It is not deemed proper that men and women should take physical exercise to-

( 177) -gether in the gymnasium." (Note that they could swim together in the ocean and dance together on the ballroom floor even though, in the latter case, the costumes of women were much scantier than was allowed in those days in the gymnasium.) "It has never been proposed that they should occupy the same halls or dormitories." (Note: Hotels have not been administered on the segregation principle.) "The controlling aim in constructing the Women's Quadrangle should be to secure privacy and convenience in the matter of going from halls to classroom (bathrobes and pajamas de rigueur). The controlling aim in constructing the Men's Quadrangle should be to provide for intermingling and close association.

"The first buildings to be erected in the Women's Quadrangle should be: a certain number of halls for residence, the gymnasium, a clubhouse for women, one hall for non-residence Houses, and one building which could be used for classrooms and laboratories. The first buildings to be erected in the Men's Quadrangle should be: a building to be used for classrooms and laboratories, a hall for non-residence Houses, halls for

( 178) residence." (Note: Observe order in which provision was to be made for intellectual training.)

Finally, at the word "Go!" the system started with the Winter Quarter, 1903. The machinery creaked, for only 2 per cent of the men in the Junior Colleges were segregated in all their work and 34 per cent of the women. One wonders if this shows a greater desire on the part of the women to keep aloof from the men! On the other hand, 43 per cent of the men and 25 per cent of the women had no separated courses. The rest had one or two separated courses. A generalization made by Dean Vincent that "the separation of instruction affects nearly four-fifths of those registered in the Junior Colleges" shows that the meaning of these statistics might be read one way or another according to the bias of their interpreter. The Dean, however, went on to say that in the Spring Quarter the numbers whose work was wholly in separate sections were almost negligible. The Dean drew some other significant conclusions from two years' experience: First, "it meets most of the objections against throwing suddenly into constant association large numbers of young men and women just leaving home and

( 179) entering on a new experience." (Note that practically all these young people were from co-educational high schools. The private-school graduates, for the most part, were the ones who had any startling emotions at taking part in a class recitation or listening to a lecture in the presence of members of the opposite sex.) Further, "it does not seem to have affected unfavorably the general social life of the institution"—in other words, intellectual association (acquaintance ships were seldom formed in class) was more disturbing than social companionship such as dancing.

In spite of every reasonable effort to maintain segregated sections, the practical difficulties in administering the system were seen in its gradual abandonment by one department after another until for several quarters Freshmen English had to bear the onus of the system; but in time this course, too, gave way, and the whole thing quietly died. Nobody attended the obsequies, and nobody took note of them. Even the excited and indignant alumnae, who had protested by all kinds of measures, from letters of indignation published in the daily press to dignified appeals to various officers of the University, paid no at-

( 180) -tention to the quiet ebbing of interest in the scheme. They did not even say, "De mortuis nil nisi bonum."

When a decade had passed, I felt it safe to make a visit to a neighboring state university which I had very unintentionally, even unconsciously, offended. During the period when Boards, Faculties, Senate, and Congregation were in almost continuous session, I did not dare absent myself from a single one in which I had a seat. I had accepted a very friendly invitation to spend a week-end at this university. On the day before I was to start, a notice came of a special meeting of the Junior College Faculty. I could not risk being absent, for the sword of Damocles was over the heads of the women. I telegraphed to the university that I was detained by urgent business. The next issue of their student paper contained one of the most vituperative articles I ever saw, and I was the object of it! After all, the only business for which this special meeting was called proved to be .to act upon some technical details in regard to the adjustment of a few students' records to the requirements for graduation.

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And what of the King's palace, the hen coop, Lexington Hall? It became greatly endeared to the younger women of the University even when, as it aged, its occupants had to use skill in avoiding water dripping from leaking roof and floors dotted with puddles. Women's organizations found quarters there; chapel services were held there for a time until the fear of some of the Faculty was allayed that the walk to Mandel Hall would overtax the women; dances, banquets, many activities, went on in both the Hall proper and the adjoining gymnasium, with its grassy court. At first any men who were privileged to enter the building did so with becoming modesty. Even the instructors modified their air of male superiority. But the strain was too great. As the instructional scheme broke down, so did the plans for the building. One day we discovered that men students were using a room where they met Faculty wives in conference about costumes for a Blackfriars performance. The ladies sewed and fitted, and even laced young men into corsets. With perhaps a little black malice in our hearts we raised the question as to this use of the building, even though the room was situated near an

( 182) entrance door not much used by women students. We were asked not to press the matter—it would not recur. This was, however, the beginning of the end. Typewriting offices, bakery, mess hall for Student Army Training Corps, the Maroon, gradually took possession of the main building; while the gymnasium, after a period of use by the Nursery School, became the headquarters for the Reserved Officers' Training Corps. Lexington Hall had outlived its usefulness for women, and few remember now its original function, though many women look upon it, even in its decrepit condition, with affection.

So the King of France went up the hill and—down again.


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