Courtesy of Drew Magazine. Article originally appeared in the Summer 2002 edition, by John Cunningham C'38
In the sping of 2002. Jean Remaly C'47 and I sat comfortably in her pleasant home in Upper Nyack NY, remembering well that autumn day in 1946 when she, Jean Van Campen, and Joy Werner headed across the campus to Mead Hall for a crucial meeting. A Drew University trustee committee had summoned them to discuss whether or not women would continue to be enrolled in Brothers College. Facing plummeting male enrollment and possible closure, the college had become coeducational in 1942. It had little, or perhaps nothing, to do with ideology. Women were needed, just as they were needed in the production lines of American industry. They were welcomed at Drew, but only for "the duration" - until the boys came home. The trio, among the earliest enrolled women, marched up the Mead Hall steps to confront a critical moment in Drew's history.
I asked Jean about the stress. I assumed that this intelligent, sensitive, and quietly firm woman, who had been editor of 'The Acorn' at the time of the hearing, would have been ready to argue forcibly. But I was not sure. "I do not recall any stress," she replied calmly. "I had no doubt, absolutely no doubt, that women would stay."
Brothers College staggered toward closure as Hitler's troops swaggered across Europe and Japanese ships controlled the Pacific Ocean. World War II offered no hideout for students; the long arm of the draft boards reached everywhere. By the summer of 1942, with the drainage of men painfully evident on campus, the editor of the Alumnus, with more bravado than brains, boasted that, "nobody's talking about women [in the college]; not until the last man dies."
The editor erred. The College faculty was doing its basic algebra: women students (x) times tuition (y) equaled faculty salaries (a) and building maintainence (b). In October 1942, the faculty recommended that "properly qualified students... irrespective of race, sex, or religious preference" should be admitted. Since race or religion had barred no one, that left only sex as something relevant, as far as admission was concerned.
It was considerably less than a shock heard around the world, but many die-hard alumni reacted sharply, although they held their fire for "the duration." Women! Gone would be the macho days when an average male student wore sloppy clothes, shaved once a week, and played blackjack in the college basement without benefit of deodorant or mouthwash. Anyone with even a slim knowledge of Drew History should not have been surprised that women students would be attending classes. On April 1, 1915, the progressive Drew Theological Seminary faculty was deadly serious when it voted for the first time to admit women "on the same condition as accorded to men." Conservative trustees hedged on the radical recommendation, somewhat agreeing in a complexity of words that the original charter did not forbid females. They compromised, but only agreed that the seminary should "offer courses for training for other forms of service [than being a minister] to all students as may desire to take them."
Ruth Havighurst, Drew's first official woman student, enrolled in 1918, a few days after her marriage to Freeman Havighurst. Ruth remained in school only one year; Freeman received his B.D. in 1920. Women naturally presented some problems, particularly in housing. Each year a few were tucked away in the bottom floor of the Bowne Refectory (now Caspersen School of Graduate Studies). Others were housed in various downtown residences, a practice followed until the 1950s. They apparently used neither the playing floor nor the swimming pool in Bowne Gymnasium. Hiking across campus and to downtown rooms was exercise enough.
A uniquely female incident occurred in the spring of 1924 when Miss Gertrude Brown had her hair bobbed in the fashion of the day. Associate Dean Jennie Spaeth reacted as if the cutting vied with the cropped hair troubles of the Biblical Samson. The dean asked President Ezra Tipple to zero in on Miss Brown, who, in the dean's mind, lacked maturity and dignity. Tipple abstained. The dean sought help elsewhere, particularly after saucy Miss Brown said Drew could not thwart a girl who wanted to be a missionary in India, simply because of her snipped off hair. The dean sought help from Miss Brown's fiance, Warren Sheen. His attitude, Dean Spaeth reported to Tipple, was "most unpleasant." Openly stalling, Tipple asked for the allegedly wayward Miss Brown's record. She had excellent grades, including an A+ n a course called "Original Play". Miss Brown stayed in school, married the staunchly supportive Mr. Sheen, and graduated in 1925. President Tipple surely breathed a sigh of relief; the bad hair days were over.
When Leonard and Arthur Baldwin founded Brothers College in 1929, it was implicit that the brothers intended an all-male student body. But when Arthur Baldwin was asked in January 1929, whether the college forbade women, he expressed a wish for it to be all male, adding "but it is not binding on the trustees." So the Brothers College set sail. A few students met female secretaries or other clerks on campus and happy marriages resulted. Most of the undergraduates met young women in their hometowns or in downtown Madison, wooed them at church socials, the Madison movie house, and a variety of mixers on campus. It worked well, with the added advantage of their being able to retreat to Rogers House, where residents came as close to "good old boy" status as a young educated male could get on Drew campus.
