Editor's Note: To recognize Women's History Month, The Red & Black interviewed former students about their experiences as women at the University during two different eras in the last century.

During the 1960s, many traditions and social norms, including the roles of women, were challenged. It was a time of unrest, protest and change.

As American soldiers went to war in Vietnam, citizens at home began to question and challenge the United States' involvement. Efforts to acquire civil rights for black people also grew tremendously.

At the University, in addition to these movements, a small number of women on campus began to openly question the regulations imposed upon them. While many had spent hours discussing the rules they were expected to honor, few had expressed their thoughts outside the dormitory walls.

"You have to look at the times," said Cynthia Baugh-Williams, a 1969 alumnus and the first black staff member of The Red & Black. "Women didn't have the kind of respect that we have now, in general. We were just treated differently and dismissed by men a lot. The problem was a lot of women accepted that kind of treatment. Most were looking for husbands, not careers."

In May 1965, the Women's Student Government Association challenged two rules and successfully had them revoked. Women were no longer required to wear raincoats when they wore shorts outside of their dormitory. They also were no longer required to sign out in order to go to places, such as friends' homes, where they had standing permission from their parents.

"Women didn't have the kind of respect that we have now, in general."


1969 UGA Alumnus and First Black Staff Member of The Red & Black

"Of course, I didn't like the dress code, but it was my first time in a university setting and from what I knew, things were pretty strict everywhere," Baugh-Williams said. "Soon, the rules about how women had to live started to seem unnecessarily cumbersome."

In April 1968, female members of the University's chapter of the Students for a Democratic Society organized a march -- one of the the first serious student protest staged at the institution -- to gain equal rights on campus, according to "The University of Georgia: A Bicentennial History," written by Thomas Dyer, a University professor of higher education and history.

Among the rules the group sought to change were a curfew provision, room checks, rules regulating and prohibiting the consumption of alcoholic beverages by women, and requirements for women to live in University residence halls after their first year.

The march started in the Creswell Hall parking lot and concluded in a sit-in at the Academic Building. About 300 students, about 110 of which were females, stayed overnight. After the fire marshal arrived the following day and told them they were creating a fire hazard, they shifted the sit-in to a nearby auditorium.

The students were told they created a fire hazard there, too, so they returned to the Academic Building. They remained there another night before leaving on Good Friday, April 13, 1968.

"The administration agreed to hold a referendum on women's rights the next year," said Dr. Ilene Anita Schroeder, a 1969 alumnus and one of the march's organizers. "They claimed it had nothing to do with the sit-in, but the link is pretty obvious."

After the referendum, "en loco parentis," the concept of granting the dean of men and the dean of women the responsibility to act in the place of the students' parents, was rescinded.

"I wrote a letter to parents of women students telling them that it was gone and that we wouldn't stand in the role of the parent, but would continue to give support and guidance and counseling," said state Rep. Louise McBee (D-Athens), dean of women from 1963 to 1968 and associate dean of students until 1974.

"Some universities were faster than others (at revoking 'en loco parentis')," she said. "As I look back on it now, I think we moved too slowly, but we were doing what, at that time, we thought was the best thing for the students."

Baugh-Williams, who was one of only a handful black students on campus at the time, said she thought McBee was a strong woman who was probably just doing her job.

"You've got to think (McBee) knew better," Baugh-Williams said. "Women didn't deserve to be treated unequally. If she had had her own way about it, she may have tried to make progressive changes. But if she had, her position may have been threatened."


- Mary Lyndon received an M.A. from the University in 1914.

- Construction for Soule Hall, the first women's dormitory, began in 1918.

- Mary Creswell, the first female undergraduate, graduated in 1919.

- For several years, the Pandora presented all male seniors alphabetically before presenting any female graduates.

- In 1999, Beth Shapiro became the first female at the University to be named a Rhodes Scholar.

-- Source: "A Pictorial History of the University of Georgia," by F.N. Boney

McBee said the dismissal of "en loco parentis" drastically altered the way female students experienced life at the University.

"It changed their style of living," she said. "It put more responsibility on them as individuals to control their conduct, and it gave them total control of their decisions of where they lived, when they stayed out and came in -- the whole business."

After the rules were changed, other facets of campus life began to transform.

"It was a breaking-down of the barriers essentially," said Gilbert Head, archival associate of the University Archives.

"Women saw admission into the literary societies in the late 1960s and early 1970s. More opportunities were opened on campus for women."

While more avenues were made available for women, Baugh-Williams said the "beat went on as far as male vs. female roles" is concerned.

"It's a southern university," she said. "All those traditions that make it the University of Georgia are still there."

The revolution in students' ideas about women's rights seems in no way isolated from the other movements occurring throughout the country at that time.

Schroeder said she thought the movements were all linked. She said as people became more willing to take the risk by voicing their opinions, others also became more enthusiastic.

She said the movements fed on each other, which led to increased expression.

-- Contributing: "The University of Georgia: A Bicentennial History," by Thomas Dyer.

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