For University of Georgia students, Creswell Hall brings back memories of freshman year. When considering the history of the college, however, Creswell Hall sparks a moment of remembrance of a home economics student — Mary Creswell, the first woman to attend UGA.
It was 1918 that Creswell first walked the campus as a home economics student in the College of Agriculture.
During World War I, UGA found its classroom population dwindling as men left home for the war effort. Their absence left new opportunities for women to obtain an education and find a job.
This year, the department, now known as the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, celebrates the centennial anniversary of coeducation by honoring Creswell’s legacy.
“It’s important to remember this anniversary because everyone deserves equal rights, and education is foundational,” Oliver Yowell, a junior horticulture major from Atlanta, said.
The year following Creswell’s UGA acceptance, she received an undergraduate degree from the university in 1919. That same year, she was also appointed as the director of the newly created Home Economics Division.
When the College of Family and Consumer Sciences was officially established in 1933 as the School of Home Economics, Creswell was named the first dean.
She continued to work as the dean until 1945 and as a professor until 1949, the same year she was the first woman to receive the Alumni Service Award in honor of her accomplishments.
Though women were not openly admitted onto the UGA campus until 1918, Mary Lyndon was the first woman to earn a master’s degree from UGA in 1914. She did so by explicitly taking summer courses, since those were the only courses women were accepted into at the time.
According to Dear Old U-G-A, a book published by The Red & Black that chronicles UGA’s student history based on previous reporting, women’s acceptance into one department did not spark an instant ripple effect among other areas of campus. After the admission of women in 1918, women were still not granted access to all colleges or clubs.
“They repeatedly denied those appeals for the rights of women,” said Carrol Dadisman, the author of the text and a former editor of The Red & Black. “Many years after they were admitted, women didn’t get all the privileges and offices and opportunities that men did. I found it rather strange.”
For decades, women remained in the minority. As the 20th century progressed, change swept through UGA, allowing for more equal opportunities for both women and men. By the end of 1944, women made up 75 percent of the university's enrollees.
“It was a period when there was a great deal of emphasis on women gaining full rights of citizenship, and education was one of those,” Dadisman said.
The demographic of UGA has changed greatly since these students walked UGA’s campus. According to the UGA Factbook, there were about 3,000 more undergraduate women enrolled than men in 2016.
General trends in higher education also show a steady ratio increase in favor of women since the 1970s, according to Forbes.
To commemorate coeducation, the Richard B. Russell Special Collections Libraries will be hosting an exhibit until May 18 with demonstrations from the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and artifacts pertaining to the first female students at UGA.
Correction: The initial version of this article referred to the Home Economics Division incorrectly.
Clarification: Because of the changes to the College of Family and Consumer Sciences in the past century, it would be helpful to note that in 1933 UGA and the State Normal School combined their home economics programs to create the School of Home Economics. The School of Home Economics is now called the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.