WOMEN AT BELOIT: 1896-1905
"Whatever may have been the forebodings on the part of some old friends of Beloit -'that Old Beloit was lost!' 'That the high standard would be lowered!' 'That the Virility of Beloit students was to disappear,' the women came without ado, came just as though they had been used to coming all these years, and took their places in Chapel and Class-room and from the first entered Beloit College life without Fuss or Flurry.' -Faculty Report to the Trustees
June 24, 1896
The first year of coeducation proved to be a success in the eyes of the college administration. Student opinion expressed in The Round Table of September l896 suggested that:
...[c]o-education has proved successful beyond the expectations of many who still cherish...the most tender affection for Beloit as it has been in the past. If co-education is, as so many claim, the powerful ally and positive necessity of this progressive age, Beloit certainly will regret not that it has at last dropped into the line, but that it is now in the rear instead of the van of the movement...57
This editorial statement suggests a positive conclusion on the part of the student body, as well as the faculty. We should ask, however, whether this first year was an isolated incident of over-achievement by the women or an example for future years to build on and from? How much did their lives change in the first decade of coeducation? What were their accomplishments? Did they attain "equal" status with their male peers? This section will attempt to answer these questions by examining the various fields of women's involvement. It appears, through various sources, such as The Round Table, that women continued to spread their "influence". They remained strong in academics while also entering new arenas such as sports, sororities and other clubs.
Athletics at Beloit has been a source of pride for many years. With so many women involved in athletic events today, it is difficult to imagine a time when almost no sport was open to women. During the early years of coeducation at Beloit, a great deal of attention was given to sports in The Round Table, including entire editions devoted to football. This posed a problem for the women of the college. Because for many years there were no organized sports clubs for women, they were excluded from this very popular topic, rendering them almost invisible in regards to athletic events. This problem was not unique to Beloit College. During the Progressive Era (1890-1920), the "...growing importance of men's athletics, particularly football, further diminished the status of women on campus[es]"58 because schools put so much of their energy and funds into male athletic programs. Although women's athletic events, such as tennis and basketball, did not attract the same attention as men's, women were expected to support the male contests. One way of showing their support was financially. In September 1895 The Round Table congratulated the women for taking up the spirit of the college by pledging a generous amount of money for the support of the athletic department. And in January 1897, The Round Table reported on a new proposition which would allocate more funds to athletics. The article claimed that this proposition was "enthusiastically received by all.":
[t]he young women are no less enthusiastic than the young men, though they may perhaps be less demonstrative. While they cannot play they are glad to pay their part in this way and feel that as members of the college, they have an equal interest in athletics.
Further mention of women's non-physical involvement in athletics is seen in November of 1898, when apparently, the women showed "the right spirit" by making a banner and going to Dixon, Illinois to support a men's football team. Though unable to participate competitively in sports, they were allowed to attend the games and cheer on the men.
One very popular tradition among the male students at Beloit was the annual Cane Rush, a competition between the two lower classes in which the Sophomores tried to break a majority of canes the Freshmen held. Obviously, because it was a very rough sport women were not allowed to participate or have a Cane Rush of their own. Instead, a tradition formed that the women of each class would dress similarly and cheer the men on and console "their poor, dirty, winded classmates" after a loss. In October 1899, The Round Table published an article describing the Cane Rush that year. Before detailed play by play commentaries on the actual competition, the writer mentioned the women in a somewhat condescending tone:
It is true that the co-eds indulged in a little scratching and hair-pulling on the side lines, but their actions must not be considered in this case. Prehaps a half dozen were exhausted by their exertions and were forced to rest for the remainder of the day, but [none of the women were] injured seriously.
In November 1900 the women showed their total support by cheering the men on during a Cane Rush that took place in a snowstorm.
