In honor of Women’s History Month, the State Archives of North Carolina has digitized articles of incorporation, charters, and other legislation pertaining to the establishment of women’s colleges in the state. At one time there were twenty-eight women’s colleges in North Carolina and today there are only three left.
These documents have been digitized from General Assembly Session Records and the records of the Governors’ Office and Secretary of State. It was quite an interesting project to locate these items. It would seem logical that articles of incorporation should be granted around the time of establishment for the institution. However, many of the incorporations included in this project were granted at a later date for various reasons such as name changes, mergers, and the Civil War. For example, Salem College was founded in 1772 by the Moravians, but articles of incorporation were granted by the General Assembly in 1866 under the name of Salem Female Academy.
Other institutions with more unusual name changes include Goldsboro Female College which started out as Wayne Female College; the name changed in 1867. Littleton Female College was originally Central Institute for Young Ladies , and Carolina Female College in Ansonville, N.C. was often referred to as “a Female College in the County of Anson”.
Chowan Baptist Female Institute in Murfreesboro, known today as Chowan University, seemed to have articles of incorporation for 1857 and 1848. The two different dates for articles of incorporation did not add up but with a little more investigation I learned Chowan Baptist Female Institute went through a couple of name changes. It wasn’t until 1910 that the Female Institute started to go by Chowan College. It was also located in Murfreesboro in Hertford County, but the 1857 documents had Chowan College located in Reynoldson in Gates County. With a little research, I discovered that in 1857 there was an attempt to create a college like Chowan Baptist Female Institute, but for men, called Chowan College. The male Chowan College was later renamed to Reynoldson Male Academy. It is always interesting to see what you will find and where it will take you in the archives.
North Carolina has a long history of educating women. Salem College, founded in 1775, was one of the first women’s colleges in the county. In 1897, Chowan Baptist Female College was granted permission that allowed women to receive degrees. There were four women’s colleges until Peace College (William Peace University) went co-educational in 2012 leaving Bennett College (who celebrates their 126th anniversary of its chartering as a four-year institution this month), Meredith College, and Salem College as the state’s remaining women’s colleges.
The items are located in the Women in North Carolina 20th Century History digital collection; click here to visit the collection.