In the late 1960s, the University of the South faced a perfect storm of circumstances that prompted a once-and-for-all decision that had been decades in the making. The College’s application pools had been growing smaller, so the idea of admitting women was taken up during a 1968 Board of Trustees meeting. Dodging some attempts to delay the discussion, the board successfully passed a resolution to allow women.
When the University of the South first admitted women as fulltime first-year undergraduate students, Judith Ward Lineback was the first to matriculate. She was one of the first women to enter Sewanee in fall 1969, beginning sweeping changes in the College and the community.
The arrival of the first wave of female undergraduates was met with a fair share of pettiness—in the form of editorials in the Purple—but for the most part, women in that first class of 82 female freshmen and 23 female transfer students report that matriculation was relatively trouble-free. Among the more trivial grumblings of returning male students were that women were ruining the tradition of Sewanee’s all-male choir and were wearing pants in the dining hall. But women students found ways to make lemonade out of the lemons—and while the infrastructure might have needed some work to catch up with the times, the women hit the ground running.
In 1973, Sewanee had its first female valedictorian (in the first year of their eligibility), and by 1984, women outnumbered men on campus. Sewanee women haven’t looked back since. They have claimed six Rhodes Scholarships and countless other academic achievements and campus leadership positions. Academics, athletics, and residential life have all been positively affected by women’s arrival on the Mountain.
The School of Theology admitted its first woman into the M.Div. program in September 1971 and she graduated in May 1974. In 1973–74, two women were admitted and in 1974–75, five were admitted. This year The Episcopal Church celebrates 45 years of women being ordained.
While the University is observing the anniversary all year with concerts, plays, and lectures, Homecoming 2019 (Oct. 31-Nov. 3) gives the University an opportunity to celebrate “50 Years of Women at Sewanee” with returning alumnae. Activities have been added to the weekend schedule to recognize the occasion. The community is welcome to attend the presentations, panel discussions, and other events listed:
Thursday, Oct. 31
5 p.m. “Women in Music” talk by Kerry Ginger, professor of voice. Come hear about the role of female characters in opera’s standard repertory and contemplate why their stories often culminate in death. Featuring the music of Zauberflöte, Bohème, Carmen, Salome, and Tosca. Ralston Listening Room, duPont library.
Friday, Nov. 1
8 a.m. Dedication of a plaque honoring 50 Years of Coeducation at Sewanee. Walsh-Ellett patio in the Quad.
9–10:30 a.m. Coffee and Career Conversations with alumnae and current students. An opportunity to talk with other alumnae in your career field and share stories/strategies of finding your place with today’s students. Students can network and learn from graduates about career paths and helpful tips for life after Sewanee. Sponsored by the Career Center. Convocation Hall.
10:45 a.m. The Office of Civic Engagement hosts a celebration of alumnae and students dedicated to service. Come take a gallery walk of posters where students will describe their projects of community engagement and hear from alumnae (onsite and via video) and current students about their work to make the world a better place. Hear how a Sewanee education has prepared alumnae to have a heart of service. Convocation Hall.
11:30 a.m. Screening of “Mine 21,” an award-winning short documentary about a deadly coal-mine explosion that took place in Whitwell, Tennessee, in 1981. The film follows Kelsey Arbuckle, C’19, and Alexa Fults, C’21, both from Grundy County and students at Sewanee at the time of filming, as they find out more about this event. The disaster took the lives of 13 miners. The effect in Marion and Grundy counties was tragic. The documentary is directed by Sewanee alumnus Stephen Garrett and produced by Professor Chris McDonough.
2:15–3:30 p.m. Sewanee Women Then and Now. Bairnwick Women’s Center hosts a panel of current students and alumnae who will offer their thoughts and experiences on what it has been like to be a woman at Sewanee, then and now. Mary Sue Cushman Room, the Women’s Center.
3:30 p.m. The Road to the Rhodes and Beyond with alumnae Rhodes Scholars: Ramona Doyle, C’81, Jennifer Michael, C’89, Anne Jones, C’98, and Katharine Wilkinson, C’05. Moderated by Ellen Goldey, C’85, vice president for academic affairs at Centre College. Torian Room, duPont Library.
4:30 p.m. All Saints’ Day service. Rt. Rev. Kathryn “Kai” McCrossen Ryan, C’86, recently ordained as 11th bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Texas, will preach. All Saints’ Chapel.
8 p.m. 50 Years of Women Concert featuring Grammy-winning artist Amanda Shires, L’17. Guerry Auditorium. An American singer-songwriter and fiddle player, Shires has released six acclaimed solo albums, her most recent To The Sunset in 2018. For alumni, homecoming nametags serve as tickets. Community members should contact <email@example.com> for concert ticket information.
Saturday, Nov. 2
9:30 a.m. Celebrating 50 Years of Women: The Evolution of Support and Wellness, panel discussion. Gailor Auditorium.
10 a.m.–noon Ninth Annual Campus Gallery Walk with performances at each location. Diedrick Brackens’ “Allegiance,” University Art Gallery. “Skirts and Gowns,” the history and legacy of women at Sewanee, Museum Gallery, Archives and Special Collections. Alumnae Arts Showcase, Spencer Commons. Mary Stuart Hall’s video and sound installation Sympathetic Dissonance, Carlos Gallery of the Nabit Art Building
11 a.m. Women of the Decades panel moderated by Professor Virginia Craighill, C’82. Reflections from alumnae throughout the years. Panelists include Genye Hawkins, C’74, Mary Hance, C’75, Rose Mary Drake, C’80, Jess Baumhauer Hill, C’81, Ellen Goldey, C’85, Kate Belknap-Burchak, C’83, Charlotte Thomas Riddle, C’91, Rosilyn Rayborn, C’04, La’Toya Slay, C’11, Brittany Macon, C’14, and Bronte Goodhue, C’15. Hear the history of women at Sewanee from those who lived it. Gailor Auditorium.
See the preliminary schedule here <https://new.sewanee.edu/alumni/50-years-of-women/50-year-of-women-schedule/.>