By Elise Monsour Puckett
History can be hard to find. Kira Dietz and Anna LoMascolo are on a mission to share the history and untold stories of women of Virginia Tech’s past. After thumbing through thousands of old campus photos, yellow-aged handwritten letters, class notes, and other rarities, the duo presents an interactive virtual timeline on the History of Women at Virginia Tech.
This timeline includes extraordinary women who were firsts in their era, held compelling roles, and made significant impacts on campus. Visitors will tour through the fascinating records left behind by historical women and learn about their major milestones. This year’s Women’s Month theme in March is 100 Years of Women at Virginia Tech, elevating the 100th anniversary of the admission of women as students to the university and aligning with the university’s sesquicentennial.
Leading the project are Dietz, University Libraries’ assistant director of special collections and university archives, and LoMascolo, co-director of programming for Women’s Center at Virginia Tech. However, the team said the impetus and energy behind the launch of the project was Patricia Hyer, associate provost emerita at Virginia Tech who was originally inspired by the Virginia Tech LGBTQ+ Digital History and Timeline.
“Pat is a walking encyclopedia of Virginia Tech women’s history and is herself such a significant figure in that history,” said LoMascolo. “She gave us a lot of direction and inspiration in the early months of the project.”
In the beginning stages of the project, Clara Cox, Linda Plaut, Faith Skiles, and Jessie Meltsner came together to share stories, brainstorm ideas, and start putting pen to paper.
The History of Women at Virginia Tech website is a digital effort to share the history of the roles that women, including students, staff, faculty, and administrators, have played on campus even before women were first admitted as full-time students in 1921. The site includes scanned documents and images, oral histories, and university publications.
“Women are central to Virginia Tech’s story and at the core of our success, growth, and impact as an institution of higher education,” said LoMascolo. “Unfortunately, women have historically been excluded from the telling of that story.”
Much of history glosses over the roles of women outside the home. For example, women did not appear as members of their class in The Bugle yearbook until 1947, 26 years after women were first admitted as full-time Virginia Tech students. “Our earliest women students created their own handmade yearbook, leaving their mark so that history would know they were here, who they were, and what they had faced, overcome, and accomplished,” said LoMascolo. “In a wonderful play on words, they titled their yearbook, The Tin Horn.”
While white women were the first to be admitted as full-time students in 1921, it is important to note that women were students on campus in part-time and special student circumstances as early as 1916. International women students were on campus as early as the mid-1930s and it would take until 1966, with the admission of the first Black women students, for women of all races to be part of the student body.
There are ongoing active efforts to document more about women’s history from faculty, staff, and alumni on and off campus. The team welcomes any information about women’s history at Virginia Tech and invites anyone who is interested in making a historical donation to this collection by contacting Kira Dietz at email@example.com. These uncovered stories can help improve the process of documenting history.
“I cannot imagine this project will ever be finished or complete,” said LoMascolo. “It is a passion project and we will continue to build upon it as long as we are here. Our hearts are in it.”