Beneath Thy Guiding Hand: A History of Women at the University of Delaware – Chapter 3
Chapter 3: The College
They came. A class of forty-eight freshmen began the Women’s College. Later, when the early years of the Women’s College had become legendary, its first students were seen as pioneers who had laid the foundations for a better Delaware.
The formal opening of the college took place on October 10, 1914, which the Newark Post described as "the greatest day Delaware has ever known."1 The Post’s editor, Everett C. Johnson, was the man who, as a student at Delaware College, had argued for co-education in the Aurora of 1898. Now a member of the Delaware College Board of Trustees, he had been chosen by his fellow board members to accept the keys to the Women’s College buildings from the commission. The realization of the Women’s College was a dream come true for Johnson and for his equally intellectual wife, the former Louise Staton.
An eager crowd of between 2,000 and 3,500 people, including the state’s most distinguished men and women, gathered on that bright October day to see the two buildings, called Residence Hall and Science Hall, that had been erected for the new college and to witness the installation of Samuel Chiles Mitchell as president of Delaware College and Winifred Josephine Robinson as dean of the Women’s College. "Enthusiasm and faith in the possibilities of our little Commonwealth was the spirit of the day," the Post reported.
The speakers and audience shared a sense of pride and of patriotism as they contemplated the meaning and purpose of the two coordinate colleges. The outbreak of war in Europe only a few weeks before served to heighten President Mitchell’s rhetorical references to "America as a moral power in the world" that offered equality of educational opportunity to both sexes.
In her remarks, Dean Robinson concentrated on the ideals that underlie a liberal education. She declared that work, recreation, the search for truth, and ethical values made up the four walls of the academic structure. Those walls could keep out the frivolous and the false while exalting knowledge, art, religion, and the spirit of social usefulness. On the outside must be all that is conventional in teaching, all that is servile in learning; on the inside, all freedom in method for the teacher, all honest questioning for the learner."2 The dean had already described the mission of the new institution in its first Bulletin. "The purpose of the Women’s College," she wrote, "is to provide academic work of college grade that is especially adapted to the needs of women." In addition to its academic goal, the Bulletin also promised that the college would give its students "social experience, so essential to poise and grace of manner….The girls will live in a world of their own," Dean Robinson wrote, "surrounded by refined, cultural influences, in daily association with the dean and her associates."3
Translating those broad, idealistic concepts into the day-to-day decisions that would guide the development of the nascent college was to be Winifred Robinson’s life work. From the college’s beginning in 1914 until she retired at the age of seventy in 1938, Winifred J. Robinson provided the vision and leadership that shaped the Women’s College. She was responsible for everything-from ordering coal for the furnace to hiring the faculty, advising the students, and maintaining discipline. She had not chosen the affiliated college model for Delaware; the Delaware College Board of Trustees had done that. The board had selected Winifred Robinson to be dean from a long list of candidates primarily because the board believed that she could create a college on the affiliated college model. Her ability to pursue that vision was never in doubt, but, in time, the board would come to question the wisdom and cost of continuing two institutions segregated by gender. The history of the Women’s College is, therefore, a bittersweet tale of an enterprise that began on the buoyant crest of idealism in the Progressive Era and then outlived its era; it is also the story of the woman who saw her once-shared vision questioned and ultimately, at least at Delaware, rejected.
Supervision of the Women’s College of Delaware, as it was originally called, was the responsibility of a special committee of the Delaware College Board of Trustees, which consisted of three members of the all-male board, together with the president of Delaware College and the dean of the Women’s College. The chairperson of that committee was State Chancellor Charles M. Curtis, a graduate of Delaware College and the brother of Harriette Curtis, the student from the Purnell years of co-education who had played Lydia Languish in The Rivals in 1873. Chancellor Curtis was a strong advocate of the Women’s College, one on whom Dean Robinson could depend for support. During the initial fourteen years of the college, there was no woman member of the Board of Trustees. In 1928, Emalea Warner was selected the first of her sex to join what had then become the Board of Trustees of the University of Delaware. To compensate for the lack of a female presence, the president of the board appointed an advisory committee to the Women’s College, which consisted of five women selected from throughout the state. An Academic Council-made up of the president of Delaware College, Dean Robinson, the faculty of the Women’s College, and all Delaware College faculty who taught courses in the Women’s College-met biweekly to deal with issues concerning instruction, the curriculum, examinations, and student discipline.
