When Furman University and Greenville Women’s College (GWC) began to join forces, education was one of the first places where changes were noticed. In February 1932, the school newspaper of Furman “reported that GWC juniors and seniors would take courses on the Furman campus” (Bainbridge 201). Just a couple of weeks later the newspaper announced that “Furman and the women’s college would have their first joint commencement ceremony in June 1932” (Furman Hornet 2/9/1932). By the summer of 1932, there was definite evidence of combining educational programs. It had been declared that “ ‘practically all’ of the 1933 seniors would get Furman degrees; requirements would be uniform; Furman students could take music at the women’s college; and the university would, for the first time, confer a B.S. degree in home economics” (Provence 6/1932). One of the few things that GWC brought to Furman was its music program, “one of the strongest assets of the Women’s College” (Reid 57).
In addition to changes in classes, there was a change in Chapel attendance. The services were still held separately, but it was very difficult to schedule. It could take students 20 minutes to travel from one campus to another. In 1934, daily chapel changed from everyday to three times a week. By 1958, there were two chapel services a week at the women’s college. However, if a woman lived on the new campus that year, she only had to attend one service a week (Bainbridge 225).
Even though most of the faculty of GWC was dismissed upon the merger, about a dozen were added to the Furman faculty. Most of the added faculty were women including two language teachers, two English teachers, two science teachers, one physical education teacher, and three administrative office positions (Reid 58).
As a result of the merger, the most identifiable change in social life was that now men and women could mingle. Even during chapel, a public plea was made for the men not to stare at the women. Some men complained about “having to shave daily, wear ties more regularly, and speak more softly” (Furman Hornet 9/20/1932). Because the women were now more visible to the men of Furman, several forms of acknowledging beauty arose. Furman’s beauty queens and the organizations’ sponsors were now almost strictly chosen from the women’s college. The voting for the May Queen became coed in 1939. The votes for the Bonhomie “Beauties” were also coed. Finally, in 1940, both men and women elected the homecoming queen. (Bainbridge 225)
Although the campuses were now coordinated, the students did not feel that Furman was co-educational in 1957. They felt that only the men’s campus was coeducational if anything was. The students also believed the schools were too independent of each other in government, administration, and social activities (Furman Hornet 4/27/1957). However, the women’s college was the central point of Furman romance and the evenings on the weekend were thoroughly coeducational (Bainbridge 226). Society helped along the social changes in the women’s college’s rules and regulations. In 1937, junior and senior women could go on dates alone and all students could walk downtown unescorted (Bainbridge 227).
The rules on dating were very strict. Men had to wear a jacket when meeting a date in Montague Hall on Saturday night or Sunday afternoon during the 1940s and 1950s. One of the college bus drivers even started a business in jacket rentals. A male student could rent the jacket and return it for another student to rent and wear (Bainbridge 228). When Furman students came to the women’s campus for a date, they would go to the parlors. The parlors were very poorly lit and places for couples to sit and talk quietly was limited (Dawsey interview). Nevertheless, the tree-shaded walks and enjoyable atmosphere of the women’s college attracted both the men and the women (Bainbridge 231).
The most controversial social advance was the decision to establish a smoking room for women in a dorm basement. GWC boarding students had not been allowed to smoke on or off campus, but Furman students had been. However, a student must have parental permission to smoke, and one could only smoke in the designated lounge. If a student smoked outside of this lounge and in public, there were harsh penalties such as not being allowed to leave campus or suspension from class. (Bainbridge 213) Eventually, by 1956 women were allowed to smoke in dormitory rooms (WC Handbook 1956-57).
The 1932 publication of the Bonhomie was the first sign of coordination in Furman and GWC’s organizations (Bonhomie 1932). In addition to the yearbooks, the student newspapers, the Hornet (Furman) and the Spokesman (GWC), and literary magazines consolidated immediately. The new masthead of the newspaper included both schools’ seals and names (Bainbridge 205). Even though the 1932 yearbook acknowledged coordination, it was not until the 1934 Bonhomie that students from both Furman and the women’s college published the yearbook jointly (Bainbridge 214). By 1937, men and women co-edited all student publications (Bainbridge 220).
The coordination of the colleges caused many of the Furman’s organizations to become coeducational, but some of the women’s departmental clubs remained exclusively female. A few of the women’s organizations ran parallel to the men’s organizations until the students combined on the new campus in 1961. Student government and academic honor societies ran parallel to one another as both men’s and women’s organizations until the mid 1950s. Separate male and female class officers were even elected (Bainbridge 221-222).
The above is the senior men's class officers of 1941.
The above is the senior women's class officers of 1941.
When Furman University and GWC merged, not only did educational changes take place, but men's and women's social life and organizations began to join together and change as well. It was a slow process for some aspects of the colleges, but for others, like the yearbook and student newspapers, it happened right away. These new aspects of Furman life slowly evolved during the time the schools remained on two campuses.
Bainbridge, Judith. Academy and College. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2001.
Bonhomie. Furman University: 1932, 1938, 1940, 1941.
Caldwell,Caitlin. Interview with Ruth McCain Dawsey (class of 1941). 1 May 2004.
"Co-ed Policy Features Start." Furman Hornet. Furman University Archives. Greenville, SC. 20 September 1932.
"Furman-GWC Consolidation Plans Advance." Furman Hornet. Furman University Archives. Greenville, SC. 9 February 1932.
Furman Hornet. Furman University Archives. Greenville, SC. 27 April 1957.
"GWC Students Travel to Furman." Furman Hornet. Furman University Archives. Greenville, SC. 20 September 1932.
Provence, Herbert. "President's Report to the Trustees." Furman University Archives. Greenville, SC. June 1932.
Reid, Alfred Sandlin. Furman University: Toward a New Identity 1925-1975. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1976.
Women's College Handbook: 1956-1957. Furman University Archives. Greenville, SC.