Atkinson Museum Hosts First Ladies Exhibit

February 10, 2014

exhibit posterThe Esther Thomas Atkinson Museum is hosting the exhibit, First Ladies of Hampden-Sydney.

In January, the Intercultural Affairs Committee sent a note to the college community that March is National Women's History Month, inaugurated thirty years ago by the The National Women's History Project and celebrated across the land.  "How is Women's History Month relevant to me?" one student asked after reading the email.  The exhibit presents an answer to his question.

Although the mission of Hampden-Sydney College is to form good men, some of her good citizens have been women. There have always been women on campus and they have always played an important role in the lives of students.  Mention the names Erlene Bowman, Dottie Fahrner, or Gerry Pettus to any graduate of the last twenty years and you will likely hear stories of the smiles, care, and support these women have provided to their Hampden-Sydney "sons."  This support goes back to the 1890s and Ms. Minnie Lacy, daughter of the College physician, who ran a boarding house for students.

Although a men's college, there have been seven female graduates of Hampden-Sydney.  Graduate Eunice Carwile had this to say about her time as a student on The Hill, "I really felt I belonged in Mr. Brinkley's Western Man (now Western Culture) class.  Whenever a student would answer his question correctly, the professor would throw a quarter in his direction.  The day Mr. B threw a quarter to me, I knew I was 'one of the guys.'"

The late 1970s also brought another change to the classroom: women faculty.  Anne Lund and Mary Saunders were the first women to join the faculty and blazed the path that led to approximately 30 percent of the faculty being female today.  In a recent interview Dr. Lund had this to say about the changes she's seen on campus, "Hampden-Sydney is different (now) because it is not a rare thing for women to be professors these days.  It is a great place to work and it always was for me.  Students in the sciences were always wonderfully respectful... I still keep in touch with a few from almost the first years."

Beyond the classroom, women trustees have made and are making important decisions for the future of Hampden-Sydney. Mary Ross Scott Reed was the first woman trustee in 1973; Linda Marks is a recent trustee; and Anne Whittemore and Cynthia Citrone are current trustees.  And what decisions for the future of the College could be more important than those made every day by Anita Garland, Dean of Admissions? 

Usual hours for the Atkinson Museum are Tuesday through Friday, 10 AM to 12 PM and 1 to 5:00 PM.  The exhibit is on display through March 14.  For additional information, call 434-223-6134 or visit