The Women Who Shaped Texas Tech University

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March is Women’s History Month, and so we’re sharing with you selections from the Texas Tech University Archive’s exhibit, The Women Who Shaped Texas Tech. Our University Archives, whose staff works beside us here at the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library, serves as the institutional memory for Texas Tech University (TTU). Their collections range from administrative and faculty records, to publications, photographs, and video and audio materials.  The legal, fiscal, administrative, intellectual, and cultural and social aspects of student life are all documented. No small part of these materials concern women’s history at Texas Tech, and that’s where this exhibit, which will be displayed for the forseeable future in the SWC’s Formby Room, comes in.

Student life lies at the heart of women’s history at TTU, although not all of it revolved solely around academics. Just look at the photograph above from 1957. It depicts three freshmen students posing with their “Fish Caps.”  Part of the freshmen tradition was the purchasing and wearing of the “Fish” or “Slime” cap. The caps, or beanies, bore the student’s last name preceded by the word “Slime” along with their year of expected graduation, their room number, and their residence hall. Sometimes a fraternity or sorority name was added.

West BEST

Administrators were also key figures in the history of women at Tech. Elizabeth Howard West, the First Head Librarian of the University from 1925 to 1942, was a great champion of establishing and maintaining strong libraries and archives in the state of Texas. Her road to Tech was an impressive one. She began her library career as a cataloger at the Texas State Library in 1906. West also worked as an assistant at the Library of Congress, and went on to serve as the Texas State Library archivist (1911-1915), the director of the San Antonio Library (1915-1918), and finally was elected State Librarian in 1918, making her the first woman department head in the Texas state government. Once at Tech, she diligently pursued the construction of a separate library building in order to properly provide for researchers’ needs. As a result, the first free standing library building on the Texas Tech campus, named after Governor James V. Allread, was completed in 1938. West didn’t stop her advocacy at libraries. She also founded the Lubbock chapter of the American Association of University Women.

Doaks BEST

Those familiar with Tech’s campus may have run across Doak Hall. Built in 1934 under its original name, Women’s Dormitory No. 1, it was later renamed to honor Mary Woodward Doak. She was the first Dean of Women at Tech, and among her many contributions outside of student residential life was a presentation to colleagues after a trip to the British Museum in 1928 that spawned the idea of establishing a museum at Texas Tech, an institution that still thrives to this day.

Weeks BEST

This is a picture of Margaret Watson Weeks, the first Dean of the School of Home Economics. She helped organize TTU’s Home Economics Club in 1925, established the Home Economics Loan Fund, and helped form the Double Key Honor Society in 1930 as well as the first Texas chapter of the Phi Upsilon Omicron National Honor Society in 1938. Weeks successfully orchestrated the construction of the Home Economics Building addition in 1952, and was one of the organizers of the Women’s Recognition Service ceremony which ran from 1932-1947. Like Doak, one of the dormitories was named in her honor in 1957.

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Let’s end with something a bit wackier: Tech Tips, a publication of the Association of Women Students designed to acquaint female students with TTU activities and traditions. Here are a few of the pearls of wisdom contained its “Watch your Ps and Qs” section:

  • Never break a date with one man for another. Once you’ve picked him, you’re stuck with him.
  • If you get a lemon of a date, be a peach about it.
  • When they ask you to go coking, don’t order a double fudge sundae with nuts.

Advice not exactly modeled after the philosophies of second-wave feminism, but still amusing. All issues of Tech Tips from 1942-1975 have been digitized and placed online, along with a host of other University Archives materials. The University Archives’ tumblr  shares entertaining examples from their collections as well. And, as always, those who’d like to see more can always contact our helpful Reference Staff to arrange a visit.

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The One-of-a-Kind Photograph

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There are times in an archive when a truly special item shows up. The photo above is precisely that. In late 1945, General Dwight D. Eisenhower traveled to Japan after that nation’s surrender to Allied forces, which brought an end to World War II in the Pacific. This photograph was taken moments after his arrival when, having just disembarked from the C-47 that flew him there, he clasped hands with General Douglas MacArthur.

But what makes this photo so special? Note the several photographers in the background lowering their cameras. Their assignment was to take the official, press-released shots of this greeting. This photograph, however, was taken from the opposite side where, presumably, no other cameramen were standing. The man who took this picture, PFC Paul S. “Pete” Williams, was the driver that would later chauffeur MacArthur throughout the Pacific. You won’t find this photograph in the Library of Congress or the Eisenhower Presidential Library. It was the sole property of Private Williams, taken from the unique angle of a foot soldier witnessing history. Now it resides at the Southwest Collection among many of Private Williams’ other World War II photographs.

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Pete Williams toured Japan extensively as part of MacArthur’s entourage. When the General visited the ruins of Hiroshima, Pete was there. This photograph is one among many that he took while surveying the atomic destruction from MacArthur’s vantage point.

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Not all of Williams’ photos documented military matters and mass destruction. In fact, fully half of his snapshots were of his and his comrades’ antics, as well as daily life in Japan such as this image of smiling fishermen proudly displaying the best of that day’s catch.

The Paul S. “Pete” Williams Papers, 1945 are available for interested researchers to view, as are the papers of his brother, Elijah Williams. Our Reference Department is always happy to arrange access to the collection, as well as many of our other materials.