Samuel Chiles Mitchell, whose inauguration as president of Delaware College took place on the same day as the opening ceremony for the Women’s College, remained at Delaware for only six years. A kindly man, but a lax administrator, President Mitchell became embroiled in disagreements with some faculty and resigned his presidency in 1920 to accept a professorship in history at Richmond College.4 Mitchell’s successor was Walter Hullihen, a tall, dignified Virginian who held a Ph.D. in classical languages from The Johns Hopkins University and had recently served as an officer in the United States Army during World War I. Hullihen’s interests and abilities lay in administration rather than scholarship. He possessed a cordial, Southern manner, which, coupled with a love of outdoor, manly sports such as big game hunting, allowed him to move easily in the world of Delaware’s male elite. One of the new president’s first actions was to promote a redefinition of the institution by according it the name University of Delaware, which encompassed both Delaware College, the men’s portion, and the Women’s College. The faculty and Board of Trustees consented to the new name, which became the official title in March 1921.5 Dean Robinson agreed to the change on condition that the Women’s College would retain its autonomy.
The Women’s College was born in an era that was as yet untouched by forces that were soon to unravel the fabric of Victorian culture. Automobiles were a rarity in Delaware in 1914, and still in the future were the social changes associated with America’s involvement in the First World War, the ill-advised Prohibition Amendment and the decade of free-spirited self-indulgence that followed the war. In 1914, most people who had achieved or aspired to middle-class status believed that earnest endeavor, sexual abstinence before marriage, and dedication to selfless social causes were worthy goals toward which educated people should aspire in their lives. Dean Robinson and those who assisted in the creation of the Women’s College believed wholeheartedly in these concepts, and they purposefully built the college around them.
The Women’s College was conceived as a secular convent, where unsophisticated, inexperienced students were to be shaped into socially poised, educated women prepared to pursue careers in fields open to members of their sex and useful to the citizens of Delaware, particularly teaching and home economics. The various aspects of the college were unified by that purpose. It represented an adaptation of those bits and pieces from the experience of other schools that Dean Robinson regarded as most appropriate to the unique needs of the college in Delaware. She was particularly conscious of the college’s goal to educate those young women who could not afford to attend private colleges. She knew that the majority of the students in the Women’s College had not received thorough high-school educations and were likely to be self-conscious and insecure in college classes. Many were not prepared to undertake college-level work. Students often came from poor families who lived culturally impoverished, narrow lives. To accommodate them, the dean designed a college that provided a safe, homelike, comfortable environment in which young women could most easily respond to educational opportunities.
