World War I instigated serious financial hardship to form not only in Europe but also in the United States even before its entry. Likewise, the breakout of war impeded the growth of funding to the South Carolina Baptist Convention (SCBC), which consequently reduced monies appropriated to the budgets of its members including Furman University and the Greenville Woman's College (GWC). Therefore, to learn about the administrative accounts of these schools, I examined parts of the Annuals of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, which chronicled the state of affairs for all its constituents. In the Annuals, I perused both the minutes of the yearly convention’s sessions and the “Report of the Education Board”, created only in 1913. The most notable detail from the former came in the 36th minute of the 1914 convention when the SCBC adopted the proposal to rename the Greenville Female College the Greenville Woman’s College. However, it was in the education reports where all the significant developments that occurred in each school were revealed and is thus what ultimately constitutes my analysis herein. Each school’s president authored its education report and articulated how the school progressed during the past academic year (1).
In Furman University, the 1914-1917 reports had much less content collectively than in the 1918-1921 reports. Despite this discrepancy in activity, campus improvements occurred throughout the WWI-period, such as in the ones explicitly stated for 1914, 1915, 1918, 1919, 1920, and 1921. Another indicator of the school’s status was student enrollment, which decreased moderately in 1914 only to increase until 1917. The decline continued in 1918, but enrollment greatly increased from 1919 to 1921. Even when current and prospective students were engaged in the war, enrollment never dropped below the 1915 level. On the other hand, the Furman Fitting School, already in financial trouble before the war, suffered heavier losses in enrollment from 1913 to 1915 and was forced to close in the latter year due to its growing debt. To respond to the large increases in enrollment during the postwar years, several new buildings were constructed to accommodate the enlarged student body. They included a gymnasium, the Manly Athletic Field, a new dormitory, an infirmary, a heating plant, and a central dining room. This unparalleled expansion in the size of the university was made possible by generous private and public donors; the gifts provided by the Seventy-Five Million Dollar Campaign and the General Education Board of New York comprised a large share of the aid. In the midst of mass architectural enterprise, Furman was becoming increasingly modernized academically. In 1918, Latin and Greek studies became combined under the heading of Classics. From 1920 to 1921, the departments of Education and Law were established, and the Furman Summer School began operations. While Furman began to develop into a more sophisticated educational institution throughout the WWI-era, that process sped significantly in the postwar period (2).
In analyzing the GWC in a manner similar to Furman, campus improvements were apparent, albeit on a smaller scale, and they were noted for 1916, 1919, and 1921. Student enrollment characterized the greatest change in the GWC during this time, as it nearly doubled from 1914 to 1920 before dropping off the following year. The GWC had at least twice as many students as Furman until 1920 when enrollment at Furman began increasing at a higher rate. Despite the large growth of the student body, only a few major architectural constructions occurred, and they were all established during the postwar years. They included the conversion of the old auditorium to a dormitory, the erection of a Fine Arts building, and the complete overhaul of the campus plumbing system. It was unclear from the Annuals how much financial aid the GWC received from the SCBC, but in judging by the content and tone of the president’s educational reports, the college seemed to have adapted to the war’s economic repercussions reasonably well. On another note, The GWC revised academic policies further than Furman in that it sought to not only modernize itself but become increasingly standardized during this time. Examples of modernization included efforts taken to reduce the gender gap in providing closer to equal salaries to all professors beginning in 1919 and having a trained librarian on staff for the first time in 1920. The GWC became standardized in a number of ways beginning in 1914 when students were graded with higher expectations than previously. Before WWI few professors held college degrees, but by 1921 all professors were recipients of degrees from standardized institutions. In a move to raise the educational standards of the college, the school devised a few academic policy changes in 1918. The Bachelor of Science and the Bachelor of Music degrees were announced to take effect the next year. Also, examination at the college was now required for all students seeking advanced standard degrees, and all diplomas formerly granted were discontinued except those representing the standard degrees. In 1921, the GWC submitted its application to become an accredited college in the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, which would later be approved. It was evident that the Greenville Woman’s College grew in both size and professionalism during this turbulent period in history (3).
1 Annuals of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, 1914, Furman University Archives, Greenville, SC.
2 Annuals of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, 1914-1921, Furman University Archives, Greenville, SC.