The women voiced their opinions about sports in May of 1903, when the regular editors of The Round Table turned over control to the Senior women for one edition of the newspaper. In their issue, they responded to their alleged lack of enthusiasm for sports. Although the women had gone to athletic mass meetings and games in greater numbers than the men, the teams only encouraged the other men to attend games. The women felt both unappreciated and unrecognized, so stopped attending for awhile. According to the article written by Elizabeth Eaton, '03, "the status of affairs has changed, the women are regarded as an integral part of the College life...and...they should show an...enthusiastic interest in the athletics of the college..."59 This commentary suggests that the women got their point across by "boycotting" the men's athletic events.
In the Fall of 1904, H.G. Weeks, the coach of the football team, made a wise move by writing a letter to the "young ladies of Beloit" in which he personally thanked them for their loyalty and enthusiasm which was, in part, responsible for the success of the men's football team. Beloit, like other coeducational colleges around the country, tended to concentrate more on winning than anything else when it came to men's athletics. For women, however, "athletics provided a satisfying alternative to studies and a means of increasing their self-confidence."60 Despite their exclusion from mainstream athletic events, the women of Beloit College began participating in the "appropriate" athletic options then available, such as, tennis and basketball.
Because tennis was considered a genteel sport it was one athletic alternative for women. In October 1896, a student wrote to The Round Table asking why tennis was such a "dead letter" with the women that fall. He commented that although the tennis tournament the year before was only a beginning it shouldn't be the end. The women must have taken this suggestion to heart because the tennis tournaments continued. In May 1897 The Round Table mentioned that a committee was preparing for that Spring's tennis tournament. That same year the women requested to be allowed to play a tennis match with the women of Rockford Seminary; the request was referred to the Dean and Professor E.G. Smith. And in 1899 two new tennis courts were installed at Emerson Hall, the women's residence hall.
Although tennis was one alternative for women, it was not the most popular. One can summarize the women's favorite form of athletic participation in one word; basketball, basketball, and still more basketball! The sport is first mentioned in The Round Table of December 1896. At this time the women were offered "Physical Culture", in which they participated in healthful exercises, and every Tuesday and Thursday played basketball. The sport grew in popularity from two "lusty girl's basketball teams", according to The Round Table, to four teams by January 1897. In February the paper remarked that "basketball still continues to be the thing in [the women's] gym."61 The student reporter went on to say that the women ought to be good enough by this time to give an exhibition game but since the women's gym was a "dangerous place for editors" he could only guess that the games were as "exciting and enthusiastic as all such contests." In March, it was reported that almost all the women on campus participated in basketball. By the next fall the women organized into class teams and prepared for contests with Rockford Seminary and other neighboring colleges. In February of 1898, after the women obtained permission from the faculty to compete with other colleges in basketball, they sent a challenge to Rockford Seminary. Unfortunately, Rockford declined because they had no regular team. The Beloit women's thirst for competition was not quenched that easily, however, and the following month they held an exhibition game for the faculty and some friends. The college's women's team played the "scrub team" and won. Because "physical educators resolved to restrict competition to a more moderate or genteel level",62 the rules of the game were often changed to reduce its roughness. According to an article written in The Round Table from March of 1898, however, the games were far from dainty. "One by one our college girls are receiving their death blows - sprained fingers, sprained ankles, broken noses - and still they love to play."
The women may not have had the opportunity to become involved in as many sports as the men but eventually they did have the advantage of an excellent gymnasiam. In December 1896, an article appeared in The Round Table entitled "The Women's Gymnasium", which described the original women's gymnasium as located on the third floor of the Science Hall "amongst Professor Collie's tables of geological specimens." The article went on to say that the gymnasium was not as adequate as the larger (men's) gymnasium. It was not spacious enough to allow spectators and was cramped with Professor Collie's geological equipment. Three days a week Miss Short, of the Freshmen class, conducted "healthful exercises". The other two days of the week they played basketball. By November of the next year Emerson Hall, the new women's residence hall had been completed. This building housed, "the only gymnasium worthy of the name upon the campus."63 In December 1898 this gymnasium was improved with a cork floor and The Round Table commented that "no girl's gymnasium in the West will be better equipped." This opinion was validated by a guest speaker, Reverend Anna Shaw, in a lecture to the women of the college about two weeks later. She stated that many of the colleges around the country failed to provide as good gymnasium for the women as the men. But, she added that the women's gymnasium at Emerson Hall distinguished itself as ahead of the rest.
Along with the high quality gymnasium, Beloit College provided the women with "Physical Culture" instructors. On February 3,1899, The Round Table, announced that Miss Landors, the old instructor, was replaced by Miss Knowlton. These women were both students untrained in physical education. That fall the college hired its first professional, full time Director of the Gymnasium For Women. Compulsory gymnasium work was instituted with the arrival of Miss Cora Ellen Palmer, who had received two years Physical Training at Oberlin College in Ohio. The women in charge of physical education around the country:
...designed programs for the physical improvement of underdeveloped young women, maintained systems of graduated exercise and sports for all [female] students, and allowed competition in sport to ascend only to those levels that they deemed conducive to good health and effective performance of social duties.64
Cora Palmer's plan called for the women to spend three hours a week in gymnasium work. After an examination each woman would be assigned the work she especially needed. All seemed particularly eager to participate in weekly exercise.
Literary societies provided an option for the students of the college to exercise their intellectual skills in a more social setting, outside of the classroom. When discussing literary societies at Beloit it would be a mistake not to mention the Archaean Union. This club was in charge of the publication of The Round Table, sponsored oratorical contests, and ran a reading room, among other activities. But, they were a constant source of trouble for the women students. The women, although admitted to the college on equal terms, seemed to be shunned from many of the literary activities on campus. For example, they were not allowed to compete with the men in oratorical contests. Although the situation appeared bleak, the women did what they could to improve it for themselves.
The Archaean Union was in charge of The Round Table, which included editors for various subjects; literary, sports, and local. Typically, male students edited the major sections, such as the literary and sports sections, and a female student was in charge of the "local" section, which reported on all the social activities on campus and such. Along with an occasional article written by a woman, the local section constituted the extent of their participation in putting together The Round Table until May of 1903 when the tradition of allowing the Senior women full responsibility for the production of one issue began. In October 1900 an article appeared in The Round Table entitled "Of Interest To Girls," which mentioned plans suggested to interest the women of the college in The Round Table. "Probably the best...is, that the management introduce a fashion, page and publish the latest Parisian modes weekly."65 It did not seem to occur to the management until 1903 that women would probably show more interest in the paper if they were able to participate more in its publication. And, although women had the opportunity to participate fully in the production of the school newspaper once a year it did not seem to be enough to keep them interested the rest of the year. At that time, students subscribed to The Round Table for $2.00 a year. In October 1903, an editorial appeared in The Round Table reprimanding those who did not subscribe to the newspaper. To the editors there seemed to be a strong connection between the amount of school spirit and the number of subscriptions:
You girls up there at Emerson Hall...you're knockers, you're pikers, you're spongers, grafters, parasites! Just because you don't have to subscribe to The Round Table you will not. You think more of a few yards of ribbon or a box of candy than you do of your Alma Mater, or your Beloit spirit (if you know what that means) - that spirit and that Beloit which have been built up by fifty years of hard and enthusiastic work and sacrifice, by fifty classes of Beloit men! Mind you, men! Do you wonder that sometimes our alumni, sometimes we ourselves wish that girls had never been admitted to Beloit?"66
The antagonism displayed by this editorial was, according to the author, merely a device used to get the non-subscribers mad enough to subscribe. Even so, they still seemed to miss the point that possibly the women lacked interest in The Round Table because of lack of participation in its production, year-round. The edition the women produced every spring seemed well-received by the college community. The Senior Girls' Edition, as it was called, did not differ much from the regular issues of the paper except that it was completely the work of the women, also, more emphasis was given to women's athletics and to female alumnae.
Another function of the Archaean Union was to sponsor oratorical contests. The winners represented Beloit College at contests with neighboring colleges, such as Lake Forest, Cornell, Knox and others. In March of 1897 the Union had a vote on an amendment that proposed barring women's participation in the oratorical contests. President Eaton was asked to speak on behalf of the women who were opposed to the amendment. The members of the Union in favor of barring women from the contests argued that it would be seemingly impossible to judge men and women orators by the same standard. The opposition stated that if "...women were allowed to enter the College on equal terms with the men, they should be allowed those rights, and if they became members of the Archaean Union they had a right to all its privileges."67 The group was nearly equally divided on the question but the amendment lost and women were allowed to participate in the oratorical contests. An article reporting on the meeting stated that:
[a]lthough it is not likely that a woman will be found every year who is pre-eminently able and fitted to represent the college in an oratorical contest yet when such a one is found it is not just to have her of this opportunity.68
That month an editorial appeared in The Round Table commenting on the topic. According to the editorialist, only about six women attended the meeting and this alone proved that the women did not care. He also assumed that the majority of the women did not care to compete with the men but resented "any appearance of discourtesy to their sex."69 He went on to say, "[e]ver since co-education has been admitted to Beloit, the ladies have been publicly snubbed and slighted with no inconsiderable frequency." If the women were allowed to participate in the oratorical contests:
the result will be a lowering of the grade of oratory in our contests. The fact that other colleges send lady representatives to the State and Interstate contests should have nothing to do with the case...It is the opinion of all that [coeducation] must be brought into harmony with the old life of the institution as speedily as possible, but there is room for doubt as to the advisability of granting concessions to a few ladies who take interest in the college organizations while the great majority are disposed to hold aloof from them entirely...
Although many male members of the Archaean Union were upset by the outcome allowing women to participate in oratorical contests at Beloit, women had advanced in their move to be treated fairly. When in January 1898 the Preliminary Contest in Oratory was held, the judges selected along with five men, Miss Mills, of the junior Class, to compete in the upcoming Home Contest within the college.
The Archaean Union posed one more problem for the women. In March of 1898 an article appeared in The Round Table claiming that women were not using the Archaean Union reading room in large numbers because of the impolite treatment they received when they did use it. Almost a year later the same problem was again addressed in The Round Table. The article asked, "[w]hy is it that the young lady student, alias the 'coed,' is so rare a flower in the Archaean reading room?"70 Although there were female members of the Archaean Union, few of them took advantage of the reading room. The author worried that, unless changes were made, in a year or so there might be no female members. The Union had subscribed to The Ladies' Home Journal and Martha Parloa's Cook Book and if that wasn't enough attraction, he argued, the women should come together and that would make the room more comfortable for them. The women finally responded publicly to this and other grievances in March of 1901 in an article to The Round Table:
For Our Gentleman Friends:- Please do not expect us to join the Archaean Union and frequent the reading room under the present conditions. It is embarrassing to enter the room and find the gentlemen with their feet on the tables and their hats on the backs of their heads.
Do not think that unkempt hair and a week's old beard denote signs of genius.
Don't criticize us for attracting the gentlemen up to the Hall Friday nights and thus keeping them away from Literary meetings. They shouldn't be so easy.
Don't expect us to rave over a football or baseball game the same way you do. We couldn't if we would.
Don't blame us for being here. Tell your troubles to the Trustees. They did it...
Don't blame the whole sex because a few of our number are given to gossip in the waiting room.71
Things still had not changed by June, when a student wrote that several things connected to student activities needed correction. The issues he raised were important to the members of the Archaean Union because they needed a strong membership to remain active on campus. On his list he added that the young women ought to subscribe to The Round Table, "[a]s a rule they are no poorer than the men." He also mentioned that they "ought to visit the reading room in greater numbers..."72 It seems that despite the women's written admission that they were uncomfortable in the reading room, no measures were taken to alleviate the problem until two years later. In November 1903 The Round Table published an article explaining that the reading room was now kept up neatly because the men wished that the women would begin using it. The men suggested that women establish a custom amongst themselves by going to the reading room together. This was apparently their last plea to lure the women to the reading room.
Since the women did not find the Archaean Union a satisfying literary outlet, they began to prepare for a literary society of their own. As early as May of 1897, about twenty women interested in forming a literary society met, discussed the matter and appointed committees to write a constitution and search for a name. Two weeks later, the topic appeared again in The Round Table. At this point the constitution was adopted, officers were elected, and the name, "Aristonian Society", was chosen ("Aristo" came from the Ancient Greek word meaning "best"). In January of 1898 The Round Table reported that it had a rival. The Aristonian Society published its first copy of a newspaper, called The Aristonian, that month and planned on publishing succeeding issues throughout the year. The board of editors included: Editor-in-Chief, Grace Chamberlin '98; literary, Emma Miller '98; local, Theresa Hanley '99; athletic, Alice Olds '00. Along with their new paper and other "business" matters, the Aristonian Society conducted debates among its members and also had speakers come to their meetings. For example, Miss L.May Pitkin, Instructor in English and Dean of Women, spoke to them one evening about the Hull House in Chicago.73 At another meeting a guest gave a talk on Victorian author, Robert Louis Stevenson. In October of 1898, the club announced several new members and that they anticipated a successful year. One year later The Round Table wrote that the Aristonian Society seemed "to be enjoying an unseasonable period of hibernation."74 By November of 1899 the Aristonian Society was reported as no longer existing. Although the society still held meetings to give members practice in extemporaneous speaking it no longer followed any of its other original goals. The decline in activity of the Aristonian Society was never explained but one reason that may be inferred in retrospect is that the leaders of the club were women in the upper classes. Perhaps when they graduated they took with them the impetus and strong leadership needed to keep the club going. The club virtually disappeared from campus until April of 1910 when The Round Table reported that the women of the college had decided, if the faculty approved, to form two literary societies. The new societies were named the Delphic and the Aristonian and would be devoted to practice debates, parliamentary drill, and extemporaneous speaking. The women had no intention of competing with men in oratorical speaking and would enter contests for women only. Unfortunately, the Aristonian was doomed to fail again. Four years later the society formally ceased to exist because the members decided that there was not sufficient need in Beloit for a women's literary society due to the course in Public Speaking inaugurated that year.
The women of Beloit were not allowed to participate in the intercollegiate speech and debate contests allowable for men. Beloit was proud of its traditional success in the contests, and did not want to risk their reputation by sending women. In many cases contests were still open only to men. But in January of 1904 the women were challenged by Milwaukee-Downer College to a debate with no judges and no verdict. The women at Beloit sent back a reply accepting the challenge on the condition that there be judges and a verdict. "This change was made because the girls [thought] much more interest [would] be aroused and more zest put into the preparation if there [was] a verdict than if there [was] not."75 The women competed in preliminary contests to decide who would go to the competition. However, two months before the contest, two participants had to give up their parts due to illness. New members were chosen but had insufficient time to prepare and practice. The debate took place in May and Beloit lost. Those from Beloit that attended all agreed that the Beloit women did very well.
In the fall of 1899, Beloit women formed the Shakespeare Society. That December, The Round Table reported that the Shakespeare Society was one of the "youngest...most successful literary societies of the college." With a constitution in hand, and elected officers ready, they planned to "make a careful study of Shakespeare's plays, with the help of critical papers and a dramatic representation of scenes from the plays studied."76 That year the membership of twenty-five women planned to study Shakespeare's life, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, and As You Like It. The club prospered among the female community at Beloit and in October of 1900 they held a meeting and invited members of the faculty who, afterwards, spoke in the highest terms of the club and its work. In the Spring of 1901 The Round Table reported that the Shakespeare Society was the "only voluntary organization in the college where the young women may find an outlet for their literary enthusiasm..."77 This group was successful for many years.
One may conclude that the problems the women encountered prompted them to form their own literary societies; the Aristonian Society and the Shakespeare Society. Despite the failure of the Aristonian Society, and the difficulties with the Archaean Union, the Shakespeare Society proved to be a club that pleased members as well as faculty and did not pose a threat to any previously existing clubs.