A key element in Dean Robinson’s concept, therefore, was her use of the Residence Hall. The dean had helped plan the building to ensure that it included large, well-furnished public spaces appropriate to the conduct of social events. Student rooms, by contrast, were deliberately kept small and cell-like, to inspire study but not conviviality. The dean had an inflexible rule that all female faculty of the college must live in residence, must take their meals with the students, and must serve as chaperones for student social events. Concomitantly, she forbade students to live off campus, unless they were commuters living with their parents or close relatives. Those ironclad rules were designed to provide the students with faculty role models who would instill in them a love of learning and introduce them to a richer cultural life than they had known previously. As the dean explained to the Board of Trustees, "It is not the professor’s course but the professor’s world that the student enters."6 The dean regarded the college as her family. "So compelling," she once wrote to a friend, "is the desire to mother it."7
When the college first opened, there was but one residence, and Dean Robinson, who had her rooms there, was its director. The sudden appearance of the dean in her red-flannel bathrobe was sufficient to restore order instantly to a room full of noisy, high-spirited college students.8 Dean Robinson had no hesitation in giving advice to students on any subject. On at least one occasion, she instructed a surprised young woman on the art of applying makeup.9 Another student received a letter from the dean admonishing her against dancing cheek to cheek. "Many a man has been tempted beyond what he was able to bear in the way of sex impulse by a perfectly innocent girl," the dean wrote. "Cheek-to-cheek dancing is a very dangerous thing both as to the reputation which it may bring to the girl who permits it and to the results which may come from it."10
In the period when the Women’s College began, the so-called Seven Sisters colleges-Mount Holyoke, Smith, Vassar, Bryn Mawr, Radcliffe, Barnard, and Wellesley-offered models of the collegiate ideal for women. Students at those prestigious private institutions had created what was called "The Life," a special world apart, where women students marched in daisy-chain ceremonies, built strong loyalties to compatriots, and pursued leadership roles in clubs, sports, and theatrical programs."11 Many of those elements were replicated at the Women’s College. The dean established a yearly succession of ceremonial occasions that began with Founder’s Day in October, proceeded to a special Thanksgiving dinner, and ended with May Day and Commencement at the close of the school year. Ceremonies were designed to inspire in students an unquenchable loyalty, both to the college as a whole and to their particular class. Those activities became genuine traditions that lasted the life of the college and bound the students to one another and to the institution.
Tree planting was the special feature of Founder’s Day. In the early years of the college, the ceremony had practical as well as symbolic value since the small campus had begun on treeless farmland. Each year, the president of the sophomore class planted a tree and presented the spade to the president of the freshman class. The members of the junior class then bestowed class colors on the freshmen, each freshman receiving her colors from her "big sister" among the juniors. The ceremony culminated in the robing of the seniors in caps and gowns. A special feature of that event was the speaker, usually a well-known American professional woman, who would discuss career opportunities for women. Among those who spoke at the Women’s College were the suffragist leader Dr. Anna Howard Shaw; Lillian Gilbreth, the time and motion engineer; Dr. Annie Jump Cannon, Harvard University’s Dover-born astronomer; and Judge Florence Allen of the United States Circuit Court of Appeals. Weekly chapel services presented another opportunity to reinforce the solemnity and high moral purpose of the college. The entire student body and many faculty joined in worship under the dignified leadership of the dean.
Whereas Founder’s Day and chapel emphasized the purposeful, academic side of college life, May Day paid tribute to feminine pulchritude, grace, and outdoor recreation. The queen and her court drew annual crowds of several thousand visitors to the campus during the 1920s and 1930s and provided local newspapers with excellent photo opportunities. Each year, Beatrice Hartshorn, director of physical education at the Women’s College, created a new pageant based on a different theme. Colorfully garbed student dancers enacted fairy tale stories on the model of classical ballet, and student acrobats demonstrated their skill in gymnastics. Students wearing diaphanous, yet modest, costumes danced around the May Pole to the strains of "May Is Here," a song according to legend, composed by Miss Hartshorn.
Dean Robinson disapproved of sororities because she feared their power to detract from the unity of the student body but she approved of academic clubs, like the Math Club, Le Cercle Francais, and thc Home Economics Club, which enhanced the colleges mission. She empowered the student-government organization to create rules to govern student behavior and to appoint proctors to enforce those rules. The emphasis on self-discipline that this system encouraged was also extended to the students’ academic life, which was conducted according to an honor system. Another college-supported extracurricular activity was the Y.W.C.A., which conducted Bible classes and undertook charitable projects. A Glee Club and a Mandolin Club addressed the college’s commitment to music education, especially in the early years when there were neither faculty nor courses in that discipline. The Dramatic Club, created in 1917, focused initially on performing modest productions of skits and charades, but it later evolved into an organization capable of performing major dramatic works in conjunction with its counterpart in Delaware College.