The issue of women students in the college surfaced occasionally. In 1938, veteran Seminary Professor Charles Sitterly, son-in-law of president Henry Anson Buttz and 77 years old, wrote this unequivocal endorsement of women on campus: No great university, and especially no great Christian university, can attain a continuous state of expansion and balanced development, which does not make full and free provision, in every discipline and curriculum, of its several colleges for the training of women... The inhibition in the case of Brothers College is easy to explain... but a Women's College of Liberal Arts could be supplied as easily as that for men. Surely no future colleges as Drew University , whether in art, science, literature, law or medicine, can be conceived or constructed which will not be open for women.
Then the guns of Pearl Harbor sounded. Men left the campus. When the faculty voted in October 1942 to ask trustees to consider women for the College, it was known that 50 men would leave in a mass exodus in March 1943. The trustees agreed that women had to be enlisted, but only for the duration. It was a far cry from forever.
Four women registered in December 1942: Anne Rubino of Morristown filed the first application. Ruth Nelson and Eleanor Jeter, both of Chatham, were the first to be interviewed by College Dean Frank Lankard; they came together. Carol Stephens of Chatham was first to submit her records. None of that quartet qualified as the first female student. She was Mrs. Nora Mielke, wife of a seminary student. She entered in in February 1943 and for a time was the only woman enrolled in the College. The most vital "first", the first woman to earn a diploma from Brothers College, was Sayoko Nakata, a transfer student who received her bachelor of arts degree in October 1944. She was the daughter of Japanese parents and the wife of an American soldier.
Irony overlay the campus in the summer of 1943. Women did not flock to a situation where housing was scant and where female student life was measured by a "duration". The United States Navy stepped into the void, announcing in early June 1943 that 200 sailors would arrive in July a sthe first contingent of a V-12 unit that would attend regular classes at the college. Two hundred male bodies encased in navy blue! Hard-lined males grumbled that this should stop the waves of females promised for the campus.
Jean Elmore of Englewood N.J. entered in September 1943 as a member of the Class of 1947. The marching feet and the crew-cut men who called the windows "ports", floors "decks" and Great Hall's dining room a "mess" ruled the campus. Everyone hurried; even the two semester year became three semesters. Elmore worked her way through college, correcting papers, baby-sitting, and waiting on tables in the mess, yet found time for extra-class activities beyond the exciting, new social life offered by the sailors.
She moved on campus in September 1945, into Rogers Hall, that one-time bastion of male supremacy. Taps had sounded for the V-12. The campus awoke to the reveille of returning servicemen. Women held sway for a bit; the College that fall had 48 veterans, 57 "civvies" (males who didn't make it into uniform), and 139 women. Among the ex-servicemen was Howard Remanly of Shickshinney Pa. Jean first saw him across a crowded room, had someone introduce them and that was that. They were married in 1948, and are still married in 2002.
A feature editor for her high school paper, Jean joined The Acorn staff as a freshman and became editor in the fall of 1946. About her swirled the low key debate on whether the duration had ended for women, yet during Jean's hold on the bully pulpit of the editor's desk nothing in the Acorn even hinted that there was any controversy. There were no strident editorials demanding equal treatment of women, no articles indicating that it was even discussed and not even a gossip column item on what a certain coed would do if women were summarily excluded from seeking a degree at Brothers College.
Jean Elmore was just another former editor when a new semester began at Brothers College in September 1946 with an enrollment of 360, hailed as the largest class in the college's 19 year history. Two-thirds of the students were men. Every facility was under pressure, the gym, the dining room, the classrooms, and the library. The expected crisis had come. With the intense pressure for admission, had the time come to kiss the girls goodbye?
That brought Jean Elmore, Jean Van Campen and Joy Werner to the steps of Mead Hall with the faculty committee charged with making a recommendation on women continuing in the College. "I remember the day very vividly," Jean said recently. "We knew that there was some organized male opposition to women on campus, but we did not expect a confrontation. If we had to take a stance, we fully intended to speak."
Jean underestimated the opposition. The nearly all male alumni association opposed continuation of the duration. Sports supporters lined up against continuation. Most faculty members supported co-education, some with strong reservations. Professors James McClintock, Earl Aldrich, and Robert Schultz represented the faculty on the committee. Several males expressed opposition but none so bluntly as Stanley Raub, a star athlete and president of the senior class. He did not temporize in his remarks: Frankly, I'm disappointed in the trustees and the administration... let's not seek the easy way out. School was started here in 1928 as a man's institution and over the years it made a good name and a good reputation for itself. Since the economic reason for having coeds does not exist anymore, we are disappointed that you hesitate to do what we thought you would do-- oust the coeds.
There had to be an answer. Up stepped Jean Elmore. She had become the spokesperson for women. In simple eloquence and dignity, she said: The men raise the question- are we really serious about getting an education? There is plenty of evidence on campus that girls have a great desire for education. Girls work their way through college, which shows a desire for education. The girls in the future must have the opportunity that we have had in the past. Veterans idealize Drew as it was and it has been a shock to them on their return.
The committee recommended the continuation of coeducation. On January 29, 1947, University trustees unanimously recommended that women stay on campus for another duration: as long as Drew remained open.
Courtesy of Drew Magazine. Article originally appeared in the Summer 2002 edition, by John Cunningham C'38