Auburn, Ala. (EETV) - In 1891 the landscape of Lee County was, as you might imagine, very different from the lovely village we know today. A more significant difference however, is the make up of Auburn’s student body.
In 1891 the school was not yet called Auburn University. At that time, men attended the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama - yes that sentence was correct, it was only men.
It wasn’t until 36 years and three name changes later that women began attending classes on the campus in 1892. The school was the first four-year coeducational school in Alabama, and was renamed the Alabama Polytechnic Institute seven years later.
Auburn women have shaped the face of our country in nearly every occupation. Octavia Spencer could be one of the most notable alumna on the university. Well known for her role as Minny Jackson in “The Help”, Spencer has won an Academy Award, Golden Globe and has had multiple Screen Actors Guild Awards.
In a "Take 5" interview with the university, Spencer said, “When I was at Auburn there were 20,000 students and only 1,000 of us were African American and we still had a ball. It didn’t matter, It doesn’t matter…I am thrilled to be a member of that group.”
While Spencer may be one of the most widely known Auburn alumna in the country, in the state of Alabama, Kay Ivey could take the top spot. Governor Kay Ivey has been a force in Alabama Politics since 2003, but her political career began on the Plains. Student government looked very different during Ivey’s freshman year with two different organizations, one for the whole university and another for the women. Not to be intimidated, Ivey joined the association representing the university as a whole. According to University records, during Ivey’s collegiate career she served as a Senator her Freshman and Sophomore year, SGA Secretary, a top five Miss Homecoming candidate, and was Auburn’s first female Vice President. She ran five campus wide campaigns during her four years at Auburn.
There are also three Auburn women who are not as well known; in fact Auburn students probably only know their name
Willie Gertrude Little was the daughter of Auburn’s mayor and one of the first women to attend Auburn University in 1892. She graduated two years later with a bachelor’s degree and honors. Little has a residence hall in the Upper Quad named in her honor.
Katherine C. Broun was the daughter of Auburn University President William L. Broun, who held the position from 1882-1902. In order to be admitted as an inaugural female student, Broun took tests in English, Latin, history, and mathematics. She was most notably Auburn’s first graduate student after receiving her bachelor’s degree in 1894.
Margaret Kate Teague (1873-1960) moved from Arkansas to Auburn after her mother’s death. Along with Little and Broun, Teague was admitted to the university and graduated with honors. Teague Hall in the Upper Quad is named in her honor.
This fall kicks off the celebration of 125 years of women at Auburn. The celebration is not just for the people, but their pioneering spirit paving the way for others to follow.
The anniversary will be commemorated with events throughout the year. Continue to check EagleEyeAuburn.com for information on upcoming celebrations and events.