Thursday, August 18, 2011

Woman's College of Alabama

Woman's College of Alabama (April 1918)
Woman's College of Alabama

Location: Initially in Tuskegee, Alabama, moved to Montgomery, Alabama, USA in 1909

Founded: 1854

Closed: Began admitting men in 1935, name changed to Huntington College

The Tuskegee Female Insitute was chartered by the state of Alabama in February of 1854. But as the Huntington College website goes on to explain, the first cornerstone on the Tuskegee campus wasn't laid till April 1855, with the college opening its doors in February 1856:

There were four students in the first graduating class in 1856, but by September 1859 the College’s enrollment had risen to an average of 216, with 29 women graduating that year.

In 1872, the Alabama Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, assumed full management and control of the College. The reincorporation created the present governing body—a board of trustees—and a change in name to Alabama Conference Female College.

First basketball team (1890s)
In the aftermath of the Civil War, it became evident that the survival and growth of the College would best be ensured if the campus relocated to a more populous, urban environment. In 1906 Dr. John Massey, who had assumed the presidency in 1876, led the plans to move the College to Montgomery while College friends in the area began the search for a suitable site. Several citizens had initiated negotiations with landowners in an effort to persuade a donation of land, but these negotiations were unsuccessful. As a result, Dr. John Sellers, C.G. Zirkle, and William Moore approached J.G. Thomas, who agreed to sell to the men 50 acres in the Cloverdale section of Montgomery. The land was then donated to the College.

On August 24, 1909, furniture, equipment, and all official college records covering a period of more than half a century were moved into a rented building in Montgomery, which was to house the College until the first building on the new campus was completed. That night, the rented building burned, destroying its contents. Other housing arrangements were made, however, and in the fall of 1910 the new campus opened under the name Woman’s College of Alabama. Since the move to Montgomery had occurred the previous year, 1909 remains the recognized founding date of the Montgomery campus.

By the early 1930s, the college's (largely male) leadership had decided to turn the school coed. Seems somewhat ironic that when they renamed the school in order to make it more attractive to male students, they named it after a woman....

In 1934, the first male student was graduated, but it was not until 20 years later—in 1954—that full-time male resident students would be admitted. Once the College became a co-educational institution, the name Woman’s College of Alabama was no longer suitable. In 1935, in recognition of its affiliation with the United Methodist Church, the name Huntingdon College was selected to honor Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, a woman who had been one of the first and most influential persons associated with the Wesleyan movement in England.

Photos: Woman's College of Alabama (April 1918), the first basketball team of the Alabama Conference Female College (mid 1890s)

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