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College System Creation

Female Rice students moving in to the new Jones College (1957)

Women Living On Campus - 1957

Until 1957, female students at Rice did not live on campus. They lived off campus either at home, with families affiliated with Rice, or in the Banks Street Apartment complex near the Rice campus. They were left to figure out for themselves their own housing while many of the male students received on-campus housing.

In 1954, President William Houston convened the Committee on Student Housing “to study the student housing problem, decide if a residential college system would be feasible, and if so...plan that system” (1). This committee investigated the college systems of other universities, including Yale and CalTech, to gain inspiration on how they should build the model that would fit Rice’s current architectural arrangement and cultural needs. On this council of 19 people sat only four women at one time: senior Catharine Hill, freshman Martha Harris, Sarah Lane, Rice Institute Librarian, and Clara Kotch, Advisor to Women. (Hill and Kotch who left Rice after the 1954-55 school year were replaced with junior Donna Paul and Paula Mosle, respectively.) These women, with the help of trustee J. Newton Rayzor, pushed for on-campus living arrangements for the female students.

The committee did not originally plan for a women’s college (or residence hall as they called it at the time) because of the problems associated with establishing a place on campus for the women during that time. The female students socially organized themselves in literary societies that functioned similarly to sororities which seemingly negated the need for a college system for women. In addition, because only one residential hall would be built initially, there would exist no other colleges to facilitate inter-college competition. Most importantly, the hub of women’s college life would not be definitive due to housing only a small fraction of the female student body.

Nevertheless, in 1957, the women’s college was established and named Mary Gibbs Jones College in honor of the wife of Houston business man Jesse H. Jones. The administration did enforce several rules exclusively for the women living on-campus. The women had strict dress codes for public spaces and an early curfew. Despite this, women living on campus improved the social atmosphere: “Women living on campus represented a significant milestone…[it] made life more pleasant for many students” (2).