The issue of student's social life was an initial concern of opponents to coeducation at Beloit and around the country. Worries included fear of flirtation and early marriage, as well as a fear that student's academics would suffer because of overactive social lives. Coeducational colleges segregated many events for men and women during the early years of the mid-nineteenth century. At Oberlin College in Ohio, "social and extracurricular organizations and activities were sex segregated; relationships between men and women took place in an atmosphere of evangelical piety and propriety."78 Similar conditions prevailed at other institutions across the country. By the time Beloit became coeducational in 1895 this was not as typical on college campuses. Men and women were allowed to socialize, but most events required chaperones and strict supervision.
Little changed in the social events the women held or attended during the first decade of coeducation at Beloit, but there was a change in the attitude of the male students towards social events in general. One of the main arguments against coeducation at Beloit and around the country was that the women would "lure" the men away from their studies. Beloit students claimed disinterest in an active social life before coeducation arrived at Beloit. This attitude changed by 1898. A student insisted in The Round Table that students had ample opportunity to enjoy a social life at Beloit:
Our social life is as characteristic as the other phases of college life, and while it should always be a secondary matter, yet it is certainly an essential one...College-bred men and women must be well polished; never to superficiality nor beyond honest gentility, but to such a degree as is necessary to make a man or woman rueful and which is most consistent with true dignity.79
So it appears that the attitude changed from one of disdain for social events to one of acceptance. One of the earliest social events the women attended was a reception held by President and Mrs. Eaton at their home. President Eaton gave "a warm and hearty talk", Miss Ethelwyn Eaton,'00, played the piano, a couple of other women played the violin and sang after which they played charades and ate pineapple sherbet.80 Singing was a common past-time at parties, and nothing was more popular than singing college songs. Each class had its own song with verses like this one from the class of 1903:
We'll sing about a jolly class,
The class of Nineteen Three,
We'll tell of many a lad and lass,
For many a pair have we.
In athletics we can swipe you.
In our classes we don't flunk (Oh, no!)
And now to prove that this is true,
We'll show we've lots of spunk."81
And this verse is from another college song:
And here's a song to every girl
The sweet, the sour, the witty,
We hail them all, the short and tall
Too bad they're not all pretty.
Let your voices strike the skies,
Let your voices strike the skies...
Some day they'll all be pretty.82
Other popular activities at parties were games and dancing. When dancing, with or without men, became increasingly popular after the first decade of coeducation, the Faculty decreed in 1910 that the young women would be "limited to six ten o'clock dancing parties and three eleven o'clock dancing parties per semester."83 In 1913 Beloit women voiced their disapproval of "the Grizzly, the Tango, the Turkey-Trot, and all varieties of the Boston." They decided on definite action against these modern, popular dances and placed a ban upon all dances except the waltz and two-step.84
Costume parties were another favorite of the young women. In May of 1901 Ithel B. Davies, Editor-in-Chief of The Round Table, commented that a "mysterious party" took place at Emerson Hall. No men were invited but the rumor was that "George Washington and various other American dignitaries were there."85 The Round Table of January 1905 mentioned that the Senior "girls" provided a masquerade party to the whole Senior class. And Halloween always supplied an excuse for a costume party at Emerson Hall. In 1898:
the gymnasium at Emerson Hall presented a very remarkable aspect. At half past eight the room gradually began to fill with ghostly figures...At nine o'clock the masks were removed and a prize awarded to the person guessing the greatest number of persons correctly.86
The next Halloween about twenty women were entertained by the residents of Emerson Hall. The guests were received by "ghostly spirits" and they spent the night "tripp[ing] the light fantastic toe until the nine o'clock bell announced the end of their festivities."87 It's not until 1902 that we see another mention of an Emerson Hall Halloween festivity. That year the women served an old-fashioned New England style dinner to their guests. After dinner the women displayed their skill (or lack of) at fortune-telling. Except for a few candles and jack-o-lanterns "there was no light and in the weird glow the girls in their witch caps and gowns made a very effective Hallowe'en."88
Most of the time the women entertained amongst themselves but on occasion they attended parties at the fraternities on campus. Also, sleigh rides and "nutting expeditions" were opportunities for women and men to mingle. The women likewise hosted annual receptions at Emerson Hall for all members of the various classes. It appears that they had more to do than crack open the books.
