Furman's Merger with Greenville Woman's College
Furman and the Greenville Baptist Female College, which opened in Greenville in 1854 and became the Greenville Woman's College in 1916, had always maintained a close relationship.
The Woman's College was a mile from the men's campus, at the current site of Heritage Green (where the Greenville County Museum, Little Theatre and public library now stand). The two schools had a joint board of trustees from 1854 until 1908 when, at the request of the female college's board members, the South Carolina Baptist Convention established separate boards.
Student relations were always close. Baccalaureate sermons were usually held jointly, and literary societies, clubs and publications often met together. The Woman's College was a center for the fine arts in Greenville, and the women often wore special badges to support early Furman football teams.
The Woman's College had never received much financial support from the South Carolina Baptist Convention, but for a while it was a thriving institution. By the fall of 1929, however, it faced serious financial woes, as did much of the country, and its trustees decided to propose a temporary plan of "affiliation" with Furman in which Furman would take over instruction of half of the women's senior class.
Furman agreed to the plan, but as the financial situation of the Woman's College worsened and enrollment continued to decline, the request changed from one of "affiliation" to "coordination." Under the plan, Furman would assume instruction of junior and senior women and management of the schools would be consolidated, although the Woman's College campus would be maintained separately. The convention approved, but nothing was done immediately because of the depressed financial climate.
By early 1932, as its financial situation continued to deteriorate, the board of the Woman's College urged immediate implementation. The first coordinated activity was a joint commencement in June 1932. The next fall, 70 women began attending classes on the men's campus, with specially chartered taxi cabs providing rides between the campuses.
By March of 1933 the Woman's College trustees asked Furman to assume full control, with one board and one president of both institutions. The same educational standards and fees would apply to men and women. Furman would also guarantee the "identity and noble traditions" of the Woman's College. Some classes were combined, but outwardly the campuses maintained separate identities.
The women brought new dimensions to Furman, including an emphasis on the fine arts; an annual performance of Handel's Messiah
; an active alumnae organization; and such traditions as May Day, the Daisy Chain and the Hanging of the Greens, which continued until the move to the current campus.
To learn more, read Judith T. Bainbridge's published Academy and College: A History of the Woman's College of Furman University