In 1846, Taylor University was established as Fort Wayne Female College — a college meant to give women a chance in higher education when most of the country failed to see the value in educating women.
Just 10 years later, in 1855, Fort Wayne Female College began admitting men, a move that marked the beginning of what would become a 175-year ebb and flow in the value our community places on women-focused programming, leadership and development.
Though founded as a school for women, it is not a hidden fact that the Taylor community nowadays emphasizes the role of men in leadership and programming.
In 175 years, Taylor has only had one female president. In offices such as student development, very few women hold leadership positions; the senior leadership team currently only includes one woman.
Despite this, women in the Taylor community have always found spaces for themselves.
A 1945 edition of The Gem, Taylor’s yearbook at the time, describes an organization called the “Faculty Dames,” a group made up of female faculty members and wives of male faculty members.
“Its purpose is to provide social gatherings as a means of relaxation and mutual pleasure and benefit,” The Gem said.
In the 1950s, The Young Women’s Association as well as three other clubs, Gamma Delta Beta, Les Biens Faisantes and Leialoke, offered membership to women on campus.
Clubs and organizations like these have continued to exist in a variety of forms since the early days of Taylor, but have been formed and disbanded inconsistently, leaving women without dependable spaces for gathering, growing and supporting each other.
This oscillation begs two questions: why are women-specific organizations necessary, and why can’t they hold consistent places in our campus programming directory?
The former of the questions can be answered rather easily. Women need safe spaces away from fear of prejudice or scrutiny that are often encountered in co-ed organizations.
Additionally, any organization created specifically for a marginalized group is more likely to empower and uplift that group of people than one that simply just includes them.
More insight into this question can be found in the missions of two of the only women-centric programs on campus. One of those is a student-led ministry called Delight.
“I have definitely seen a need for women-specific groups on campus,” said junior Lindy Ruth Rader, Delight team director. “At Taylor we do a great job of creating community within our dorms/wings/floors or our sports teams, but it can be easy for us to stay in those bubbles. Women-specific groups on campus can give women the ability to get to know others, to do life with them, and to study the Word together.”
In the STEM field, a 2016 founded organization called TWEET (Taylor Women Engaging in Engineering and Technology) still stands as a way for women in STEM to find fellowship among other women.
“TWEET’s mission is to unite women in these fields, providing mentorship and encouragement to female students,” a 2016 Echo article on the club said, “Its mission meshes with Taylor’s in the recognition of female leaders serving Christ in their fields.”
Mentorship, fellowship, encouragement — though just a few impacts groups like these have on female students, they are undeniable necessities on our campus.
Finding the answer to the inconsistency in women’s groups is a little more challenging, but starts with looking at a few of the groups that have disbanded or expanded membership: Gamma Delta Beta and Women’s Programming (WoPro).
Gamma Delta Beta, a women’s cultural club on campus, was formed in 1967, disbanded just a few years later in 1972.
“Gamma Delta Beta was formed to give girls an organization with which to identify for social and service activities while staying at Taylor University,” an article in The Ilium wrote. “At its inception there was a need for this kind of sorority, but this need is slowly fading out.”
WoPro was a similar cultural society for women and has been around since at least 2010. Popular event “Stand Up for Your Sibling” originated with this group as “Stand Up for Your Sister.”
The group’s original intention was to see events put on that benefitted other women on campus and bring awareness to issues that affected women.
But by 2018, WoPro combined efforts with the male equivalent of their group to form “Collaborative Programming” (CoPro).
“Historically, there's been Women's Programming on campus and there's been Men's Programming, and both of those only reach half the population,” a 2018 Echo article said. “This year we're trying something new by incorporating men and women in a (collaborative) conversation.”
Though these collaborative conversations are essential to community growth and discipleship, the benefits of maintaining women’s programming should not be overlooked. Something incredibly valuable is gained in a space where women mentor and support women.
As The Echo Editorial Board, we believe that emphasis placed on the formation of clubs and programming with the specific goal of supporting women on campus can’t be overlooked.
While we work hard to see a future where more women are recognized in leadership positions around campus — and around our globe — we can start encouraging this growth now by creating campus organizations run by women, for women.
“…I do know that there are women all over campus who are passionate about different things, and when they are given the right tools, they can start a program that interests them,” Rader said.
Equipping women with the spaces to engage with their passions is a principle that Taylor was founded on all those years ago when it was just a Bible college for women.
Though the climate of campus has shifted since then, and the need for certain campus groups has shifted right alongside it, the need for uplifting women and creating safe spaces for their growth and development is a consistent plight that should not waver in any day or age.