Dianne Woodworth



Why did you decide do go to college?

I always knew I wanted to go to college from the time I was a little girl. Both in my family and in society in general (in my realm), if you were smart enough, you were expected to go to college.

Was it difficult financially or socially (did people look down on women going to college?)

I was very fortunate that my parents were able to pay for my tuition and books. I worked in the summers to earn spending money. In my experience, no one looked down on college women. In fact, just the opposite was true. People were impressed that you were going to college, so from a social standpoint, it was an advantage. What did you want to get out of it?
A BA degree, which was the ticket into the career I wanted to pursue. Of course I got much more than that…great friends, new experiences, pursuing interests in subjects I’d never had available before, etc., etc.

What kind of career options were available for someone who went to college vs. someone who did not.

The “classic” career options were teacher, nurse, very-educated-secretary, social worker, psychologist, careers in the arts (dancer, singer, actress, musician, poet, author, etc.). Of course, one didn’t need a degree for some of those options, but it could give you “a leg up.” There were fewer options in business, industry, politics, etc. Those types of careers were still considered men’s jobs, as were “doctor, lawyer, indian chief.” Which is not to say that women didn’t pursue those careers, it was just harder. Fortunately, some of that changed over the course of our careers. Clearly, however, there is evidence of those attitudes still rampant in our society. Sad, but true.

What was the classroom like? Was the mood serious? What was the teaching style(was it mostly lectures, group work, or something else?)

The classroom was very female! J Except for that, I assume it was similar to any other. Depending on the subject, there were students who were actively interested (the majority), those just going through the motions, those who didn’t understand, and those asleep J. To say the mood was serious sounds a bit dour. I think the mood in class was appropriate. Most girls really were there to learn and do well in their work. Teaching style varied by professor. There were boring lectures and interesting lectures. Some were all lecture (usually from very old, yellowed notes J), some were a combo of lecture and discussion with the class. I don’t remember any group work. Once you got into classes in your major, classes were smaller (at least in my major) and there was more give and take between students and professors.

Do you have any memories of the classroom experience or of college here in general that you would like to share? 

Some stories appear farther on, but I have a few I can add here. I found most of my classes very interesting, with some notable exceptions. I took Geography because it was supposed to be an “easy A,” but I hated it and barely made a C! I really enjoyed the many different courses available as electives, and I dabbled in a wide variety. My friends would tease me about it, saying I majored in Sociology and minored in everything else!Freshman year, I took the required history course. I was not a big fan of high school history classes, with all the boring memorization of dates and places. This course, however, was really interesting because the prof, whose name I can’t remember, discussed the hows and whys of events, not just when and where. At that time, I didn’t have good study habits. When exam time rolled around, I pulled an all-nighter, but still didn’t have enough time to review everything I needed to. In the brashness of my youth, I decided to ask for a reprieve. The exam was to be in the afternoon, so that morning I went to the prof’s office. I told him I was very upset that I might fail the exam, and I’d never failed a test before. I said I’d been up all night trying to study, bent over a heating pad, because I had cramps so bad I couldn’t concentrate well (which was true), in fact I was going to the Infirmary after I talked to him. Of course, I shed some tears during this, and he was being very sympathetic. Before I could ask, he suggested I take the exam another day with another class! Naturally, I wanted to kiss his feet, but instead I just thanked him profusely and headed to the Infirmary. Looking back, I can’t believe I did that and even more so that he gave me the reprieve!

What was the dress code like? Was it strictly enforced? Did girls wear pants to class? Did people dress up for class?

Dress code was very strict (no pants; skirts & dresses only) and strictly enforced…except for the ever-popular trench coat. The trench coat could hide a multitude of sins (jammies [legs rolled up above hem of coat] or nightgown, when you had a morning class and had overslept or if you just weren’t a morning person; leotard and tights for gym class before or after another class; swim suit same as leotard, etc.) and was “legal.” Mostly we wore skirts and blouses/sweaters, sometimes casual dresses known as shirtwaist dresses, which looked like a skirt and blouse but was all one piece and one fabric. This may seem like “dressing up” by today’s standards, but it was just regular school wear for us. The same code applied when going on a date or anywhere off campus, with rare exceptions. If you could convince your House Mother you were “going on a picnic” or some other pants-/shorts-appropriate activity, she could give you permission to do so.

What was dating like? How did you ladies meet guys? Were you allowed to have guys on campus and of not, did students do it anyway? When you did go on dates where did you go and what did you do?


