Women's League (University of Michigan) records, 1890-2011
Using These Materials
- The record group is open for research.
- University of Michigan. Women's League.
- The records of the Women's League of the University of Michigan contain the League's constitution and articles of incorporation, reports, correspondence, minutes of the League and of women students' governing bodies, scrapbooks, presidents reports, and photographs; letters from Ella Wheeler Wilcox and William Dean Howells; also papers of Edith M. Wheeler and Sarah Mills Gayley Browne.
39.25 linear feet
4 oversize volumes
2 oversize folders
- Call Number:
- 87358 Bimu F17 2
- Finding aid created by Karen M. Mason, 1990 Mia Butzbaugh, 1997 Emily Sanford, 2009
- Scope and Content:
The records of the Women's League date from 1890 to 1965 and measure 33 linear feet. The records are divided into eight series: Women's League (records of the organization), Michigan League (records of the building), Administrative, Students, Union-League Merger, Photographs, and Scrapbooks and Architectural records. The records span the life of the organization and are especially strong for the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, however many of the subseries include records for only a year or two. The bulk of the records are President's Reports, which consist of two to five large bound volumes for each academic year. The subseries in the last five series are arranged alphabetically by type of material, and many are continuations of subseries from the first two series which were from an earlier accession.
- Biographical / Historical:
From the time that women were admitted to the University of Michigan in 1870 (some four decades after the university's founding) until 1896, when the first dean of women was appointed, there was no organized supervision of women students on campus. The university provided no housing for students; female students, like their male counterparts, were left to find their own lodgings in town, usually in mixed rooming houses. Few of these rooming houses had sitting rooms for receiving callers.
Given the small number of women students on campus in proportion to the men, and lacking dormitories or places on campus where they might meet, women students at times felt isolated. As one early student related: "Of social life we had none, and in sheer despair of ever becoming acquainted with one another we founded a society mildly literary and aggressively friendly." The Women's League, of which this student spoke, was organized in 1890 by women students and wives of faculty members.
The Women's League had both social and governing functions. The league sponsored meetings, dances, and lectures; welcomed new students and helped them find housing; and, after the turn of the century, regulated rooming houses. Events such as the Freshman Spread, the Women's Banquet, and the Junior Girls' Play, an annual musical comedy first produced in 1904, were also held under the aegis of the Women's League. Through the efforts of league members, separate rooming houses for women, known as League Houses, were established in the early twentieth century. The league also played a prominent role in the movement for dormitories on campus.
The league was governed by a student executive committee and an advisory committee made up of women known as associate members. The advisory and executive committees held regular business meetings together and separately as necessary. Beginning with the academic year 1919-20, all women students were assessed an annual fee of one dollar, which went to the Women's League, and all women students automatically became members of the Women's League upon admission to the university.
In June 1891 the Detroit branch of the Collegiate Alumnae initiated a campaign to raise funds for a women's building on the University of Michigan campus adjacent to the new men's gymnasium then under construction. Over the next several years the league raised funds for this proposed women's building, which opened in 1896 as an annex to Waterman Gymnasium. The women's gymnasium, named for the principal donor, Regent Levi Barbour, was opened the following year, and in 1900 parlors were completed. Housing the offices of the dean of women, Barbour Gymnasium became the focus of women's social activities on campus for the next three decades, until the ever-increasing number of women students outgrew the building.
In 1921, shortly after the completion of the Michigan Union building, a million-dollar campaign was launched by the Alumnae Council of the Alumni Association to raise funds for a women's building on campus. The Regents agreed to provide the land if the alumnae could raise $500,000 or more to construct and endow the building. The state legislature appropriated $350,000 in 1927 for the purchase of a site. The building was designed by the firm of Irving K. Pond and Allen Pond, the same architecture firm that designed the Michigan Union. The Michigan League building opened on May 4, 1929, although formal dedication ceremonies were not held until June 14, 1929 in the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater.
The Michigan League building was initially governed by the Alumnae Council, in cooperation with the Board of Regents. Due to difficulties in meeting operating expenses, the Alumnae Council gave the building to the university in 1930 and a governing board composed of alumnae, faculty, and students was created. Beginning in 1933, a portion of the fees paid by women students was allocated to the maintenance of the building; thereafter all women students were members of the Michigan League.
To eliminate confusion between the Women's League as an organization and the Michigan League building, the administration of the building and the student organization were combined under the title Michigan League in 1934-35; the Women's League became the Undergraduate Division. Under this organization, students were given a greater share in the responsibilities of the board of governors, with the league president serving as chairman. A board of representatives composed of the Assembly and Panhellenic Association drafted regulations and decided questions of student government, while the Judiciary Council, elected by the women's student body, enforced these rules. In 1950 the Undergraduate Division once again assumed its original title, the Women's League, while the Michigan League persisted as the name of the building.
In the course of the 1960s the governance and activities of men and women students were gradually united and the need for a separate women's governing body diminished. The Women's League was gradually subsumed under general student governance. Women were admitted to the Student Government Council and in 1961 the offices of the dean of men and the dean of women were replaced by the Office of Student Affairs. In June 1963 the Board of Regents approved the creation of the Student Activities Center, which merged the student activities of the Michigan League and the Michigan Union. The league and union buildings continued to operate under distinct management.
- Acquisition Information:
- The record group was received in several accessions from the Women's League (Donor No. 1908 ) beginning in 1943 and continuing through 1968. Additional material was received in 1970 through the University of Michigan Alumni Association (Donor No. 1617 ). Additional records were received from the Michigan League (Donor No. 8562 ) in 1997 and May 2009.
Click on terms below to find any related finding aids on this site.
Women -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor -- Societies and clubs.
Women college students -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
Barbour Gymnasium (University of Michigan)
University of Michigan. Alumnae Council.
University of Michigan -- Students -- Social life and customs -- 1891-1900.
University of Michigan -- Students -- Social life and customs -- 1901-1910.
University of Michigan -- Students -- Social life and customs -- 1911-1920.
University of Michigan -- Students -- Social life and customs -- 1921-1930.
University of Michigan -- Students -- Social life and customs -- 1931-1940.
University of Michigan -- Students -- Social life and customs -- 1941-1950.
University of Michigan -- Students -- Social life and customs -- 1951-1960.
University of Michigan -- Students -- Social life and customs -- 1961-1970.
University of Michigan. Women's League.
Browne, Sarah Mills Gayley.
Howells, William Dean, 1837-1920.
Wheeler, Edith M.
Wilcox, Ella Wheeler, 1850-1919.
Using These Materials
The record group is open for research.
- USE & PERMISSIONS:
Copyright is held by the Regents of the University of Michigan but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright is not held. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.
- PREFERRED CITATION:
[item], folder, box, Women's League (University of Michigan) Records, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan