Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hocker Female College

Hocker Female College (1908)
Hocker Female College

Location: North Broadway, Lexington, Kentucky, USA

Founded: 1869

Closed: 1932

Unlike Miss Seward's School (featured below), Hocker Female College was founded by a man (James Monroe Hocker Sr.), and its first principal was a man as well (Robert Graham). I have yet to find any women's names associated with the founding of this school.

The first campus building was simply converted over from one of Hocker's many luxurious homes (Hocker made his fortune in banking). According to one authority, the school was started "because it was felt there was a need for a school of higher education with Christian values and scientific principles for the young women of our country."  Hocker Female College was set up as a "Christian preparatory school and college for women" and was closely associated with the Disciples of Christ Church.

Hamilton College (1904)
In 1877, Hocker decided to relinquish control of the school and sold it to a "joint stock company" with an all-male board of trustees. The school was then renamed Hamilton Female College in recognition of William Hamilton, a College trustee and major benefactor.

By 1889, Kentucky University (later Transylvania University) had become a major stockholder in the college, and by 1903, it had assumed total administrative control (basically a hostile takeover?). After that, Transylvania downscaled Hamilton College into just a junior college for women which was affiliated with Transylvania. The college was closed in 1932, after suffering declining financial support and enrollment for a number of years.

The main building survived as a women's dormitory at Transylvania--the one last remaining shred of womyn's space--until it was demolished in 1962.

The only remaining building from Hamilton College is the Graham Cottage Alumni House, the alumni reception center on the Transylvania campus. Built in 1863 for James M. Hocker, it became the home of Robert Graham in 1869.

I'm sure there were women who cherished their student days at Hocker/Hamilton, and that many of them forged life-long connections with their classmates and teachers. But for the most part, this appears to be the kind of "womyn's space" where men and male-dominated institutions played out their power-and-control games from the very beginning. As a pawn in these power struggles--and with little apparent or organized female investment in the outcome--the school was essentially doomed from the start.

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