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100 Years of Coeducation at W&M

March 22, 2019
By Noah Petersen '19

In the fall of 1918, 24 women were admitted as undergraduate students at William & Mary. During the 2018-19 school year, we are celebrating the accomplishments of more than 55,000 alumnae, students, faculty and staff who have followed in their footsteps. In the coming months we will be featuring vignettes from our fall 2018 cover story on the 100 years of coeducation at William & Mary. This is the second in that series.

Women's social groups

College gives you some of the best memories of your life. Often, you’re on your own for the first time, learning new things, with your whole life ahead of you. With every class or hour in the library, you’re stepping into your own future. It’s full of stories you’ll tell for decades to come.

The best part of these memories, though, is the chance to share them. It’s often not the things you do but those you do them with. To be surrounded by people of similar ages and interests can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The way women spend time together at William & Mary has changed over the years, but there has always been a constant focus on building relationships. The ribbon societies, formed in the first years of coeducation, were like an early form of sororities. Women wore green or yellow ribbons on their wrists or ankles, and staged events around Homecoming and organized yearly dances. They were groups of women who enjoyed spending time together.

Women’s social groups at the university have traditions and histories of their own. They might come in the form of invitations to events or group advertisements, like a Delta Sigma Theta poster that proudly reads, “Welcome into our queendom.” It could also be something small, like a customized William & Mary compact.

Over the last 100 years, William & Mary women have formed bonds that lasted much longer than their time at the university. With leftover scrapbooks or photographs, we can look back at those relationships. Whether they’re in black and white with a ribbon society in the 1930s or in full color with their sorority sisters in the 1980s, they’re standing together, arm in arm, smiling.