Women and University Life
Faculty and Staff, part 1
University of Virginia Special Collections
During her lifetime, Mary Cooke-Branch Munford (1865-1938) worked tirelessly as an advocate for women, African Americans, and children. She served on the Richmond School Board from 1920 to 1931. She helped establish the Virginia Industrial School for Colored Girls and served as a trustee for the National Urban League and for Fisk University. Munford also organized the Virginia Inter-Racial Committee and worked with the National Child Labor Committee.
Munford felt passionate about securing admission for women to the University of Virginia and championed this cause throughout her career. Her work resulted in the admission of women to the graduate and professional schools in 1920, and the establishment of Mary Washington College as the University’s co-ordinate school in 1943. Munford influenced University policies as the third female to serve on the Board of Visitors. She held the post from 1926 until her death in 1938. The University installed a commemorative plaque on Grounds (now on display in Alderman Library) and named the first women’s dormitory in her honor.
Roberta Hollingsworth Gwathmey served as Dean of Women from 1934 to 1967. During her tenure, Gwathmey expanded the Dean’s role, making it an important office within University administration. She campaigned successfully for the construction of the first women’s residence hall and she served a growing population of female students during three decades of significant change.
Mary Whitney, the last Dean of Women, also served as an assistant professor in the Education School. She resigned from both positions so that she could testify in court in support of admitting women to the College. Her dedication to the cause helped bring about the transition to full coeducation at the University.
In 1969, Whitney wrote “Women and the University of Virginia,” a landmark account of the history of women’s struggles for education at the University.
From the Papers of Roberta Hollingsworth Gwathmey, University of Virginia Special Collections
The students who frequented the Co-Ed Room held Betty Slaughter, affectionately nicknamed “Betty Co-Ed,” in high esteem. Upon her retirement after thirty-three years of service, she received an outpouring of love and gratitude from the women she considered “her girls.” Alumnae and current students offered gifts, cards, and notes as thanks for all of the times she served as their friend, mentor, and confidante.
Roy Land started working for the University Library in
1930 when it was still housed in the Rotunda. She spent
most of her forty-seven years at the Library in the circulation
department and oversaw numerous changes to the Library system
and collections. She retired from the Library in 1977.
Land earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University in 1930, and a graduate degree in 1931. She also was a charter member of the Virginia Players, the University’s drama company.
U.Va. hired Elizabeth Johnson as the Assistant Dean of Admissions in 1969. As the University’s first fulltime African-American admissions officer, Johnson made it her priority to recruit and retain African-American students at a time when they made up less than one percent of the University’s total undergraduate population.