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Women at Davidson

A guide to archival and special collections materials related to the history of women at Davidson College and in the Town of Davidson.


Beginning in the 19th century, women began having a presence on campus as faculty and staff. In 1858, Ann Brown was the first woman employed by the college and served as college steward who oversaw the college’s dining hall and guest house. Beginning in 1896-1897, Eulalia Cornelius and Gertrude Williamson, were the first women to "teach" at Davidson. Both women privately taught Davidson students music lessons; Ms. Cornelius taught voice, and Ms. Williamson taught guitar and mandolin classes. In 1907, Miss Cornelia Shaw (1869-1937) joined the staff of Davidson as the first female full-time employee, the first librarian (1907-1936), and the first registrar.

In 1956, Davidson hired its first female faculty member, Dr. Carolina MacBreyer, as Visiting Associate Professor of Psychology. Dr. Cora Louise Nelson became the first female instructor to reach the rank of full professor at Davidson and she taught in the Department of Economics.

Black and white photo of Dr. Cora Louise Nelson

Dr. Cora Louise Nelson, first tenured female faculty member

Listed below are select resources related to the history of female faculty and staff members at Davidson:

Archival Materials

Archival materials are the institutional records of Davidson College from its establishment in 1837 to the present day. Included within the collections are president's office records, academic department files, and student organization records. Listed below is a selection of relevant collections related to women as faculty and staff members. Collections are organized by record group, along with a brief description of the collection's contents, and are hyperlinked to the collection's digital finding aid.

Planning and Institutional Research, Records, 1981-, (RG 2-5-1)

Description: The Office of Planning and Institutional Research oversees the gathering and reporting of data for reports to government agencies, publications, and other organizations and coordinates applied research intended to inform institutional planning, policy formulation, and decision making. This collection includes reports and data sets related to demographic information on campus, including gender ratios for faculty (see records entitled "Factfiles"). 

Office Support Staff (OSS), Records, 1964-2007 (RG 11-3)

Description: In the 1950s, women staff members formed a social organization which stressed the importance of service to the college and the community. Professor Ernest Beaty gave them the name of Chambermaids, making a playful reference to the statues on the main campus building. The group is now known as the Office Support Staff. This collection contains minutes, newsletters, correspondence, committee reports, and budget information. 

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