“I have an overall feeling about people who went to Woman’s College… It’s almost like you can really tell them [apart from others] when you are in a group because they do have a certain independence even though they are married. It’s something that we learned, but no one taught us, because the women here who taught were like that… it was a woman’s school so we just sort of got this confidence. No one had to tell us to be a woman.”
– Quote from Women’s College(WC) Alumna focus group participant
What do you get when you send a 44 page health survey containing 109 questions to over a 1,000 Woman’s College Alumnae? “A phenomenon,” says CWHW staff.
With funding from the Office of the Provost, the Center for Women’s Health and Wellness conducted a women’s health survey of the alumnae of Woman’s College (WC). The purpose of the study was to identify the factors that affect the quality of life and health of women as they age.
When the Women’s College Alumnae Study was distributed, few staff believed we would observe the overwhelming response! The response rate is remarkable with over 55% of the surveys completed. All of the respondents are over the age of 60. Even more astounding is that 35 of the respondents are over 90 years old, and the oldest respondent was 98 years old.
Woman’s College Alumnae:
- From 1919 to 1962 the school that is now UNCG was the first publicly supported college in the U.S. for women only.
- From 1919 to 1931 it was called North Carolina College for Women
- From 1932 to 1962, it was called Woman’s College of North Carolina.
- The alumnae of Woman’s College (WC) are ages 65 and older.
They were college educated women when it was uncommon for women to seek higher education. This unique population of women had more education and independence than most women of their generation. They were trained to be leaders.
As a result, they were well educated women making choices about work, family and community before the rise of the second wave of the American feminist movement. Not surprisingly, the different choices this group made about how to live their lives reflect a diverse set of values, priorities and options.
The graduates of Woman’s College provide a unique opportunity to learn about how these choices affect women’s health and wellness as they age.
We learned from our survey of 1024 WC alumnae that:
- Nearly two thirds (62.4%) pursued further education or degrees after leaving WC.
- Most (95%) have been in long-term committed relationships.
- Many (89%) have children.
- The majority (96%) worked for pay at some point in their lives.
- Over half (56%) have been primary caregiver for a family member who was chronically ill or disabled.