A historic Mississippi college celebrates over century of tradition

Women's History Month highlights the broken glass ceilings and barriers through the years.

COLUMBUS,Miss. (WCBI)- Women’s History Month highlights the broken glass ceilings and barriers through the years.

Here in Mississippi, a historical women’s campus is celebrating founding members and tradition.

Women aren’t always given equal opportunities to education, but times have progressed.

In fact, in 2021, nearly 60% of the student body at universities were women.

And some of those strides started at the Mississippi University for Women.

” There have been private women colleges before MUW, but this is the first time that the state stepped in and said women have a right to higher education and funded a college for women,” said Dr. Erin Kempker.

Kempker is the Chair of the History Political Science and Geography department at MUW. Kempker says charter week holds a significant meaning to students and faculty.

” The Senate bill that created, at the time the II&C, which was the Mississippi University for Women under a different name, was signed this month in 1884 by the Mississippi State legislature,” said Kempker.

MUW became the first publicly-funded women’s college in the United States and the only women’s college in Mississippi.

But, the board was met with a new challenge in 1982, the acceptance of male students.

” It resulted in a Supreme Court case, and it was a changing time in the 1970’s and the 1980’s and what did it mean to be a women-serving institution at that time when society was opening up new opportunities at that time for women elsewhere. The supreme court decided since it was a publicly funded institution, it needed to open its doors for all,” said Kempker.

Diversity–that’s one reason sophomore Aysha Celestin chose MUW.

” There’s a large reception of people who are very much for fighting for rights whether it’s gender equality, LGBTQ, or women’s rights. It’s very welcoming to all types of people,” said Celestin.

Kempker says trailblazers like Olivia Hastings, Eudora Welty, and Annie Peyton helped shape the foundation of the campus.

” You see that emphasis on women’s leadership and programs across the W. I think certainty there needs women’s leadership across the 20th century, and we need it in the 21st century. It’s always been that focus at MUW on both the pragmatic and the liberal arts education. You see that even today with programs in our culinary arts but also history and English,” said Kempker.

Seniors will form a Magnolia chain on campus to wrap up festivities.

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