Not all of the activities of the Women’s College students were so self-consciously studious and culturally high-minded as the above description might suggest. The Chronicle, the first yearbook published by the college in 1918, notes that Glee Club members had kazoos, which they played at Delaware College athletic events or, illegally, at lights out in the Residence Hall. Any student who failed a test could expect a kazoo serenade of "The Worms Crawl In, The Worms Crawl Out."12 Student pranks were commonplace. One warmly recalled episode involved placing a hand muff with a hot water bottle in it inside a girl’s bed so that it looked and felt like a small animal. Memorable for a different reason was the student in the first graduating class who tried to evade taking a test for which she was unprepared by applying white powder to her face and feigning a fainting spell in front of the professor.13 Students of the 1920s recalled learning the Charleston in a line by hanging onto the sides of the shower stalls in Sussex Hall, while one girl whistled "Yes, sir, that’s my baby."
Social relations between Delaware College and the Women’s College were generally cordial. Female students sometimes complained that the fraternity brothers invited non-college women to their parties in preference to Women’s College students, but most of the women students had no trouble getting dates to college-sponsored dances with students in the men’s college. In the early years of the Women’s College, it became a tradition for the students at Delaware College to descend in costume on the women’s Residence Hall before one of their biggest athletic events. The only failure of an attempted cooperative venture between the two institutions was in journalism. Students from both colleges tried to reorganize the Delaware College Review as a joint newspaper, but the Women’s College students complained that the Review’s editors were only concerned with sports and ignored their ideas for stories. The women withdrew from the newspaper and instead published a succession of short-lived and inadequately funded, but often very creditable, literary magazines.14
Three academic programs were available to students at the Women’s College: Arts and Science, Education, and Home Economics. But, because the college was philosophically committed to the liberal arts and was too small to offer more than a narrow range of courses, the students’ programs varied relatively little, irrespective of their majors. When the college opened, it had only four female faculty, but that small band was greatly augmented by faculty from Delaware College, who willingly did double duty, teaching their courses in both institutions for additional pay. Mary E. Rich and Myrtle V. Caudell were the original professors of education and home economics, respectively. They also did double duty. Beyond their teaching responsibilities, they traveled extensively throughout Delaware enlisting students, studying the state’s educational, economic, and living conditions, and suggesting ways Delawareans could improve the quality of their lives. Home economics extension in Delaware had its beginnings in the work of Myrtle V Caudell.
The creation of the Women’s College was but one link in a chain of events that transformed public education in Delaware. As a preliminary step to beginning her duties at the Women’s College, Mary Rich drove a horse and buggy over muddy roads, visiting schools throughout the state to recruit students and to observe social and economic conditions. She was impressed by the interest and cooperation that she received throughout rural Delaware, but she also discovered ill-educated teachers working in run-down, one-room schools with dilapidated, backyard privies. To awaken Delawareans to the need for change, Mary Rich presented information at meetings of women’s clubs and other organizations about the depressing condition of Delaware’s schools. One man who took up the challenge was Pierre S. du Pont, then president of the DuPont Company. In 1918, Pierre du Pont created an organization, called Service Citizens of Delaware, to promote school reform. Its goal was to centralize school administration in Delaware, to upgrade the quality of school instruction, and to provide new, state-of-the-art, comprehensive school buildings to every community in the state. P. S. du Pont initially endowed Service Citizens with $1.5 million to accomplish its building program, and he personally campaigned for a new school code to ensure that his new schools would be managed according to professional standards.15
One outcome of that concentrated effort to advance education was a much-needed improvement in the preparation of teachers. In 1913, the state’s Board of Education had secured passage of a law to create a summer-school program for teachers at Delaware College. In its early years, the summer school focused on supplying rudimentary instruction to teachers who had received little or no college training. When the Women’s College was founded in 1914, the summer school became the joint responsibility of the two affiliated colleges. In 1919, the state authorized a two-year college certificate program for teachers, another stopgap measure designed to give teachers some training beyond high school. The two-year certificate program became a distinct feature of the Women’s College until 1934, when the program was discontinued.
