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Fridays with Fred: On “gentleman callers”

A brief history of Emerson as a women’s dorm and their meetings with men from the college.

This early 1960’s scene of couples bidding each other goodnight in front of Emerson Hall is a parody with the ring of truth. At the time, first year women lived in Emerson, dedicated in 1898 as the first women’s dormitory: a gift of D.K. Pearsons, named in honor of Joseph Emerson, one of the college’s first professors.

In the early 1960’s women faced stringent residence hall regulations. According to This is Beloit, a handbook from 1962, all women had to register absence from the residence hall after 7:30 p.m. “by signing out on a Daily Sign Out Sheet her destination, time of departure, anticipated time of return, and by signing in on her return.” First year women had to be inside Emerson by 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, by midnight on Friday, 1:30 a.m. on Saturday and 11 p.m. on Sunday, and students were “not permitted to leave or enter after closing hours and before 6 a.m. without permission from the Head Resident.” Regulations allowed first year women only two off-campus permissions per month and they needed written consent from their parents. The college did not allow “men callers” to visit women in their rooms. “[They] may be received in Women’s Residence Halls only in the main lounges.”

The handbook explains that “fortunately, men have no ‘hours’ or ‘lights-out,’ but certain rules must be followed in order to insure safe, peaceful, and pleasant living.” Despite its assertion that “GENTLEMEN NEED NO RULES AND REGULATIONS,” the handbook did provide a helpful list of rules, including a series of required “Quiet Hours” and strict prohibitions on firearms, gambling, alcoholic beverages and cooking. Aside from these last mentioned, the college began to relax many of their residence hall rules and regulations by 1966.

Fred Burwell ’86
September 02, 2010

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