The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.

THE HOUSING OF WOMEN STUDENTS

IN 1870, the year in which women students first entered the University, thirty-four were enrolled. The history of housing for women begins properly with an account of the difficulties encountered by these women. The prejudice of faculty, students, and citizens did not end with the Regents' resolution of January, 1870, admitting them to the University (R.P., 1870-76, pp. 2-3). This attitude continued to manifest itself in many ways, but in none more painfully than in the reluctance of Ann Arbor's rooming house owners to take in women for room and board. Report has it that they were regarded with scorn and accepted only when male students were not available as roomers.

The result in the early days was that women had notoriously poor living conditions and very little recognition in the social life of the town. The direct result of these struggles in the decades from 1880 to 1900 was the organization of sororities. A few women who had difficulty in finding living accommodations would take over a house and, as vacancies occurred, invite others to join them. These groups were soon sponsored by Greek-letter organizations and thus became part of the widespread national sorority movement. Eventually, the sorority houses afforded pleasant and comfortable accommodations for the girls they housed.

As time went on the rooming house owners became more friendly toward the women and began to rent rooms to them. For years, however, the "mixed" rooming house which accommodated both women and men was the accepted standard in Ann Arbor. No effort was made to establish separate houses for girls or to furnish any of the conveniences which we now take for granted. No sitting rooms were provided for the reception of callers, the bedrooms were poorly furnished and heated, and the bathroom facilities inadequate.

The Women's League, organized in Page  17921890, and the Student Christian Association, established in 1859-60, did much to alleviate the situation. The Castalian for 1891 reported that a "Reception Committee" had been appointed "whose duty it was to welcome Freshman girls, to help them in finding their way about the college buildings, to introduce them to their different professors, and assist them in getting suitable rooms and boarding places." After a few years these duties were taken over entirely by the League Executive Committee.

With the appointment of Dr. Eliza M. Mosher, the first Dean of Women, in 1896, interest increased in improving the women's facilities. Although special emphasis was placed on physical education and hygiene, an effort was made to improve the social life of the girls by providing parlors, dining rooms, and kitchens in Barbour Gymnasium. A small auditorium was even set aside for their use. Interest at that time, however, was concentrated on the building of the gymnasium rather than on improving housing conditions.

No radical change took place until 1902, when, upon the resignation of Dr. Mosher to resume the practice of medicine, Mrs. Myra Beach Jordan ('93) became Dean of Women. In this year, 453 women were enrolled in the University. In the fall of 1904 a united movement among the girls to secure rooming places with reception rooms where they could entertain their guests was begun. By this time eight sororities had managed to rent houses then known as "house clubs." Through the Women's League, Dean Jordan encouraged groups of girls to live together in approved houses, which were inspected and supervised by the Dean of Women. In these "league" houses, the first of which was opened in 1904, rooms were rented only to women, and parlor privileges were included in the rental. As an experiment in group living, the League, in 1909-10, contracted with three landladies for the use of their houses, with guaranteed income. Although this proved a financial burden to the League treasury, the following year it led to formal contracts with an additional "six of the most desirable landladies in town … to take girls only, giving them the use of the parlor and home privileges without money guarantee" (Minutes of the Women's League, April 6, 1910). The lack of guaranteed income was offset in the contracts by stipulations which more or less guaranteed roomers. The October, 1910, issue of The Michigan Alumnus commented favorably upon this work of the Dean of Women and the Women's League:

With the opening of the present school year, every freshman girl entering the University had been provided with a room before she came, either in the nine homes selected by the Women's League … or in another series of houses in which girls alone are provided for. The upper-classmen have greater freedom in the selection of the houses in which they are to room, but in most cases they are living in the houses which have been approved by the Women's League. The work of corresponding with the freshmen entering the University was undertaken by … the Women's League … every freshman … was met at the train and properly installed immediately upon arrival.


(Mich. Alum., 17 [1910-11]: 5.)

Although the number of league houses was increasing, it was evident that dormitories would be the only permanent solution to the housing problem. Accordingly, in October, 1910, the Women's League enlisted the interest of every undergraduate woman in this movement and sent out as financial secretaries Myrtle White Godwin, of Houghton, Michigan, for the year 1910-11 and Agnes Parks Robey, of New York City, for 1911-12, to arouse interest in the dormitory idea. "While the amount of money raised by these young women was Page  1793not large, the educational value of their campaign cannot be overestimated for they and the women back of them were the spiritual pioneers for better living conditions at Michigan" (Mich. Alum., 27 [1920-21]: 301).

In 1912 a further significant step in the development of housing for women took place. The following statement in appreciation of Mrs. Jordan's interest in improving housing conditions for women is pertinent:

Upon the foundation laid by Dr. Mosher, her successor, Mrs. Myra Beach Jordan, A.B. '93, has built by tact and clear-sightedness for the administration of the women students, the most successful organization possessed by any University…

With her intimate knowledge of the girls and their needs, Mrs. Jordan has devoted herself to the improvement of their living conditions. The first necessity was to create a public sentiment demanding a change. The inertia of a settled habit was against her, but ten years of quiet endeavor have brought their reward. Faculty, landladies, and, most important of all, student sentiment, are now with her. The result is that there are now 32 approved rooming houses where only women are taken as roomers. In many of these houses the landladies furnish parlors for the use of the students, and they co-operate with the Dean in every way possible to make the standard of social conduct of the college town conform to the best to be found elsewhere… The women students themselves are making every effort to secure adequate Halls of Residence as speedily as possible. For years the League raised money for this purpose… The League now has $25,000 secured toward the erection of the Residence Halls. The determined effort which is being made by the women shows the success which the Dean has achieved in creating … a demand for better living conditions and higher social standards.


(Mich. Alum., 18 [1911-12]: 434-36.)

The interest thus aroused resulted in two splendid gifts to the University. Helen Newberry Residence, the first dormitory for women, opened for the summer session of 1915, was the gift of Truman H. and John S. Newberry and their sister, Mrs. Henry Newberry Joy. Martha Cook Building, given by William Wilson Cook in memory of his mother, Martha Cook, was occupied in September of the same year (see Part VIII: Residences for Women).

With the organization of the Alumnae Council, the Detroit branch of the Association of University Women announced in 1917 that the association would buy and remodel a house for women, to be ready for the opening of the fall semester. This residence, which accommodated about sixteen persons, was built for girls who needed to earn a part of their expenses and was run on a co-operative basis. In 1926, when the site of the first Alumnae House was needed by the city for the extension of Forest Avenue, the old Harriman residence at 1219 Washtenaw Avenue was purchased as a home for the residents of Alumnae House.

In 1917 Regent Levi Barbour gave the University $100,000 and several parcels of land to be used for the erection of a dormitory in memory of his mother, Betsy Barbour; the house was opened in 1920. In 1919 Mrs. Jordan wrote:

At this date we have 1,584 women in the University, while the total for the year 1918-19 was only 1,050. The question of finding places for these girls in organized houses … has been a great problem. By the first of September, there were applications from 254 young women for whom we had no accommodations, but thanks to a careful canvass of the rooming houses no girl was sent home for lack of a room… The 13 sororities house about 350 girls comfortably. Last year we had 295 freshman girls, this year we have 518… Last year there were 32 organized University rooming houses for college girls; this year there are 58, with five or more girls, and a definite house organization with a House-head, Social Committee, Scholarship Committee, and a representative to the Women's League. The heads of these houses meet monthly to discuss problems Page  1794of house organization… The high cost of living has affected the number of girls who are having to earn a whole or a part of their living. There are between 100 and 150 college girls who are working, of this number 36 are earning both board and room and 20 are earning their board.


(Mich. Alum., 26 [1919]: 133-35.)

It should be emphasized that Helen Newberry Residence, Martha Cook Building, and Alumnae, Betsy Barbour, and Adelia Cheever houses were all acquired during Dean Jordan's term of service (1902-22) and that the University owes much to her influence and perseverance. Yet she was still unhappy about the situation and reported in 1920-21 that a thousand women were still living outside dormitories, sororities, and other organized housing.

In 1921 the University was given the residence of Judge Noah Cheever ('63, '65l) at 516 Madison Street. This house, the fifth women's residence to be donated to the University, was named Adelia Cheever residence, and, with Pamela Noble Cottage, which was added to the property in 1922, accommodated about twenty-five girls. It, too, was run as a co-operative house.

In spite of the additional housing provided by the new dormitories, by the newly established sororities, and by the league houses, which in 1928 numbered seventy-six, the housing facilities of Ann Arbor were taxed to the utmost. The league houses had become overcrowded, and prices of rooms were exorbitant. A report of these conditions was made to the Board of Regents by the Committee of Advisers, which had taken over the duties of Dean of Women in 1926 (see Part II: The Office of the Dean of Women). As a result the Regents, in September, 1928, authorized the building of a dormitory to house 440 girls.

The prospect of building such a large dormitory, however, caused a serious controversy between the landladies of Ann Arbor and the University. The landladies feared that their rooms would be left empty and their means of livelihood thus endangered. The new dormitory was also criticized as being too large and the proposed site was considered "too far away from campus."

A petition protesting the construction of the building was presented to the Regents in October, 1928. A committee was approved by the mayor to study the economic effect on the city of the building of such a dormitory and in general of the continuation of the University's building plans. Regents Sawyer, Beal, and Clements conferred with the mayor's committee and, as a result, in January, 1929, the Regents postponed construction of the dormitory in order to make a more thorough study of the financing plan involved.

It was pointed out by the deans of the University, however, that the necessity for dormitories was seen "more than fifteen years ago" and was formally expressed to the Regents in 1915 (see Dean's Statement [R.P., 1926-29, pp. 818-23]). The deans favored the dormitory principle "as a matter of educational policy." A resolution was also passed on this matter in 1920 and discussed by President Burton and Dean Bursley in reports presented in 1921-22.

The construction of Mosher-Jordan, the first large women's dormitory at the University of Michigan, was completed in 1930-31. The building was financed by a bond issue and organized on a plan which made it possible for the house to pay for itself over a period of twenty-five years. The residence consists of two halls of residence serviced by a central kitchen, but it is operated as two separate social units (see Part VIII: Mosher-Jordan Halls). Until 1932 each dormitory except Mosher-Jordan, which was under direct University control, was operated Page  1795as a separate financial unit by a Board of Governors appointed by the Board of Regents for that house. In 1933 it became necessary to lower the price of room and board because of the depression and the consequent financial pressure on students and parents. As a result, it was difficult for Mosher-Jordan Halls, without some assistance, to meet the large annual payments demanded by a self-liquidating plan, and the dormitory was placed under central management. All of the other University dormitories for women with the exception of Martha Cook Building, which by the terms of its deed of gift was prevented from doing so, were united at this time under one business management, thereby affecting great saving in general overhead expense.

This was the first attempt to establish a correlated program for residence halls. With the appointment of Miss Ellen Stevenson as Business Manager of Dormitories, an efficient organization was created which began to solve the financial and physical operation problems that had developed as a result of the separate operation of the individual residences. In 1939, at the time the Michigan House Plan was instituted, Miss Stevenson (Mrs. George M. Stanley) was succeeded as Business Manager of Residence Halls by Francis C. Shiel, the present Manager of Service Enterprises. At the time the House Plan was established, the student personnel management of the women's residence halls, including student welfare and the social programs, was centralized in the office of the dean of women; the house directors and their assistants were appointed by the Regents on recommendation of the dean.

By 1935 the housing shortage for women had increased to the point where the dormitories were seriously overcrowded. Before the opening of Mosher-Jordan in 1930-31, there had been seventy-six league houses. After its construction there were only twelve. By 1935-36, however, the number had risen again to sixty-two, and there was an urgent demand on the part of the public for more dormitory accommodations. In 1938-39, 773 girls were living in dormitories, 399 in sororities, 588 in league houses, and 258 at home or with relatives. One hundred and fifty-nine were living by permission in outside approved residences, and twenty-one in the Michigan League Building.

The construction of Madelon Louisa Stockwell Hall, named in honor of Mrs. Charles K. Turner, née Madelon Louisa Stockwell, the first woman to be admitted to the University, helped to ease the situation. This dormitory, built as the result of a grant by the Federal Administration of Public Works (P.W.A.), was completed in 1940 and housed 426 women.

The shortage of housing for women increased in the 1940's, however. During World War II the University augmented its facilities by listing more league houses, and by renting fraternity houses. The Ann Arbor News of September 23, 1944, reported that the University had leased eighteen fraternity houses for University women. Extra space was provided by converting single rooms to doubles and doubles to triples in the dormitories and by housing more girls in the Michigan League Building. Because of the housing situation in these years, even those students whose academic records were good were discouraged from applying for admission to the University.

With the end of the war in 1945 and the return of several thousand veterans, the situation became increasingly difficult and unpredictable. The fraternity houses, which had been rented for women, were re-occupied by the men.

Page  1796Another women's residence hall became available in 1945 with the purchase of Mary Bartron Henderson House. Plans to raise money for this house, to be operated on a co-operative basis, had been adopted by the Alumnae Council as its major Alumni Ten-Year Program in 1937. It was intended, originally, to construct a new house, but increasing building costs made it advisable to buy an older, well-constructed residence and renovate it. The house was opened in 1945 and named for Mary Bartron Henderson, director of the campaign committee which made possible the erection of the Michigan League. She had made a special investigation of the possibility of additional co-operative housing for women, whereby through co-operative effort and self-help the students' living costs could be reduced to a minimum. In 1944, at the request of the Alumnae Council, Alumnae House had been renamed Mary Markley House in honor of Mary Butler Markley, one of the first women to graduate from the University. In 1950, however, because the house was in poor condition and too small to be operated efficiently, it was closed. This provided $20,000 with which the alumnae were able to complete the remodeling of Mary Bartron Henderson House.