As mentioned earlier, in March of 1896 President Eaton denied women the privilege of participating in Vesper Choral singing. This decree did not end their desire to sing in public. The next December The Round Table mentioned that the newly organized Young Women's Glee Club was "commanding more attention than any other musical organization" on campus and "the school is unanimous in being pleased at this new turn of the good stranger, Co-education."89 Also, in January 1897 The Round Table explained that the women "were at last allowed to participate ... in the family Worship in a Choir of their Own."90 So, it seems through persistence the women broke this tradition of solely male choirs at Beloit.
The Young Women's Glee Club was organized in December of 1896 with a membership of twenty. "Anyone who had a voice, or thought she had, was welcome,"91 according to a member of the class of 1900. Lillian Wherry, '99, led the group that first year. She tendered her resignation as leader in December 1897 despite the club's unwillingness to accept it, and Elizabeth Whitney, '99, took over. Genevieve Reitler was elected the club's business manager,
not that there was any real business in sight, but we wanted to appear to advantage in the eyes of our brothers, for at that time co-eds were expected to be seen and not heard in the general life of the college.92
The Women's Glee Club performed at various events on and off campus. They debuted in April 1897 at the Wilson Opera House in Beloit. Soon after, the performance was reviewed in The Round Table. The reviewer found conflicting opinions regarding the performance, although all who attended agreed that the women "rendered their selection with remarkably perfect execution and excellent spirit" and the result was "far beyond the expectations of the audience."93 He went on to say, however, that the women's concert lacked the elements of the "rollicking, unrestrained joviality of a male glee club."94 Despite that somewhat negative review, the women continued to receive invitations to perform. One month later the manager of the club received an offer from "the young church people of Rockton to appear there in a concert."95 The women refused the invitation on the basis of finances. Their debut concert was paid for in part by a $25.00 donation by the Beloit Young Women's Christian Association. In November 1898, the Choir sang at the dedication of the new women's dormitory, Emerson Hall.96 That Spring several neighboring towns requested concerts from the Glee Club, but the women were too busy with school work so decided to perform only once. They performed at the Wilson Opera House in March, 1898 and donated the proceeds to the furnishing of the Emerson Hall gymnasium. After that term the Young Women's Glee Club basically drifted out of existence, not again revived until 1906. By 1903, the women were participating in the school's Musical Association, which became a male and female choir. Two women, Bessie Olds,'04, and Ethel Bird,'05, performed the duties of Vice-President. Whether founded by women, or given a boost through participation, these musical groups set a new tradition at Beloit College.
When the women arrived in 1895 the college had not only an all-male student body, but an all-male faculty and administration. This was not unusual. Many women's colleges of the late nineteenth century employed all-female faculty and administrations. Wellesley College's all-female faculty was described in retrospect as a "nurturing and enabling New England family culture..."97 and other women's colleges provided a similar atmosphere. In this environment women had female role models, were encouraged to declare non-traditional (for women) majors such as math and science, and were free from the intimidation of male students. But the situation was different at coeducational institutions, where, according to historian Barbara Miller Solomon, "most undergraduates did not question the overwhelming male dominance of faculties."98 In November of 1898, Beloit's first female faculty member began her duties.
