Women in Maryville College’s History

Daylight savings time, the first day of spring and the arrival of brightly colored flowers all seem to characterize the month of March. Though many know it only for its warmer weather, the month of March has, since 1995, been designated as Women’s History Month.

Adhering to its tradition of equality, the stories of countless influential women are intertwined within Maryville College’s rich history. Even in a time when a woman’s voice was only allowed among the whispers, several women were able to help lay the foundation for what would become Maryville College.

Maryville College’s founder Rev. Isaac Anderson was directly tied to women’s education in several ways. Though Anderson later received years of formal schooling, his introduction to education was through his grandmother Mary Shannon McCampbell, who taught the young Anderson how to read and spell.

Later, as a teacher himself in the early nineteenth century, Anderson taught at the Maryville Female Academy in addition to several other academic institutions.

By the time the college moved to the current campus in 1871, MC had been coeducational for three years. When the college announced their decision to enroll women, it was made clear that the women’s education would be equal to that of the men.

Though women had access to the Classical and English courses, a separate “Ladies’ Course” was added. Those in the “Ladies’ Course” studied Latin, mathematics, science, history, English literature, French and many more.

In 1875, the first women graduated from Maryville College.

Mary Wilson, sister to the eventual MC president Samuel Tyndale Wilson, studied the regular Classical Course and became the first woman to receive a Bachelor’s degree from a Tennessee College.

Additionally, Ella and Emma Brown, Nannie McGinley and Linda Tedford all received certificates for completing the “Ladies’ Course”.

Not only did Mary Wilson make history through her graduation but she also preserved history through her detailed diaries. Mary kept records of her daily activities as a student and graduate of Maryville College that have assisted in the understanding of the college’s early days.

In 1902, during Samuel Tyndale Wilson’s presidency, MC teacher and matron Miss Margaret Henry was recommended to Dr. Wilson for a fundraising position. For 13 years, Miss Henry traveled around the United States telling the MCstory in order to raise money for student scholarships.

Miss Henry repeatedly received tempting job opportunities through her travels and was highly praised by a New York publishing house and several distinguished schools, but her dedication to Maryville College led her to continue her work. In 13 years, Miss Henry raised $123,000.

At Miss Henry’s tragic passing, a distant cousin, Miss Clemmie Henry, kept the job going. In addition to the vigorous fundraising, Miss Clemmie began a needlecraft program for female students that would grow into a successful enterprise.

Though Miss Clemmie began the program in 1920, Mrs. Kathryn McMurray took over in 1921 and converted the small group into the successful College Maid Shop.

Through the shop, female students were given the opportunity to earn money by sewing industrial uniforms, gym suits, choir robes and dresses that were sold in national department stores. The College Maid Shop operated until the mid 1950’s.

With years of hard work and dedication, several remarkable women left a “woman’s touch” on the history of MC.

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