Supporters of the Women’s College hoped to interest Pierre du Pont in providing for new buildings and professorships. Through Service Citizens, the philanthropist did give some funds for the construction of Kent Dining Hall and for temporary dormitories. He also financed scholarships for future teachers and paid a portion of Mary E. Rich’s salary. All told, Service Citizens spent $71,000 on the Women’s College, but du Pont made clear that his interest was in improving public education in general, not in the Women’s College as such.16
The college played a very successful role in improving the quality of teacher preparation in Delaware’s public schools. By 1932, 312 women had earned two-year teaching certificates, which qualified them to be primary-school teachers. In 1935, Dean Robinson reported that 329 of the state’s active teachers were graduates of the Women’s College, including 102 teachers in the city of Wilmington, 225 throughout rural Delaware, and two at the Women’s College itself.17
The other professionally oriented program offered by the Women’s College was home economics. Like social work, home economics was a new field that had come into being in response to the reform agendas of the Progressive Era, attracting a largely female, professional work force. Home economics was designed to bring scientific information and testing procedures to the heretofore prosaic, yet creative tasks that occupied the time of housewives: Cooking, sewing, and infant care. As an academic field, home economics, or domestic science as it was sometimes called, sought to justify the role of housewife in an industrial world and to create new professions for women as dietitians, food testers, clothing buyers, and nursery-school teachers. Home economists were also employed to teach their discipline in high schools and to become agricultural extension agents.18 Where education majors relied upon the social-science fields of psychology and sociology for their intellectual foundation, the major building block of the home economics curriculum was chemistry. Home economists sought to apply knowledge about newly discovered nutritional components, such as proteins, vitamins, and carbohydrates, and to improve food preparation in households as well as in hospitals, schools, and other institutions. Home economics, with its emphasis on scientific testing, was closely allied with the emerging food-processing industry. The study of textiles, although less scientifically developed than nutrition in 1914, was similarly taught with the goal of explaining the process of textile and clothing manufacture in both home and industrial settings.
At Delaware, as elsewhere, home economics looked Janus-like toward women’s past and to their future. The field evolved rapidly in response to both mainstream social pressures and the growth of knowledge about early childhood development, nutrition, and industrial processes. A food-science laboratory and a textile laboratory were located in Science Hall. In 1914, the food laboratory was equipped with experimental equipment suitable for training dietitians and for testing foods for their chemical and nutritional content. By the early 1930s, the demand for technicians trained to carry out such industrial and scientific applications in cooking had cooled, and Amy Rextrew, who then headed home economics, requested that the old equipment in the food laboratory be replaced by new equipment that would replicate kitchens found in home environments.19 A similar shift toward training homemakers rather than professional home economists was apparent in the program’s emphasis on the Home Management House, which provided the culminating experience for those who majored in home economics. In her senior year, each home-economics major spent one term living in the Home Management House under the supervision of a member of the home-economics faculty. There, the students learned how to make up a household budget; to purchase, prepare, and serve wholesome, well-balanced, attractive dishes designed for family dining, or for dinner parties; and to take proper care of furniture, linens, and equipment.
Home economics presented many ironies that mirrored the conception of the Women’s College. Cloaked with the aura of science and progress, it promised to bring women into the modern world, but it did so by reinforcing the age-old role of women as mothers and housewives. The dual aspects of home economics were demonstrated in the careers of the students who majored in that field. Some home-economics graduates of the Women’s College did become dietitians, department-store clothing buyers, and home- economics teachers, but from the first, the majority applied their training by marrying and becoming full-time homemakers.
