Texas Woman's University

Texas Woman's University (TWU) is a public co-educational university in Denton, Texas, with two health science center branches in Dallas and Houston. While TWU has been fully co-educational since 1994, it is the largest state-supported university primarily for women in the United States. TWU is one of four independent public universities in Texas not affiliated with one of the public university systems in the state. It currently offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in 60 areas of study across six colleges.


In the late nineteenth century, several Texas-based groups (including the Texas Press Women's Association, the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs, the Grange, and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union) began advocating for the creation of a state-supported women's college focused on a practical education, including domestic skills young women would need to prepare as wives and mothers. In 1901, after the state Democratic Party adopted the idea as a platform in the upcoming election, the college's establishment was authorized by the Texas Legislature. Originally named the Texas Industrial Institute and College for the Education of White Girls of the State of Texas in the Arts and Sciences, it opened in Denton in 1902 with a class of 186 students and 14 faculty. With three women on its inaugural board of regents, they became the first women to sit on the governing board of a Texas university. The school was soon renamed the Girls Industrial College in 1903 and conferred its first degrees the following year. In 1905, the name changed again to the College of Industrial Arts and expanded its programs to include liberal arts, fine arts, and sciences.

Upon its founding, the school was primarily focused on rural and small town women seeking vocational training. Since many areas of the state lacked comprehensive high schools, the first two years of CIA's curriculum were preparatory; students enrolling with a high school degree were automatically admitted to the college as juniors. With its home extension program and summer school, the school was the first in Texas to offer instruction in home economics, supplying an overwhelming majority of the state's high school teachers in home economics in the early twentieth century. In 1914, CIA implemented its first four-year college curriculum, and the first bachelor's degrees were conferred in 1915. By 1929, the college had expanded its programs sufficiently to be accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, the American Association of University Women, and the Association of American Universities, and it began offering its first master's degrees in 1930. In 1934, the school underwent another name change to the Texas State College for Women (TSCW) to reflect its growing reputation as a premiere institution of higher education for women in the state.

Despite the social and cultural limitations for professional women at the time, the college pioneered several academic programs to meet the needs of a growing postwar economy in Texas and built a national reputation for its programs and research in textiles, food, and nutrition, awarding the college's first doctoral degrees in 1953. In 1950, it also developed the first nationally accredited nursing program in the state, opening at the original Parkland Hospital in downtown Dallas in 1954, and joining the Oak Ridge Institute for Nuclear Studies in the 1960s, receiving a series of research grants from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to study the health effects on humans in space flights. In 1956, it established the first building in Texas dedicated solely to the instruction of library sciences. Finally, in 1957, the school changed its name for the fourth time to Texas Woman's University, and expanded its health sciences programs to a campus in Houston in 1960. The college also enjoyed a close relationship with Texas A&M University in College Station in the early and mid-twentieth century. As the only gender segregated public colleges in Texas at the time, the schools generated considerable media attention for their institutional-supported fraternizing at major sporting and social events; for several decades, a "Tessie" was named the "Aggie Sweetheart" at A&M's football rivalry matchup. The practice fizzled in the 1970s when each school began admitting both male and female students, although the schools do still collaborate in several academic and service programs. Like most non-HBCU institutions in Texas, the school originally admitted only white students. The university integrated in 1961, admitting its first African-American student, Alsenia Dowells, to study nursing; while Dowells only attended for one year, six more black women enrolled the following year. The university currently boasts a 20% black student population and is also designated as a Hispanic-serving institution, with more than 25% of its full-time student population identifying as Hispanic or Latino. After nearly six decades as a school for women, TWU began admitting men into its health sciences graduate school in 1972 in response to pending litigation at other universities regarding the Equal Protection Clause. In 1994, in anticipation of changing protocols of single-gender institutions across the United States such as the Citadel and Mississippi College for Women, the school opened all of its programs to qualified men.

Despite being a co-educational university since 1972, TWU remains overwhelmingly women, with approximately 90% of the student body identifying as such, and it continues to place a heavy emphasis on meeting the educational needs of women. It remains unique among Texas higher education institutions by requiring all undergraduates, regardless of their proposed major or degree, to take three credit hours of multicultural women's studies in order to graduate.


The university's main campus consists of 270 acres in Denton, Texas, approximately forty miles northwest of Dallas. Upon the university's founding, the Old Main Building was constructed in 1902 and housed all of the school's academic programs and students. The first dormitory opened in 1907, and a second classroom building was constructed in 1911.