Miss L. May Pitkin, a graduate of Wellesley College, was hired as Dean of Women and Instructor of English. In an announcement circular, President Eaton explained that women would not obtain a complete education at Beloit until a woman "should occupy the relation of Dean to the young ladies, specially interested in all that promotes their welfare and aiding in securing the best and richest development of their life in the College."99 He further stated that financial limitations delayed the administration from appointing a women's dean sooner. Miss Pitkin resided in Emerson Hall with the women until she married Professor Malcolm Wallace, an Associate Professor of English at Beloit. She remained at Beloit as Dean of Women and Instructor of English from 1898 to 1905, when she was replaced by Florence Fensham, who taught Biblical Literature, as well as performing her duties as Dean, until 1909.
During the last decades of the nineteenth century, female physical educators became more common. They "held the human body and female anatomy in high regard and did not descend into ritualistic or stereotypical presumptions of female inferiority."100 In 1899 Beloit College hired Cora Ellen Palmer as Director of the Gymnasium for Women. She was a graduate of Oberlin College and instructed a course for the women in Physical Culture until 1910. Helen B. Emerson, along with her husband, Professor Joseph Emerson, founded the College Art Collection, in the 1890s, for which she was curator until her death in 1920.
As role models, they encouraged the undergraduate women to expand their activities beyond the classroom and brought in women speakers who talked to the women about issues that pertained to their lives. For example, Miss Pitkin spoke to the Aristonian Society about the Hull House in Chicago where she had once worked. Founded by Jane Addams, a graduate of Rockford Female Seminary, the Hull House was typical of the social work that many women entered after receiving a college education. Lectures of this nature might not have occurred without women faculty.
Upon announcing coeducation, the administration was faced with the question of where to house the women. Co-ed dorms at Beloit were about seventy years away and so the school had to provide for separate living arrangements. In September of 1896 The Round Table announced the opening of a new "cottage" for the women on Church Street, North Cottage, which housed about eight women. Two other cottages, Stowell and Rogers, housed about sixteen more. Each cottage had a "house mother" who kept an eye on the women. Emma Miller, '99, donated money to the college in 1966 for the improvement of a dormitory. In a letter to the director of development she wrote that she and her sister, Cora Miller, '99:
were among the first girls to enter Beloit College in the fall of 1895, and we lived in one of the small cottages which the college then used to house the women. We had a very poor room, and it would give me satisfaction to feel that I can help in a small way to provide ideal accommodations for the present day students.101
These cottages did not house all of the female students and so those remaining boarded in town.
Although at first the cottages were adequate, the college anticipated an increase in women students and needed to provide a larger building. The problem was a lack of funding, so Louis E. Holden, '88, who did fund raising for the college, was told to call upon past benefactors of the college for assistance. Dr. D.K. Pearsons was a well known benefactor who had provided funding for the building of Science Hall in 1892. Holden knew that Dr. Pearsons was "absolutely opposed to coeducation at Beloit,"102 but decided to give it a shot. Holden had recently read the life history of Mary Lyon, founder of Mount Holyoke, a college for women and remembered hearing Mrs. Pearsons describe Mary Lyon as a frequent guest in her father's home. Holden decided that if he could meet Dr. Pearsons "in the presence of Mrs. Pearsons and her sister Miss Chapin, who was a graduate of Mount Holyoke, [he] would be able to change his mind toward coeducation for Beloit."103 Holden eventually met with the three and brought up how impressed he was with Ms. Lyon's work and asked Dr. Pearsons why he was opposed to coeducation. "Mrs. Pearsons spoke up at once and said, 'Why doctor, I didn't know that you opposed Beloit's opening to women!'...Miss Chapin then started in and told what Mount Holyoke and Mary Lyon had meant in her life."104 At that point the battle was won. The doctor "surrendered then and there" and proceeded to donate $30,000 to the building of a new dormitory for the women at Beloit College.
In 1897 the corner stone of the third dormitory on Beloit's campus was laid. The Round Table described Emerson Hall for women as the envy of everyone who lived outside of it. The dormitory was to possess the "newest and coziest of rooms, the only gymnasium worthy of the name upon the campus, [and] parlors that [would] shame any fraternity house on the hill..."105 The dorm, which housed about fifty women, officially opened in the fall of 1898.