By far, the greatest number of Women’s College students earned degrees in liberal-arts disciplines. Most of the faculty who taught in those areas were men whose primary appointments were in Delaware College. Faculty in English, history, and foreign languages were primarily Delaware College men, as were those in the social sciences, physics, and mathematics. As the Women’s College grew, Dean Robinson concentrated on hiring faculty in a few disciplines to teach exclusively in the Women’s College. In addition to home economics and education, those disciplines were physical education, art, music, biology, and chemistry. The selection of art and music is not surprising, for those creative arts had long been associated with women’s alleged special affinity for culture and aesthetics. The choice of physical education, likewise, can be explained by the strict segregation of the sexes in college athletics during that period. The explanation of the dean’s decision to employ separate faculty in biology and chemistry, however, is not so self-evident. Dean Robinson believed that there was no appreciable difference between instruction for men and women in fields like history, foreign languages, and English literature. Male faculty, used to teaching students of their own sex, could perform quite adequately as teachers at the Women’s College in the humanities, she said, as long as they taught in a "vivid" manner that excited the interest of their students.20 Chemistry, however, she believed, should not be presented in the same way to men and women because it should be directed to their different careers. In a world in which careers for women were limited, male students might study chemistry in preparation for a variety of careers, whereas female students who studied chemistry were largely restricted to careers in food science. For that reason, the dean believed that the presentation of chemistry to women students should concentrate on the chemical composition of food, which, she believed, was of "much more practical value to women."21
In the early days of the college, the number of women faculty was quite small and turnover was rapid. Until the early 1920s, none of the Women’s College faculty held the Ph.D. aside from the dean; many had only a bachelor’s degree plus some prior experience as teachers. The pay scale was low, even for those times, and the requirement that all women faculty live in the dormitories, a benefit which the University valued at $300, was doubtless a disincentive for most to remain more than a few years.
There was disparity of pay between men and women faculty. To cite but one example, in 1922, Delaware College hired a male instructor in English for a salary of $1,800; that same year, a woman with similar credentials was hired to teach foreign languages at a salary of $900 plus room and board, a benefit which carried with it unending interaction with students, including chaperoning responsibilities. Teaching loads were very heavy by recent standards. Typically, faculty taught four courses each term, although higher loads were not uncommon. In 1933 the clothing instructor was scheduled to teach twenty hours a week, while Amy Rextrew, in addition to her duties as head of home economics, taught twenty-three hours each week and also supervised two student-teachers.22
It was only in the college’s second decade that a permanent core faculty was recruited to the Women’s College. That small group of women became leaders of the various branches of the Women’s College and made permanent marks on the development of the University. Outstanding among them were Amy Rextrew, whose work in home economics has already been noted; Harriet Baily in Art; Beatrice Hartshorn in Physical Education; Quaesita Drake in Chemistry; and Jeannette Graustein in Biology.
Harriet Baily, who joined the faculty in 1929, created the first art department at the University of Delaware. Art had not been taught at Delaware College, but under Miss Baily’s guidance, it became a real presence on the University campus. Having much vision but little money, she organized annual art shows that brought students into contact with reproductions of major works of art. The students’ talents were displayed in the fine posters that they designed to advertise exhibits, plays, and other special events on campus. Many art majors went on to careers as art teachers, where they continued their own quest to teach Delawareans value and meaning of art.
Beatrice Hartshorn came to Delaware in 1925 to take over a physical education program that been constricted by the absence of a gymnasium and consisted primal of the students doing indoor exercises with wands and dumbbells and playing a few out-of-doors games. By the 1920s, the value of physical education for women was no longer open to question, but disagreements were rife over the issue of women’s participation in competitive sports. Miss Hartshorn took the view that women should participate in such team sports as hockey and basketball, but she opposed intercollegiate athletics for women. The Hartshorn regime emphasized body-movement exercises, folk dancing, and the May Day rituals as more appropriate to women than the competitive athletics associated with the world of men. In addition to her influence on women’s athletics and physical training, she sought the construction of a gymnasium; when the state legislature agreed to the venture, she helped design the structure that now bears her name.
