The untold stories about the history of Purdue women, who weren't admitted in the opening of the University, were explored by a Purdue alumna.
Angie Klink, a local author, speaker and award-winning advertising copywriter spoke to a group of Purdue alumni and friends as a part of the Discovering Lafayette speaker series at Duncan Hall on Thursday night.
Her speech, titled "A Driving Force," began with the stories of the now torn-down Ladies Hall, the only location where women could live on Purdue’s campus once they were first admitted in 1875. Home Economics was the only thing women were allowed to study, which caused objections from women who wanted more.
Virginia Meredith, farm-raised resident of Connersville, Indiana, was known as the “Queen of Agriculture” with a love for home economics. Being widowed at age 33 forced Meredith to become the head of her late husband’s farm, which was uncommon for a woman at the time.
Her work with agriculture drew the attention of Purdue, so much so that in 1921, she was appointed the first female member of the Purdue University Board of Trustees. Because of the impact she had on Purdue, the dorm Meredith Hall was named after her.
Mary Matthews, Meredith’s adopted daughter, was the founding head of Purdue's School of Home Economics, which was established in 1926.
“She would become a powerhouse in home economics and the advancement of women at Purdue for the next 40 years,” Klink said.
These women paved the way for future women at Purdue. Dorothy Stratton became the first full-time dean of women in 1933. Following Stratton, Helen Schleman made her mark as dean when she had the first women’s hall named in her honor. Schleman Hall is now a place for student services.
An unspoken club of deans continued to form when Beverley Stone followed after Schleman in the role of the dean of women. In 1974, Stone became the first dean of students at Purdue when both the dean of women and dean of men offices were combined. Barbara Cook served as the dean of students from 1980 to 1987. Betty Nelson was the assistant dean of women under Helen Schleman and as the dean of students, so she too became a part of the unspoken club.
These five deans inspired Klink to write her book, "The Dean's Bible," because of their deep connection and quiet battle for equality. Klink saw the pictures of the five women during her various "women's events" on campus and knew there had to be more to the photos.
“Often faced with obstacles, stereotypes and discrimination, each woman led with grace, tenacity and impeccable class,“ said Klink.