Changing the Rules for Women

Written by Evan Spencer, Graduate Assistant

March is Women’s History Month, so for this week’s blog, I thought I would look into the history of rules and restrictions that MTSU has placed on its female student population.

MTSU originally served as the Middle Tennessee Normal School: a school for teachers. In 1914, the senior class was composed of twenty women of twenty-eight total students. As the school grew, the female student body grew with it. Since its inception in 1911, MTSU has welcomed female students into its dormitories, cafeterias, and classrooms.

But female students over the past 100 years have dealt with numerous rules and restrictions that their male counterparts were not subjected to.

Below, a pamphlet handed out to female students in 1932 illustrates some of the restrictions faced by female students at MTSU:

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These rules include:

  • That women may go to movies up to three times a week, but must return home by 5:40 PM when they do.
  • That women must obtain written permission from their parents to go home on weekends.
  • That “loud laughing” among other activities, is considered “inappropriate for college women.”

Over time, the women of MTSU pushed against these strict and unfair regulations. In the 1960s, women were required to be in the dorms at 9:00 PM (But they could go to the movies as many times as they pleased!!!). Men of the campus, however, had no curfew. These inequalities led women on MTSU’s campus to lobby for less restrictive policies. In the 1960s, female students demanded a meeting with MTSU President Dr. Mel Scarlett. In the following excerpt, Dr. Scarlett describes his meeting with the MTSU women:

ExcerptAlthough these women did not achieve their goal of removing restrictions altogether, they helped to chip away at the strictly gendered policies in place at MTSU. Over the next fifty years, the remaining discrepancies in the rules have gradually been replaced by gender-neutral rules.

In the Tennessee Board of Regents 2007 Handbook on student housing, there are several rules regarding visitation, hours, and overnight guests. However, the final rule states: “Visitation regulations apply to all guests regardless of gender.”

Over the years, campus life for women has changed radically. Come to the Albert Gore Research Center to find out more about the history of women at MTSU!


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