The enrollment of women in 1945 was 5,078, showing an average increase of six hundred women a year for three years. Outside the University residence hall system there were ninety league houses accommodating 1,112 girls. In 1946-47 the number dropped to seventy-six, housing 1,024 girls; the sororities took care of 519. The houses were inspected each year by representatives from the Health Service and the Office of the Dean of Women. At this time a dormitory for women, housing 126 students, was opened at Willow Run. In 1947-48, although enrollment had decreased slightly and the capacity of the residence halls had been increased, the shortage of living space for women was still acute. The number of league houses fell from seventy-six in 1946 to sixty-two in 1947.

Since 1945 the number of league houses has steadily declined as the women who own them grow older, as the cost of upkeep rises, and as the amount of University housing slowly but steadily increases. In 1947 there were nineteen sororities housing 550 women students. Almost all the sororities had more members than they could accommodate. The overflow was taken care of in nearby league houses. In addition, a total of 1,055 special permissions were granted by the dean of women to girls who wished to live in private homes. Three houses under the sponsorship of the Interco-operative Council housed fifty-seven girls.

Alice Crocker Lloyd Hall, named for Dean Alice C. Lloyd, opened in September, 1949. This dormitory, which houses five hundred girls, consists of four units or houses, named for four women who were prominent in the history of the University: Sarah Caswell Angell, Alice Freeman Palmer, Mary Louisa Hinsdale, and Caroline Hubbard Kleinstueck (see Part VIII: Alice Crocker Lloyd Hall). Alice Crocker Lloyd ('16), Dean of Women from 1930 until her death in 1950, served the University during the most critical years in the history of women's housing. Her term of office covered the period of World War II, when the housing situation was most acute. In these years all of the large residence halls were constructed and finally united under one central management.

In 1953 Geddes House was purchased by the University at a cost of $54,000 for use as a girls' co-operative dwelling.

The sorority situation through the years developed certain perplexing problems. By 1938-39 well-established Page  1797groups which had been on campus long enough to have their properties clear or almost clear of debt were not seriously affected, but membership in some of the younger sororities decreased to the point where it was impossible to carry the overhead. By 1938-39 eight groups were too large for their houses, and four houses did not have enough members to fill their rooms. In order that the number of sororities might not diminish on the campus, a secretary was appointed by the Panhellenic Association, and it was her duty to assist the smaller houses during rushing. This resulted in better co-operation among the various sororities.

By 1956 the number of sororities at Michigan had increased to twenty-nine, and the President's Report for 1955-56 states: "Between June 1, 1951, and June 1, 1956, the amount of money invested by the sororities in expansion and rehabilitation of their several properties cannot … total less than one million dollars… This is a very fine record of support of the University in its years of expansion."

September, 1950, marked the inauguration of a policy to house all freshman women in the University system rather than to close the residence hall lists on a given date and relegate all subsequently admitted freshmen to league houses or rooms in town. The implementation of this policy, however, produced enormous difficulties. The upstairs corridor lounges or small study halls in Stockwell, Mosher-Jordan, and Alice Crocker Lloyd halls were all converted to "quads," and this resulted in the residence halls being more crowded than ever before. In August, 1951, the Board of Governors of Residence Halls released Victor Vaughan House for the use of women students. It had accommodations for 185 persons and took care of the overflow in the larger residence halls. In 1952 Tyler and Prescott houses in the East Quadrangle, not without much regret on the part of the men, became residences for women with space for two hundred graduate and undergraduate women. In 1953-54, with the increased enrollment of women and the drop in men's enrollment, Chicago House in the West Quadrangle was also made available to women students.

On July 1, 1954, Couzens Hall was removed from the management of the Hospital and became an integral part of the University residence hall system. This dormitory, which now houses about 530 women, was given to the University in 1923 by the Honorable James Couzens, of Detroit, United States Senator from Michigan — when he presented the University with $600,000 for "the construction of a building for the housing of student … and graduate nurses." An addition, with 265 bed spaces, was completed in 1956.

In 1954 the Board of Governors of Residence Halls released Fletcher Hall to the use of the women. Fletcher Hall was built as a men's residence hall in 1922-23 by a group of alumni organized under Michigan laws as the Dormitories Corporation. It was named for the Honorable Frank W. Fletcher, for many years a regent of the University. Partly because of the depression and partly because of administrative difficulties, the corporation was unable to pay for the building, and in 1933 the University acquired it at a receiver's sale for $13,000.

In September, 1953, the University had 2,500 dormitory spaces for women, not including the housing for 144 persons provided by Martha Cook Building. By 1956 this figure had been increased to 3,036.