by Elyssa Mann '14
Most of the women at Westminster College don’t think twice about the fact that they attend this specific college. Most don’t think about the fact that for most of Westminster’s history, there was not a single female enrolled. Westminster College was an all-boys school until 1979. For several years, the school had toyed with the idea that women should be admitted as well. One alumna, Betsy Humphreys, had a father who was right there in the action at this pivotal time for the college—he was a part of the committee that ultimately made the decision to allow women to apply to and attend Westminster.
“My dad was on the committee that made the decision—he brought home an application that day and brought it back completed the next day. He was very excited,” said Humphreys.
The road wasn’t smooth of that first group of women, though. “We knew we might not be accepted by the men here and the William Woods women. We were interlopers coming into their territory.”
The division between the men and women was large in 1979. There were only about 33 girls enrolled, versus the overall 700 total students.
Despite losing some of the women as time wore on, the addition of women during each year seemed to slowly—very slowly—wear away some of the initial reservations held by the staff and men who attended the college.
“During the years I was there, it changed very little,” said Humphreys. “There was still such a small percentage, and we lost several women who came in each year, but it was starting to get better.”
Aside from the amazing legacy left by these brave first women, Betsy Humphreys unknowingly helped to create a legacy. Her daughters Katherine, who graduated in 2009, and Sarah, who is currently a junior, both attended/are attending Westminster. The school has seen plenty of grandfather/father/son legacies, but never has it had the legacy of three women.
“I had such a sense of pride when coming here [to Westminster]. Both of my parents went to Westminster. A lot of my professors had my mom in class. This was a place where I could succeed,” said Katherine, who graduated with a degree in Museum Management and Accounting.
Betsy originally had some reservations about sending her daughters here, even though they eventually flourished. “I was worried that things were going to be the way they were when I was there. But as the day got closer and closer [to bringing Katherine to Westminster] I started to feel much better.”
The youngest Humphrey woman, Sarah who plans on double majoring in History and Business, was originally dead-set against coming to Westminster. All that changed when she had the chance to visit her sister. “The experiences I had visiting really changed my mind. In the end, I chose Westminster because my parents didn’t force me to come here. It was my decision.”
All three women agree that Westminster has become an integral part of their family. “I feel like it’s such a strong family connection. I’m very proud of my mom and what she went through,” Sarah said.
Westminster has come a long way since the first Humphreys woman came to Westminster. Girls are assumed members of the student population, and that has caused the school to extend its reach across the world even farther.
“Westminster has changed so much from when I was there,” Betsy finished. “In all good ways.”