I have enjoyed learning about the lives of women who attended WM before me. Conducting this research has opened my eyes to things women experienced at the college after WWII into the 1950s.  One of the findings that I found most interesting was that not all women I reviewed interviews of necessarily disagreed with restrictions and rules women had to follow. My own biases and experience as a woman who has grown up in the 21st century believed that women were unhappy if they did not have the freedom to ride in cars or the ability to be out of their dorm past a certain hour. These women, however, made their won fun, went along with the rules, and stuck to the status quo. It was also interesting to see the first stirrings of racist laws and social customs being lifted during the time period. During Ruth Tiller’s time at WM between 1942 and 1945 the editor of the Flat Hat Marilyn Camerly wrote a piece at the time in favor of racial integration on campus that was met with a lot of resistance. She was right but ahead of her time Ruth Tiller (1945) noted. In addition, Mardie Markimm 1955 mentioned that the rule that blacks had to sit in a separate section during convocation was lifted during her time at WM. A decade before massive social change concerning segregation would take place and WM women in particular were advocates for integration. I am excited to present my findings in September to continue to showcase the value of women, their spirit, and their contributions to the college.

Finding Contradictory Information

I am finishing transcribing the interviews from women from the years 1945-1955. I have been able to locate patterns in the transcriptions such as the times of curfews for women, dress code, rules regarding riding in cars, however, I have come across information from one of the interviewees Henretta Band: WM class of 1954 that seems to contradict the sentiments toward gender constrictions during the time period. In the interview the interviewer stated:

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Transcribing Interviews!

Today I transcribed a very interesting interview of Nancy Kurtz Falck, from the W&M Class of 1950. Nancy spoke about different gender constrictions such as the curfew for women during her time at W&M, dress code for playing sports, dating, and restriction on riding in cars. It was fascinating to hear about how her boyfriend at the time, now husband, had to notify the Dean of Women every time he came to see her. I thought about how different her dating experience has been as compared to mine. In addition, Nancy spoke about how women were not allowed to ride in cars in the Williamsburg area without permission and farther than the Williamsburg, women needed parental permission. In terms of academics, Nancy spoke about being a woman in the sciences at W&M and the difficulties she faced. “I would say they were quite challenging particularly as a woman. I was a woman who was actually Pre-Med. I had one teacher say I don’t teach women, and I had to have the class to be Pre-Med and I had to go through my usual thing try it you’ll will like it”. In addition to gender constriction, Nancy also expanded on her memories she had made, the friendships that she had crafted, and the laughs she had with the women she lived with. Not only was I surprised by how different Nancy’s experience was compared to mine, I was inspired by her involvement in the college and her positive outlook on life.

Abstract: WM Women: Women’s Experience in Co-education

Currently, special collections and the college does not have consolidated information about women students and experiences at the college. By uncovering the stories of women, specifically difficult, unsettling, or noteworthy narratives, I can record how inclusivity among genders has changed over-time. Reviewing these stories and student experiences, can also give insight into how we can continue to combat gender disparities and discrimination at the college. The question I seek to answer is: How have gender regulations and expectations shaped the experiences of Women at William and Mary? Using the Flat Hat, and interviews with WM women alumni conducted by an oral historian, I will dive deeper into the experience of women at the college. More broadly, this project will contribute to the understanding of student experiences at the college and comprehension of the experience of women in co-education.

Summary and Reflection

If there is one thing that I learned from this research experience is the value of human connection and speech. Communicating and talking with these amazing women in Nicaragua enhanced my understanding of their practices and culture. I was able to learn so much about myself and what I truly value in my own life through this experience that has helped me grow both in my academic and personal life. I learned that there are different roles and tasks that women have. Primarily the role of the women is to take care of the household by cleaning, washing, cooking, taking care of the children, and gathering water. I have been able to come to the conclusion that there are different gender roles that women and men have in the community and in their household, however, linking gender roles to community participation in women is a more complex conclusion to make. Women do attend the community meetings and speak at these meetings. Before the presentations in a few weeks I will be working with my advisor for my research by looking more closely at trends and correlations between the questions. I hope to continue this research this fall and travel back to Nicaragua in the near future.