“A Carolina Lady:” Navigating Campus Rules for Women in 1958

The Women's Honor Council for the 1958-1959 academic year. From the 1959 Yackety Yack, http://digitalnc.org

The Women’s Honor Council for the 1958-1959 academic year. From the 1959 Yackety Yack, http://digitalnc.org

When new women students arrived on campus in the fall of 1958, their orientation likely included advice on many topics familiar to today’s students. But they also received an introduction to something else — the complicated and often confusing set of rules that governed women’s lives on campus.

In 1958, there were 1,320 women students at UNC Chapel Hill — about 19% of the student population. It was five years before the University would admit women students without consideration of their intended major and residence and 14 years before the passage of Title IX, which banned sex discrimination in federally-funded education.

Rules for women enrolled at UNC included strict curfews and guidelines for dress and behavior in campus spaces, and were often subject to interpretation. At an orientation for women students in 1958, Women’s Honor Council chair Nancy Adams gave advice for avoiding violations of the code, explaining what it meant to be “a Carolina Lady.”

Advice for first year women students, 1958. From the Office of the Dean of Women Records (#40125), University Archives.

Advice for first year women students, 1958. From the Office of the Dean of Women Records (#40125), University Archives.

 

In 1962, Adams returned to UNC as Assistant Dean of Women. After three years in that position, she turned her attention to activism, advocating for civil rights and American withdrawal from Vietnam.

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