Dating was not a problem, as it occurred mainly on weekends, and guys came from far and wide to date MWC girls. They often came in “packs,” e.g., a UVA guy is dating a MWC girl, so he tells her he’s bringing three fraternity brothers with him and could she set up blind dates for them. Or the girl goes to a party at the guy’s fraternity house and meets someone she likes better, or someone she thinks her roommate would like and sets them up on a date. Guys also came from Randolph-Macon, VMI, Va. Tech, W&L, Annapolis, Georgetown, and others. There were also the Marines from the Officer Candidate School at Quantico and last, but not least, townies.The thing you will probably find the most interesting/amusing is the “guest card” system back then. When you had a date, the guy had to sign in at the reception desk in your dorm and be issued a guest card that showed he had permission to be with you and to be on campus. Then a card was filed at the desk with your name, his name, and where you were going. When your date was over, you had to report in at the desk, so they knew you were back and within curfew. As I recall, curfew was 11 p.m. So back then, the college did serve “in loco parentis,” and it even said so in the Handbook! I believe in today’s world, colleges specifically state they do not serve that role, because of the associated liability. So guys were allowed on campus, but only if they had a guest card to be with a specific girl.I was wondering, though, whether by “on campus” you really meant in the dorm. In our first 3 years, men were allowed in the dorm only to help you move in or out. By senior year, they had loosened the rules to allow men in the dorm on Sunday afternoons, I think between 1 and 3 p.m., but you had to leave your room door fully open. No hanky-panky allowed!! That’s an old-fashioned term you may never have heard, but it just means no physical fooling around. In either case, moving or Sunday visits, you had to call out, “Man on the floor!” first.

There weren’t a lot of options for places to go. Two common ones were a lounge-type place in the GW Inn which had 3.2 beer for 18 and up plus music and an area for dancing; and a beer joint just outside of town which had the same. Of course, movies and going out to dinner were also available. Going to D.C. was also fun, but made it hard to meet curfew!

Girls also traveled to the guy’s schools for fraternity parties or special weekend celebrations, like Easter’s Weekend at UVA. Of course, we could only stay in “approved” homes in Charlottesville…local folks who were willing to put up one or more college girls for the weekend for a reasonable fee. I guess that was the case because of our connection to UVA at that time, as that was not the case at other schools.

What was the atmosphere of campus, did it stress academics or more of the social life? What did you do for fun? Was there a lot of partying on campus? What did you do when you went out?

I think there was emphasis on academics, but that is not to say there was no social life. Guys were around on weekends for coed social life, but during the week, it was just us girls. Lots of girls played bridge together. There were also a lot of clubs you could join that had a social element to them: Psychology Club, Sociology Club, Modern Dance Club, Theater Club, intramural sports, etc. Lots of things we did for fun seem pretty tame compared to today. You also may not realize that only seniors were allowed to have cars on campus, so the first 3 years we were limited to whatever fun was within walking distance…unless you were fortunate enough to be friends with a senior!Besides dating, for fun, we went shopping downtown, we went out to eat occasionally, which reminds me…one of my favorite places to go was Allman’s Barbecue, which, unbelievably, after 50+ years, is still in business in the same little place on Rt. 1. Back then, the smoke pit was inside the restaurant, which was very small—4 or 5 tables and 5 or 6 stools at the counter. Everyone knew when you’d been there, because your clothes, your hair, everything smelled like smoked pork! It was so good, though, it was worth it! They now also have a drive-thru place on Rt. 3, which I discovered last year when I was leaving our Reunion. Naturally, I bought barbecue, beans, and slaw in bulk and brought it home. I was not disappointed—it still tastes as great as ever! Talk about a flashback!!It was also fun when a bunch of us congregated in someone’s room and just chatted (screamed and laughed, too!) about all the earth-shattering things college girls talk about: boys, fashion, boys, hairstyles, boys, which profs we liked or didn’t like, boys, etc. Sometimes we’d do goofy things that made us laugh, fix each other’s hair, teach each other things (I learned to knit from one of my roommates), talk bad about someone we didn’t like (yes, we could be vicious back then, too), talk about what we wanted to be when we grew up, etc. One year, I was in a 4-girl room. Two of my roommates went into the ear-piercing business—have ice cubes and needles, will pierce! Being the “Philadelphia lawyer” type, I suggested they needed a written document for each “customer” to sign and retain a copy that would include instructions on how to care for their newly pierced ears, as well as a disclaimer of liability if a piercing got infected. They hadn’t thought about that, but agreed it was a good idea. So, I prepared the document for them. Many girls, including myself, got their ears pierced in our room that year for a nominal fee. Actually, since I prepared the document for them, I didn’t have to pay, but I did sign the form. J

In the sense that you probably mean “partying” there wasn’t much that I was aware of, since we were all-girls and we didn’t have sororities or anything like that. Others may have more interesting stories about partying on campus!