Ruth Louise McCain attended Furman University from 1938-1941. She began her college career shortly after Greenville Women's College and Furman University merged. Ruth double majored in History and English and after serving in World War II, she returned to Furman to obtain a minor in Math under the GI Plan. She also took Education courses in order to teach these subjects. During her time there she experienced a true liberal arts education.
The college experience is very different now than it was while Ruth was there, especially socially. Chapel was required. Each student had an assigned seat and if she wasn't there, severe penalties were issued. The women had to sign in and out to go off campus. Virginia Thomas, the Dean of Women at the time, told them to wear a hat and gloves when they went out on the town. In addition to signing in and out, women had to have parental permission to go out of town. Having to sign in and out made dating much different from today. The men would come to the women's campus and they would "date" in the Parlors. The Parlors were beautiful rooms with couches where the men and women could sit and talk, but it didn't allow for much privacy. However, football games were events that brought men and women together on the men's campus. Ruth recalled that her freshman year was Furman's closest score against Clemson, 0-0. Another dating aspect that Ruth remembered was the dinners that the women's freshman and sophomore dorms would hold. Women could invite dates for dinner and some form of entertainment would be provided. Ruth said that outside of a few social events, Furman and the Women's College were very academically oriented and studying on the weekends was not uncommon.
Ruth talked about her experience at Furman from orientation to her senior year. Instead of today's O-Week, Ruth's orientation was at a camp at Lake Junaluska in North Carolina. As freshmen, both men and women received rat-caps to wear until Christmas time. The women's were gold with a blue "F" and the men's were white with a purple "F". From Ruth's sophomore to senior year, she helped Ms. Easton in the freshman biology lab as an assistant. She was asked to be a member of Prelude, a writer's literary society, her sophomore year and was elected President her junior and senior year. Once Ruth was a junior, she could take classes on the men's campus. Men rarely ever graced the women's campus with their presence unless they were taking art courses. The men and women that did have to go back and forth between campuses rode a bus especially for that purpose.
There were quite a few professors that Ruth remembered. She recalled three professors from her junior year. One was a young economics professor who told the class that communism was the closest form of government to Christianity. Ruth was very disturbed by this and felt that the man had a lot to learn. Her political science professor would walk into the class every morning and say, "Good Morning, cannon fodder!" (The United States had announced that the draft was about to begin for the war.) Ruth's history professor Dr. Gilpatrick was her favorite professor. She felt that he taught history in such a way that it helped with her experience in the real world. One quote she specifically remembers from him is: "In every peace treaty, you will find some of the causes of the next war." During Ruth’s senior year, she had an education professor that told the class not to tell their students to do anything. An example was that if a student dropped a piece of paper, not to tell them to pick it up, but pick it up yourself. Once she was teaching in the real world, Ruth quickly learned that if you picked up a piece of paper for the student, they will just knock it off again to see you bend over to pick it back up.
After graduating in 1941, Ruth taught history at a local high school until she joined the navy and rode in the back of planes to take live weather data during the war. Under the GI Plan she returned to Furman to earn a minor in math over the course of three summers. She taught math in high school until she retired.
Caldwell, Caitlin. Interview with Ruth McCain Dawsey (class of 1941). May 1, 2004.
Ruth Louise McCain. Bonhomie 1941. May 1, 2004.