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Central Women's Association: A Channel for Leadership, Action, Service

By Kristina Schulz

As we continue to reflect on the accomplishments of women during Women’s History Month, University Archives and Special Collections highlight primary sources that document women’s arrival to UD and the organizations, structures and staff that provided them support, agency and community.

Central Women’s Organization, 1946-1972

Women first enrolled in day classes as full-time students in the fall of 1935. The first two years were supposed to be a trial period for the “experiment” of enrolling women in day classes. Once women were established on campus, they were active in academics, organizations and athletics. Women participated in student government, and in 1946, the Central Women’s Organization was formed to give female students a voice and provide an opportunity for leadership. Women were greatly outnumbered by men on campus, 8 to 1. The CWO served to prevent women “from becoming an unduly submerged minority,” according to its membership pamphlet from 1967. Membership in CWO was automatic once a woman registered for classes.

How did the CWO function?

The CWO served women students by promoting their common interests through educational, social and service activities. It also lent its support to the Student Congress in the control and coordination of extracurricular activities, especially as they applied to women students. The dean of women served as the organization’s moderator.

The CWO had three councils to advocate for female students: dorm council, Panhellenic council, and off-campus council. An advisory board made up of a representative from each women’s club on campus formed in 1967 to encourage better communication and representation of all interests. The dorm council was formed in 1962, the year Marycrest Residence Hall opened on campus. Until that time, female students did not live on campus; many female students commuted from their family homes or were given permission to live at the Loretto in downtown Dayton or in selected residential rooming houses.

Fate of the CWO

The CWO planned and hosted the popular Turnabout Tag dance. This fundraiser helped provide funds for different causes on campus including scholarships. Women invited their dates, bought the tickets and escorted their dates to Lakeside Ballroom during the 1940s and 1950s and in later years to Wampler’s Ballroom. The Turnabout Tag saw men campaigning to win the Turnabout King title. The candidates were introduced at a variety show the week before the dance.

University Archives has records of CWO until 1972, when the minutes reveal that the newly formed Student Activities Board overlapped the services provided through the CWO. The CWO disbanded in 1972. The turnabout dance remained active until 1990, sponsored by the University Activities Council.

Other resources to discover women’s history at UD

On eCommons, the University of Dayton’s institutional repository, digital collections are accessible free worldwide. Some highlights:

University Archives, on the second floor of Albert Emanuel Hall, has a wide variety of collections available for in-person view. Some highlights:

  • College of Women scrapbook and records
  • Home economics scrapbooks
  • U of D News, 1930-1955: Flyer News, 1955-2020
  • Exponent magazine, 1935-1955
  • Athletics collection (UA011)
  • Central Women’s Organization records
  • Associated Women Students 

For research inquiries, to schedule a visit or to inquire about donations or transferring of University records, contact the University Archives at 937-229-4256 or via email at

Sources consulted

  • Central Women’s Organization Collection. Box 1, Folders 1-5, 1946-1971. University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections, University of Dayton Libraries. 
  • University of Dayton. Daytonian Yearbook 1952. Dayton, OH: Graduating Class of 1952. University Archives and Special Collections. 
  • University of Dayton. Daytonian Yearbook 1956. Dayton, OH: Graduating Class of 1956. University Archives and Special Collections. 
  • University of Dayton. Daytonian Yearbook 1958. Dayton, OH: Graduating Class of 1958. University Archives and Special Collections. 
  • University of Dayton. Daytonian Yearbook 1970. Dayton, OH: Graduating Class of 1970. University Archives and Special Collections. 

— Kristina Schulz is the University Archivist.

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