Faculty minutes have proven themselves to be an invaluable source of information, not only on the academic setting at the time, but also on the external pressures that informed the course of study for Mary Washington women. The most notable example of external pressures affecting the course of study of women in the 1950s is reflected in the faculty minutes from the meeting of September 15, 1952. At that time, Dr. Alvey “urg[ed] the faculty to stress the importance of the study of Russian in these critical times.”1

The faculty minutes additionally show several differences between student life in the 1950s and today. In May of 1950, the faculty proposed and adopted a motion in which “the privilege of week-end visits…is withdrawn from those who are failing or deficient in their work…it is further recommended that the parents… [be] notif[ied] of such probation.” 2 In contrast, the parents of today’s students are not directly informed of any academic issues with the student unless the student goes out of his or her way to ensure that the parents are informed. Additionally, in this day and age it is only at conservative religious schools such as Liberty University that students’ weekend movements and ability to leave campus are restricted.

The role of technology was, of course, very different than it is today; in the 1950s, typewriters were the height of modern technology. However, unlike today, computing technology was not readily available to all faculty members. During the same May faculty meeting in which faculty discussed and adopted harsher penalties and parental involvement, “Mr. Woodward announced that the College had some typewriters that were available to the faculty for office use.” 3 That speaks to the difference in technology accessibility and dependence for Mary Washington in the 1950s: if the faculty had such limited access to technology, then students likely had much less access to technology and likely handwrote much of their work, which is a far cry from the academic setup of today.

  1. Faculty Minutes of Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, September 15, 1952, in Special Collections, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington.
  2. Faculty Minutes of Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, May 8, 1950, in Special Collections, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington.
  3. Faculty Minutes of Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, May 8, 1950, in Special Collections, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington.