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100 Years of Female Hokies

A century ago, the first five female students were able to enroll full-time at Virginia Tech. Since then, hundreds of women have made history at this university. Here’s a timeline of just a handful of notable female Hokies over the last 100 years.

1921 was the first year full-time female students were allowed to enroll (pictured above). In 1923, Mary Brumfield became the first woman to graduate and went on to earn her graduate degree in 1925. In the same year, Ruth Louise Terrett created the first female basketball team, although it would be forty-five years until the first female sport, swimming, was officially recognized. Twenty years after Brumfield’s graduation, Betty Delores Stough became the first woman to receive a Ph.D. from Virginia Tech.

Patricia Ann Miller (pictured above) was denied access to the Corps of Cadets throughout her time at Virginia Tech. She was honored at graduation in 1959, receiving a commission in the Army Women’s Medical Specialist Corps, showing women had a place in the United States Army.

Mary V. Berry led women in the engineering field. She graduated in 1962 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and went on to become the first professional registered female engineer in Virginia. She claims many other firsts at Virginia Tech, including being the first woman to serve on VT’s College of Engineering Advisory Board.

In 1966, Linda Adams Hoyle (pictured above) became the first female African American student to enroll at Virginia Tech. One of ten children, she was the first in her family to attend college. Coming from an all-black high school, Virginia Tech was the first integrated school Hoyle attended, although there was only a small group of black students at VT at the time. In an interview, Hoyle recalls one professor insisted on calling her “mister” because he had only ever had classes of all men and she was the only woman in that particular class.

Fourteen years after Patricia Ann Miller graduated, Virginia Tech became the first university to allow women in the Corps of Cadets in 1973. The “L Squadron” included Cheryl A. Butler, the first African American woman in the Corps who also became the first female African American L Squadron commander.

Track and field allowed women to participate early on and Irene Spieker set the world record for pole vaulting in 1977, at a time when pole vaulting wasn’t even included in every meet. In 1979, she broke the national record five times in one meet, increasing the record height from eight feet to ten feet.

These advancements did not come easily and the opposition to women at Virginia Tech was overt in the beginning. The 1922 yearbook, The Bugle, stated “At VPI she has caused a wretched condition” expressing the opinion that Virginia Tech was worse off including women as students. The first women at Virginia Tech had to face blatant disagreement and disgust for their decision to be Hokies.

A hundred years later, Virginia Tech has come a long way. In 2017, approximately 3,836 degrees were earned by female students, accounting for 44.3% of total degrees given that year. Female Hokies continue to make advancements in all majors and fields, no longer facing the opposition to their education as they once did. While inequality is still evident at times, it's safe to say women have bettered our school and college community these last hundred years and will continue to in the next hundred years and beyond.

By: Grace Farmelo

All photos retrieved from: Virginia Tech Library

For more information: Firsts in Virginia Tech History, Virginia Tech Demographics, Interview with Linda Adams Hoyle

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