At NC State’s 2011 spring commencement, the university awarded just under 3,600 degrees to female students. That number was almost half of the degrees NC State awarded that year, a figure that would have been a distant dream in the early 1900s. In the university’s early days, the administration was conflicted about whether to award degrees to females at all.
The 1920s saw the height of that debate after Lucille Thomson, the institution’s first regularly enrolled woman, departed school without having completed her degree, according to Alice Elizabeth Reagan’s North Carolina State University: A Narrative History.
Women continued to enroll as “special students,” and in June 1926, North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering President Eugene Clyde Brooks recommended to trustees that women who had completed a degree’s stipulated coursework be considered “graduated.” That November, the trustees approved the recommendation.
Mary E. Yarbrough, the first woman to complete all coursework at NC State and be awarded a degree.
So on this day in 1927, three women were the first females to be awarded degrees from the university. They were Jane S. McKimmon, Charlotte Nelson and Mary E. Yarbrough.
Reagan writes that McKimmon had completed most of her coursework at Peace Institute and through extension courses. She received a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Nelson received a degree with some of her coursework completed at Meredith. Yarbrough, who completed all of her graduate courses at State College, was the first woman to receive a graduate degree from the university and the first one to have completed all her coursework here.
Three years later, State College would award a journalism degree to Ada Spencer, the first woman to complete all coursework on campus and receive an undergraduate degree from the university.
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(Photo courtesy of Marc Hall, N.C. State Communication Services)
Women from around North Carolina gathered Wednesday at the Jane S. McKimmon Center to kickoff the Family and Consumer Sciences centennial.
The Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) program is a part of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. Begun in 1911, the program began with McKimmon working as a demonstration agent, going into homes of primarily rural women and assisting them with issues like nutrition and poverty relief.
Today the program works through outreach to help families in counties throughout the state understand issues associated with energy efficiency, finances, education, literacy, and health care.
Attendees were treated to a rich tapestry of artifacts that depicted domestic life in the state throughout the last 100 years: washboards, Singer sewing machines, Aristocrat canning cookers and quilts dating back a century.
Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Service, a book chronicling the history of FCS, was unveiled at the event. “The book takes and tells a story from every county in North Carolina,” says Marshall Stewart, program leader for FCS at NC State. “When you read it, you can see the history of North Carolina taking shape.”
The celebration also recognized 25 inaugural members into the McKimmon Hall of Fame, some of whom were asked to describe the program’s legacy.
Judy Mock ’82 EDD: The power of education, particularly for rural women. We enable people to be responsible and raise their quality of life. We’re still tied to our roots. The programs are never going to go away.
Sandra Zaslow ’87 PHD: The foundation is Jane McKimmon and all the people in the counties. It’s always been a people-driven program. And that has continued unbroken.
Juanita Hudson: Everything changes, but it’s a growing opportunity. [FCS] has endured because of the research at NC State.
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