McMillan Hall, 1957
McMillan Hall, 1957

Opened in 1907, McMillan Hall was the first women's dormitory on campus.

It included a dining room, gymnasium, common rooms, and living space for the matron attendants.  During World War II, McMillan was used for military housing, and female students stayed in rented buildings off-campus.  Parents were assured that the same proper behavior and curfews would be enforced in these alternative quarters. The McMillan Hall Association hosted parties, held contests for the best decorated dorm rooms, and served as a representative body for the women.

Dining Room in McMillan, circa 1920s
Dining Room in McMillan, circa 1920s

With the construction of new residence halls on the South 40 in the late 1950s, McMillan Hall was remodeled to meet space needs for classes and departments.

Separate rules for male and female students continued for the first few years on the South 40.  The 1965 Resident Handbook describes the disciplinary policy for men in two paragraphs.  Rules for women, which it notes "[give] much more freedom than on other campuses," takes four pages.  Women's rules include 12:30 a.m. curfews (1:30 a.m. on weekends), signing in and out to go off campus, written permission from a parent to spend overnights away from the dorm, and loss of privileges ("campusing") for multiple rules violations.

Two residents in McMillan
Two Residents in McMillan, 1958


Until the late 20th Century, female college students across the nation were known as "co-eds."  Stricter dress codes, dorm rules, and student conduct policies were required for female students.  This was true on the campus of Washington University until the 1970s, although some female students fought to change them over the years.

In 1913 and 1914, the tango and other "new dances" were prohibited at school dances.  Female students initially supported a 1920 ban on "cheek-to-cheek" dancing, but when it extended to the "toddle," "shuffle," and "camel's walk" dances the women complained.  Two months later the ban was lifted.

McMillan Hall, circa 1910s
McMillan Hall, circa 1910s

Women petitioned in 1934 to allow them to wear socks.  Policy required wearing hosiery.  Dean of Women Adele Starbird opposed changing the dress code, speaking to all the women she saw wearing socks. 


Dean Starbird supported the Women's Self-Government Association's (WSGA) change to women's smoking regulations.  Student Life reported in May 1937, "New smoking rules adopted by WSGA permit coeds [women] to smoke anywhere on the campus with the exception of in and in front of Brookings Halls (sic), and any place on the Quadrangle, and in front of the Women's Building."  This allowed women essentially the same options to smoke as male students.

Prize-winning room, McMillan Hall, 1950:<br />
Marilynne Kruse, School of Architecture, class of 1950<br />
Prize-winning room, McMillan Hall, 1950: Marilynne Kruse, School of Architecture, class of 1950
Women in Ridgley Library
By 1960 socks were no longer against dress code. (Women in Ridgley Library)