During the 1920s and 1930s, career opportunities for women scientists were very restricted. Typically, the only industrial positions open to them were in ancillary roles as technical librarians or laboratory assistants. Research universities, likewise, shunned women professors in favor of men. In that restricted market, the Women’s College was able to attract and retain several outstanding scientists. Quaesita Drake, a chemist who joined the faculty in the early 1920s, was the first Women’s College faculty member, other than the dean, to hold the Ph.D. degree. Jeannette Graustein, another Ph.D., joined the faculty in biology in 1930. Burdened with heavy teaching loads in beginning-level courses that they taught in overcrowded laboratories, neither woman had much opportunity to pursue research. Elizabeth Dyer, who joined Dr. Drake in chemistry in the 1930s after earning her Ph.D. at Yale, was able to establish a research program in a laboratory in the new Delaware College chemistry building, now named for its donor, H. Fletcher Brown, but that development came only very late in the history of the Women’s College.
By 1934, when the Women’s College had reached the end of its second decade, it had fulfilled the hopes of those who had celebrated its beginning. The student body had grown from 133 in 1919-20 to about 300 a decade later. Typically, the Women’s College enrolled about two-thirds of the number of men enrolled in Delaware College. In 1934-35, during the depths of the Depression, there were 281 students in the Women’s College, 110 of whom were from Wilmington, sixty-six from rural New Castle County, twenty-two from Kent County, twenty-five from Sussex County, and fifty-eight from out of state. In that year, 185 students were studying for degrees in Arts and Science, fifty-four in home economics, and forty-two in education. Since its opening, the college had added several buildings: Sussex Residence Hall in 1916, Kent Dining Hall and New Castle Residence Hall in 1926, and the Gymnasium in 1930. In addition, the college maintained three "temporary" dormitory buildings, called by the whimsical names Topsy, Turvy, and Boletus, which had been constructed in the early 1920s to accommodate the increased student body. In 1934, approximately fifty percent of the student body were commuters, a statistic explained, in part, by the hard times and the lack of dormitory space.23 In 1933, Amy Rextrew undertook a survey of the students’ accounts to ascertain the true cost of attending the college. She learned that the average in-state commuter paid about $370 a year in personal costs and college fees, whereas an in-state student in residence paid about $686.24 Students could earn some of the money necessary for on-campus residency by waiting tables in Kent Dining Hall or by undertaking other part-time jobs on campus.
In the 1920s and 1930s, the college was stretched to the extreme limits of its resources in buildings and faculty, but it was a lively place that offered sound instruction and a wide array of extracurricular opportunities for choral singing, acting in plays, meeting the leading women of the day, attending dances, playing indoor and outdoor sports, swimming, and seeing art exhibitions. The college had a homey feeling about it. Students and faculty interacted constantly, not only in the classroom but also in the dining hall and the residence halls. Classes were kept small, and no student felt lost. Dean Robinson could honestly boast that the curriculum had been carefully designed to provide "courses distinctly for women" that would prepare them for their probable life work."25
From the distance of nearly six decades, it is tempting to condemn the dean for deliberately limiting Women’s College students to opportunities in a few, generally ill-paid "women’s" professions. While it is true that Dean Robinson remained an exemplar of the Progressive Era long after the ideals of that time had faded from the American consciousness, it is also important to note that her assessment of women’s career opportunities was not off the mark. In 1930, for example, when the University of Delaware was seeking a librarian to take charge of the Memorial Library, one of those under consideration was Dorothy Hawkins. Miss Hawkins had previous experience at Delaware College, where she had successfully served as the college’s first professional librarian from 1921 until 1927. She had left Delaware to pursue increasingly responsible positions in libraries at other colleges. Dorothy Hawkins wrote to President Hullihen of her interest in returning to Delaware. He replied: "I am sorry that I am unable to say anything definite about the position but I really have no idea at all whether the Library Committee and the Committee on Instruction will feel that it is necessary to have a man in this position or whether they will feel that a woman would be just as acceptable."26 The committee chose a man.