Mary Washington College in the 1930's

The Student Experience

Name Change

“State Teachers College Logo.” 1933 General Catalog of State Teachers College. University of Mary Washington Special Collections Library. (accessed March 15, 2012).

In 1938, one of the greatest changes happened to this school. With the influence of Dr. Combs, the school changed from the State Teachers College to the College of Mary Washington, from a teacher’s college to a liberal arts institution. Dr. Combs believed that a teacher needed to know more than just the profession but a complete education. In his letter to the Virginia Board of Education from 1937, he reports reasons why this change was necessary for the students. Dr. Combs discusses the changes that were occurring outside of the Fredericksburg campus, that teachers colleges’ curriculums were changing into what should be liberal arts schools and that the switch should happen because it was natural. A very interesting point that Dr. Combs makes, that would have influenced the female students greatly, is that men should be admitted into the school as well. This is an extremely progressive idea during this century. He believed that men need to be admitted so they could be more involved in the teaching profession, to help raise enrollment, and to prepare the girls socially since they would be dealing with men for the rest of their lives in other areas.

This decade led to one of the greatest and most important changes to this school and Dr. Combs* was instrumental in this change. In terms of the classroom, the girls would be challenged with higher expectations and harder studies. Not every student needed to become a teacher if they were not passionate about that profession. These girls were gaining more independence and the faculty was behind them all the way.

The student handbook seemed to be familiarizing students with Mary Washington, George Washington’s mother. The handbooks had pictures of her home and different quotes that she said throughout her life in the student handbooks as early as 1933. It is unclear how much forewarning students had about the coming change but it is clear that the college was trying to make the transition much earlier than 1938 . Another change that came the same time as the schools’ name change was the name of the student handbooks. Before 1938 they were simply called student handbooks, but after 1938 their name changed as well to The Bayonet to match the war theme of the school publications (The Bullet, The Battlefield).

*”Morgan L. Combs.” University of Mary Washington Presidential Inauguration Website. (accessed March 15, 2012.)


Name Change and The Bullet:

On April 1, 1938, the student run newspaper, The Bullet, published its first paper with the new name Mary Washington College added to its title. On the front page of the paper the headline reads, ‘What April Fools We Mortals Be!’, and to add to the spirit of the day  columns were printed upside down and article were written with a prankster type attitude. For example, an article titled ‘Weather Report: whether there is or not’ was written about the weather in the different buildings on campus. A play on the classes and students  within the buildings was briefly highlighted, “Monroe Hall- Heavy atmosphere, stupidity high with an occasional brainstorm. Virginia Hall- Hotter and hotter, ‘specially in the vicinity of the library…”  The only mention of the new name change is highlighted under The Bullet title and shown playfully in cartoons that are painting the new name change all over the paper. Could this have caused some confusion over the name change? More than likely the students on campus were aware of the name change long before the April 1 publication.  An interesting take on the name change!

University of Mary Washington College of Education. “Mary Washington College.” College of Education Website. (accessed March 16, 2012).

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