East vs. West Campus

For better or worse, East Campus used to be female space.

East Campus, now a space for first-year students, once was dedicated to housing women students of Southwestern. Today, the two sides of campus are not thought of the same way, as most people think of East campus as the place for first years and and West campus as the place for upperclass students. But it is important to remember that the initial split between East and West campus, still active today but re-signified, only exists because of the initial East-West separation of campus by gender.

Men and women at Southwestern were not fully allowed to learn or interact with one another in classes until nearly 25 years after the building of the Ladies Annex in 1879. Even after the educational shift, social interactions between the sexes were limited and incredibly regulated. And fullly co-ed housing was not fully realized until the early 2000s.

Learning to see how that older system worked and understanding its legacy is like undertaking an archeology project, as none of this history is actively commemorated on campus today. The location of Brown-Cody Hall today is the former location of Laura Kuykendall Hall, which used to be called the Women’s Building, Except for a brief moment when the V-12 program was on campus and LK was used to house the Navy trainees, LK housed female students from 1926 until it was demolished in 1995 to be replaced by Brown-Cody. LK itself was built on the same site as the original Ladies Annex, which burned down in 1925.

For most of its existence, Clark Hall was known as Kurth Hall and housed only women. Mabee was built in 1985 as a female dorm, and housed only females until the 1990s. Two other female dorms built in the 1960s, McCullough Hall and Sneed Suites, were right next to LK.

All of these dorms were connected together with a single entrance in McCullough until the 1990s. If you ever meet a female alum who went to Southwestern in the 1970s and 1980s, ask them about the dreaded "cowbell of shame" that rang when you entered that only available door in the middle of the night and had to pass by the campus phone operator. And if you ever meet a female alum who went here earlier, their stories of gender-based surveillance and control will be even more elaborate.

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The evolution of the co-educational model at Southwestern began with the combining of classes and a lessening of rules between genders in the early 1900s. However, the campus remained gender-separated for years after that, reinforcing the pattern that the West side was for men and the East side for women.

Southwestern was first established at Georgetown in 1873 as a men’s university with no plans to shift the curriculum to co-education. The Young Ladies' School, eventually the Ladies’ Annex, was recognized as part of the university in 1884. Although they were technically considered Southwestern students, the women of the Ladies Annex had different course catalogs, class spaces, and degree types.

Since women's and men's education were to be kept separate at the time, the Annex was built 4 blocks west of the original main building (not Cullen, but a location across the railroad tracks and 4 blocks west of the whole current campus) to “protect the women against any male distractions.”

One recollection of these rules from a 1910 graduate, Kitty Henderson, is in a Megaphone article from 1977. She discusses Annex life, specifically focusing on the gender separations and how they progressed. The women had a social calendar and they held an open house once a month where the “boys came to sit in the Annex parlors and talk for a short time to their favorite girlfriends.” The talks were short and monitored as the men rotated with each woman. This shows how the men had to go to the women in their own protected space and be approved to visit only during certain hours on a specific day, which was one of many rules enforced during the beginning of the co-education shift. There's a photo below of the permission card every female student had to submit to be able to meet up with a male student. Female students were never allowed in men’s dorms at all.

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Courses that combined men and women started in 1892, and the full change to a co-educational learning campus occurred in 1903. Women having access to equal educational opportunities as men on campus was incredibly progressive for the time. This change allowed for women to obtain a bachelor's degree and attend classes alongside men, but their social interactions were still very restricted. And it still reinforced the idea of "separate spheres" for men and women, which not only reinforced the gender binary but privileged men in the binary.

The relations between the sexes are described as incredibly limited by famous Texas folklorist J. Frank Dobie, who was a freshman in 1906 and met his future wife, Bertha McKee, at Southwestern. In To Survive and Excel, Dobie is quoted as saying that it was even “against the rules to converse in the halls or walk up the stairs together.”

In the 1940 Sou’Wester issue, the shift to co-education regarding classes is discussed. Before classes were combined, women were essentially not allowed to leave the Annex except for church every Sunday morning. Chaperones “walked before them, behind them, and to the side of them” to ensure they were focused on walking and that no woman “smiled, waved, or dropped a note to a boy.”

The University maintained a separate Dean of Women all the way until 1972. The roles of Dean of (Male) Students and Dean of Women were kept separated until this point. This reveals that the University not only normalized the gender binary but centered maleness, as men were considered typical college students and women were othered.

Although the classes, dining areas, and other common areas on campus were co-ed after 1962 when the University Commons was built and the LK Women’s Commons was converted to sorority chapter rooms, having these living spaces continue to be separated shows that women were perceived not only as needing protection but also requiring more stringent rules surrounding both their living and learning than men.

Even after having a separate Dean of Women went away, the need for a woman figure to be present in the space of the women’s buildings remained. Having a single entrance for women and women needing approval of who could and could not visit the women’s halls was maintained through the 1990’s up until Laura Kuykendall Hall, McCullough, and Sneed were demolished and replaced by Brown-Cody.

This shows how even though campus courses and campus life became technically co-educational, the emphasis on a need to keep women and men separate was still present and continued until the establishment of the first fully co-ed halls in the early 2000s.

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The physical building of the Ladies’ Annex in 1879 marks the beginning of the creation of a series of spaces on the East side of campus strictly for women in its place. The significance of these spaces is important to the history of Southwestern and should be actively remembered by the students because of how it symbolizes the institution’s distinctive approach to co-education and how having an identified physical space for women on campus has continued to be prioritized.

The repetition of building spaces for women in this same physical space shows the importance of women being present on campus and fulfilling the intentions of the first Young Ladies’ School that was established over 100 years ago. While the gender separation was characterized by elaborate paternalistic surveillance structures and practices, it also created a distinctly gendered sense of community among the women of Southwestern for over a century, which you can learn about in multiple entries on this site.

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Today, the East side of campus is exclusively for first-year students. Brown-Cody and Mabee are co-ed and Clark is the only all-women’s hall that exists on campus today. Activities for first-year students are focused in this area, including the courtyard, and most upperclassmen do not venture back to this side of campus once they no longer they live there. This side of campus has historically been separated from the rest of the main educational buildings and still is today, although it is no longer by gender, but by year.

With the demolition of Ruter and Clark in the works, remembering the significance of this ideological and spatial separation, and how it started with the Ladies Annex as the first building on the current campus, is important. The physical women’s buildings are already lost in the collective memory of Southwestern students. Without studying the history, taking a historical tour, or doing one's own research, they would remain unknown.

Images

Southwestern Women Graduates 1888 Source: SU Special Collections & Archives Creator: unknown Date: 1888
Ladies Annex Building Source: SU Special Collections & Archives Creator: unknown Date: circa 1920s
Laura Kuykendall Hall Source: SU Special Collections & Archives Creator: unknown Date: circa 1940s
Lobby of Laura Kuykendall Hall Source: SU Special Collections & Archives Creator: unknown Date: circa 1940s
Brown-Cody Hall Source: creator Creator: Ava Zumpano Date: 2023
Brown-Cody Hall Includes parts of the original iron column entrance re-purposed from LK Hall Source: creator Creator: Ava Zumpano Date: 2023
Women's Building Date Card Source: SU Special Collections & Archives Creator: unknown Date: circa late 1920s
Intercom Box from LK Hall used to call female students to meet visitors in the lobby Source: SU Special Collections & Archives Creator: unknown Date: circa 1940s

Location

Metadata

Ava Zumpano '25, “East vs. West Campus,” Placing Memory, accessed May 23, 2024, https://placingmemory.southwestern.edu/items/show/29.