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the Hoot
National Women’s History Month is over for the year, but it’s never too
late to recognize the important roles women have played in the history
of William Woods University.
For 127 years, the only students living on the campus now known as
William Woods University were female. Hence, the true legacy of the
institution lies with its female students.
William Woods University began as the Female Orphan School in
Camden Point, Mo., in 1870.
“[It] was to be envisioned as a school that would be available both to
students who could pay and to those orphans whose support must come
from some responsible party,” wrote historian Griffith A. Hamlin, in his
book, “In Faith and History.”
The Female Orphan School moved to Fulton in 1890, after a fire
destroyed the school in Camden Point. Over the next century, the college
underwent several name changes and continued to grow and develop. It
was accredited as a junior college in 1914, a four-year college in 1962 and
a university offering graduate degrees in 1993.
During the early days in Fulton, the students’ uniforms consisted of
uniform dresses and “nile-green sun bonnets trimmed with old rose
ribbon” that were made in Fulton and furnished to students at a cost of
$2.25 each. The full cost for board and tuition each term was $87.50,
and tuition for day students was $25.
By 1899, the chief source of the school’s income was their full-paying
students. The board of directors felt that the term orphan school
subjected their paying pupils to criticism and misrepresentation. And so
the Orphan School officially became Daughters College.
The name, while appropriate to the mission of the institution, was a
short-lived. Toward the end of 1900, the school was drowning in debt,
and owed $36,000 to various creditors.
In October of 1900, Dr. William S. Woods, a member of the board of
directors, settled the college’s debt personally. He paid $23,450 on
behalf of the school, an amount whose relative value in 2010
was $628,000.
The year 1901 dawned a new, hopeful age for William Woods
College. The board of directors unanimously decided that the
institution should be renamed in honor of its generous benefactor. His
support that year would be the beginning of many years of
affiliation with the college.
By Erin Crooks, associate editor