Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Galloway Women's College

Galloway Women's College

Galloway Women's College

Location: Searcy, Arkansas, USA

Opened: April 18, 1889; opening day September 11, 1889

Closed: June 1933

"We shall return the Galloway girls to their homes strong in body, refined in manners, cultured in mind, and pure in heart."
--Judith L. Steele, Lady Principal (1897)

Galloway Women's College (known in its early years as Galloway Female College) was one of two women's colleges in the state of Arkansas (Crescent College and Conservatory--also featured here at Lost Womyn's space--was the other). Here's how the Encylopedia of Arkansas History & Culture describes Galloway:

Galloway Women’s College in Searcy (White County) was one of the longest survivors from among the schools established in the 1800s by the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in Arkansas. Dedicated in honor of Bishop Charles Betts Galloway on April 18, 1889, the school endured until its final merger with Hendrix College in Conway (Faulkner County) in 1933.

Methodist Church leaders realized by the latter part of the nineteenth century that their resources could not support the numerous small schools they had established around the state and decided to concentrate efforts on fewer institutions to provide better facilities and sounder education. Under the leadership of Bishop Galloway, leaders decided to focus on one institution primarily for men and Galloway Female College, as it was then known, as the counterpart for women. Searcy won bidding rights for location of the women’s school through pledges of $25,000.

Galloway Female College had problems from the beginning. Its first president, Robert W. Erwin, died less than two months before the scheduled beginning of classes. The national Panic of 1893 led to a failure in 1896 of a planned bond issue to finance buildings and equipment. A fire in 1898 completely destroyed the school’s impressive four-story building. In spite of handicaps, the school grew rapidly. Within five years, students, most of whom were from Arkansas, had to be turned away for lack of housing. In 1925–26, enrollment reached a high of 269.

In common with most other schools of the day, Galloway’s curriculum was designed to cover a wide range of educational attainments from primary to secondary levels. Traditional curriculum included homemaking and secretarial training. The school was particularly strong in music, art, and speech. At the end of the 1800s, more occupational and professional courses were offered. By 1908, kindergarten and primary levels were discontinued. Frequent well-attended concerts, recitals, and exhibitions of student and faculty work sponsored through highly competitive literary societies bolstered social life.

During the first decade of the twentieth century, with money scarce, Methodists proposed unifying Hendrix College and Henderson College (later Henderson-Brown College), a co-educational college in Arkadelphia (Clark County), with Galloway under one administration, making Henderson and Galloway two-year schools. The plan, vigorously fought by both Henderson and Galloway, was instituted a few years later. Galloway operated under a deficit for several years, and enrollment fell to seventy-five in 1932–33. The decline sounded the death knell for Galloway. The school was closed following its final commencement in June 1933, at which time nineteen diplomas were awarded, and the operations were merged with Hendrix College. A year later, the property was sold to Harding College (now Harding University for a fraction of its estimated value.

Four presidents led the college after its opening: Sidney H. Babcock (1889–1892), John Hixon Dye (1892–1897), Charles Conway Godden (1897–1907), and Dr. John Milton Williams (1907–1933). During Williams’s tenure, the college became known as Galloway Women’s College. Galloway alumni, known for their fierce loyalty to the school, held reunions in Searcy or Little Rock (Pulaski County) for forty-eight years until their last reunion in 1981, which took place at Galloway Hall women’s dormitory on the campus of Hendrix College.

Though this was common with women's colleges in the nineteenth century, it's still sad to observe that--once again--- all the presidents were men, though there were some "lady principals" like Judith L. Steele (quoted above). And it isn't it interesting that when the schools merged, it was the women's college that lost her name--just like in traditional marriage. Yet despite the all-male leadership, women students still formed a tight bond with each other and with their school. Notice that the former students continued to hold reunions for 48 years after the last graduating class. And though the final reunion in 1981 was held at what was now called Hendrix College, the meeting place was the Galloway Hall women's dormitory--a tiny but still surviving fragment of womyn's space. That is quiet, dignified resistance.

Another touching sign of alumna loyalty (and resistance) is the story behind the iron gates that used to welcome students to Galloway College and how they were saved.

Willie Mae Walker Collison ('31) majored in home economics and loved her years at Galloway. But that affection didn't mean this "spirited young woman" didn't get into trouble from time to time.

She excelled academically and socially at the college. But she could not escape notice from the Galloway Self Government Association, whose strict rules were difficult for even the most conscientious student to follow 100 percent of the time. In two months, Collison was "called down" three times for various transgressions such as "failure to lower the shades," "going by the drugstore on the way to church," and "failing to sign a return."

At some point, this future schoolteacher developed a passion for preserving the past. When she noticed that the old iron gates were rusting and in disrepair, she asked the Harding College president about them. In response, he gave her the gates, which she repaired and repainted...and then stored in her garage for many years. (One gets the impression that Collison didn't trust Harding College to maintain the former Galloway gates in a conscientious fashion.) The gates gradually slipped from memory, though some Galloway students still wondered what had ever happened to them. After Collison's death, the gates were discovered and returned to the school. They are now installed in the Harding History House garden on the north side of campus.

Photo: Postcard of Galloway College, postmarked August 1908

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