The kickoff speaker for W&L’s 1988 Mock Democratic convention was the Reverend Jesse Jackson, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in 1984. During the talk, Jackson covered themes of economic recovery, human rights, and civil rights. Though many did not agree with Jackson’s ideology, most agreed with the notion that Jackson helped students to become more politically aware. With the opportunity to attend Jackson’s lecture, women of W&L can be inspired and better empowered to make a political change.
The first Women’s Tennis team at Washington and Lee University began in 1987. They faced tough competition and saddening losses to some of the best teams in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. However, the championship demonstrated that the women improved drastically throughout their season, coming out ahead of Roanoke, who beat the Women’s team 8-1 earlier in the season. They set an example of capability and determination for female sports at Washington and Lee.
By 1987, lasting friendships existed among male and female students of Washington and Lee University. Initially, many males resented the coeducation decision, especially its effect on their social environment. Here, Colleen Ryan, Nelly Greene, and Michael Higganbotham share a delightful dinner in Evans.
The introduction of females at Washington and Lee University was quickly followed by their involvement in extracurriculars. The Glee Club, University Chorus, and Southern Comfort all performed on the 1987 Alumni Weekend for over 500 alumni from ten reunion classes ranging from the years 1937 to 1982. They contributed to the vocal range accessible by these groups as well as narrowing down the members to only the most qualified.
By 1986, the Student Recruitment Committee had gained several female members. It did not take long for females to become involved in important university operations and committees. Being involved in this Committee, these women directly influenced prospective students and their families through comprehensive and informative tours. They highlighted the advantages of a Washington and Lee education and thus contributed to the caliber of intelligence that W&L’s students have.
Washington and Lee women of 1986 making a statement against male opposition to their introduction to the university. Even after the implementation of the coeducation initiative, men of Washington and Lee still brought women from other schools to on-campus functions. Many women wore shirts reading, “W&L Women: Quality Doesn’t Have To Travel” in response.
Many men were against the allowing of women to attend Washington and Lee University because they both cherished the all-male tradition of the school and thought the lifestyle of the university would take a negative turn. Combined with their shirts, these men pose in front of urinals to show complete disagreement with and disrespect for the coeducation initiative at Washington and Lee.
Social life for women following their initial presence at Washington and Lee University went from little to fully active in a matter of years. Sororities were introduced in January 1989, bringing women into an integral social aspect of Washington and Lee: Greek life. Sororities and Fraternities began to have themed gatherings called “mixers” where members of each organization meet for a night of fun. W&L women began having a similar social life to that of men.