Early Illinois Women

Women's Educational Association at Illinois Wesleyan University

The Woman's Educational Association of Illinois Wesleyan University 1874-1881 (Images #000001-000048)

The Woman's Educational Association of Illinois Wesleyan University was formed on June 3, 1874, by "several ladies" who met at the University. Prof. Jennie F. Willing, Professor of English Language and Literature, was elected Chairman of the meeting. The first annual meeting, which was held at the First Methodist Episcopal Church in Bloomington on June 17, 1874, featured Prof. Willing and four other women who delivered "stirring speeches on the subject of higher education for women" to "a good audience of ladies and gentlemen". Four months later, on October 22, the Association adopted a constitution that defined the goals of the Association: "to raise funds for the endowment of a professorship in the Ill. Wes. University always to be filled by a woman", and "to establish a Christian Home in Bloomington for lady students of the University where board shall be furnished at the lowest available rates." The Constitution stipulated that "any person" could become a member of the Association for a fee of ten dollars.

This information and many other details concerning the history of the Woman's Educational Association are found in the Record of the Woman's Educational Association, a 7" x " volume containing the handwritten minutes of the Association. The accompanying images reproduce the minutes of the Association from 1874 to 1881. Pages 9-11 record the minutes of the first meetings, and pages 12-15 contain the Constitution and By Laws. Page 28 reports various decisions concerning the opening of the home to be known as Ladies' Hall at Major' College and the election of Mrs. C. A. Hart as Superintendent of the Home for the compensation of $25 dollars per month plus the provision of "bedding, washbowl, pitcher, towels, [and] looking-glass." Page 29 contains the resolution That we charge $2.25 per week for board in the Ladies' Hall. That each boarder furnish fuel and lights for her room. Each Lady may be allowed to do her washing and ironing in the laundry. Each to work an hour a day under the direction of the Superintendent.

Pages 33-34 permit the admission of Mrs. Hart's niece, daughter, and granddaughter to Ladies' Hall, but page 35 resolves "That no gentlemen be admitted as boarders." Various other pages document the dedication and tenacity of the members of the Association in supporting women students by maintaining Ladies' Hall.

The Record of the Woman's Educational Association, which covers 1874-1885, and an accompanying volume, the Record of Trustees' Meetings of the Women's Education Association, which covers 1874-1892, are preserved in the Archives of Illinois Wesleyan University.

The organization of the Woman's Educational Association followed by several years the opening of Illinois Wesleyan University to women students. The trustees of the University voted 20 to 1 to admit women in 1870. Twenty-two women were admitted that year, including Kate B. Ross of Dover, who was admitted as a sophomore, Delia Henry of Bloomington and Rhoda M. Wiley of Lexington, who were admitted as freshmen, and nineteen women who were admitted to the preparatory department. Hannah J. Shur of El Paso graduated from the University in 1872, and two other women, Martha Benjamin and Kate B. Ross, graduated in 1874. The first two women faculty members were Jennie F. Willing, Professor of English Language and Literature, and Mary H. Kuhl, Instructor of German, both of whom appear in the faculty roster for 1874.

Minutes of the Educational Association, click on an image to see a larger image.

Contributing Library:

Sheean Library, Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, Illinois


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