During the Great Depression, college president L.H. Hubbard used the federal government's growing funds available through the Works Projects Administration and Public Works Administration to expand the campus infrastructure, doubling instructional space, improving local roads and sidewalks, and establishing regional landmarks such as the Little Chapel in the Woods. In 1938, the campus was gifted the Pioneer Woman statue by the state legislature, commissioned to Leo Friedlander to commemorate the Texas Centennial. A second period of expansion in the 1960s and 1970s established most of the university's current campus footprint with more than twenty instructional and administrative buildings.

The Denton campus also currently five residence halls, all of which are currently co-educational, including Guinn Hall, the tallest building in Denton. Students classified as freshmen or sophomores, or who are under the age of 21, are required to live in campus housing.

The nursing and health science programs are supported by satellite campuses in Dallas and Houston. The T. Boone Pickens Institute of Health Sciences in Dallas is based in downtown's Southwestern Medical District, which also houses Parkland Hospital, Children's Medical Center Dallas, and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. The Institute of Health Sciences in Houston is located in the heart of the Texas Medical Center district, along with University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Texas Children's Hospital.


File:Texas Woman's University September 2015 01 (sign).jpg|South Entrance File:Texas Woman's University September 2015 18 (Arts and Sciences Building).jpg|Arts and Sciences Building File:Texas Woman's University September 2015 50 (The Green House).jpg|Greenhouse File:Texas Woman's University September 2015 03 (Human Development Building).jpg|Woodcock Hall File:Texas Woman's University September 2015 67 (Pioneer Hall).jpg|Pioneer Hall File:Texas Woman's University September 2015 58 (Fitness and Recreation Center).jpg|Fitness and Recreation Center, with Stark Hall and Guinn Hall in background


With more than 500 full-time faculty, approximately 75% of classes have 30 students or fewer. Nationally recognized programs include those in nursing, multicultural and gender studies, library science and information studies, and occupational therapy.

The school is presently divided into six colleges:

#College of Arts and Sciences provides the bulk of undergraduate instruction and includes English, speech, and foreign languages; psychology and philosophy; history and government; biology, chemistry, and physics; fashion and textiles; mathematics and computer sciences; sociology; social work; and multicultural and gender studies. The college also encompasses the School of the Arts, which supports programs in music, visual art, theater, and dance. #College of Business offers undergraduate programs in accounting, business, business administration, finance, human resource management, management, and marketing, and graduate programs in business administration, healthcare administration, and health systems management. #College of Health Sciences is supported at the Denton, Houston, and Dallas campuses and includes the Schools of Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy, as well as programs in nutrition and food sciences, communication sciences and disorders, health studies, and dental hygiene. #College of Nursing was established in 1954, growing to become the second largest in Texas and one of the largest in the country, offering programs at the baccalaureate, master's, and doctoral level. Its doctoral program is the fifth oldest in the United States and remains the largest in the world. In addition to the Bachelor of Science program for students with no prior degree, the college offers is a weekend program for students who already have a bachelor's degree; the school also has a Registered Nurse to Baccalaureate program (RN to BSN) and a Registered Nurse to Master's Program (RN to MS). With campuses in Houston and Dallas, the school is very competitive with the cut off GPA frequently at 4.0. #College of Professional Education encompasses Departments of Family Sciences, Reading and Teacher Education, and the School of Library and Information Studies. #Graduate School functions as a separate unit of the university. It was originally established in response to the increased demand for woman's graduate education. The Graduate School processes graduate admissions to the university and subsequent academic affairs, including degrees in a variety of liberal arts programs.

The Woman's Collection

The second floor of Blagg-Huey Library houses The Woman's Collection. Established in 1932 by the library at the suggestion of then-president L.H. Hubbard, the collection is one of the largest and oldest collections of materials about American women's history and issues in the United States. In 1979, it was designated by the Texas legislature to house the official history of women in the state.

Currently, the Woman's Collection features one of the largest repositories of women in aviation in the world, housing the official collections of Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II, the Whirly-Girls International Helicopter Pilots, Women Military Aviators, Association of Women Airline Mechanics, International Society of Women Airline Pilots, the Air Race Classic, as well as many of its individual members' collections. Other major archives include the Culinary History and Cookbook Collections which showcase culinary arts from around the world and is one of the largest collections in the United States with more than 60,000 books, pamphlets, and menus; the Texas Women's Hall of Fame established by the Texas Governor's Commission on Women; and the university's archives. The Woman's Collection is the official repository for hundreds of organizations, agencies, and conferences in Texas and the southwest concerned with women's rights, agency, and status. It is currently the official archive for the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs, Texas Association of Women's Clubs (formerly Texas Federation of Colored Women's Clubs), Philanthropic Educational Organization, Texas Federation of Business and Professional Women, and the Texas chapters of the American Association of University Women and Delta Kappa Gamma, as well as the permanent home for 1981 exhibit about Texas women's history produced by the Texas Foundation for Women's Resources. Individual collections highlights include Hilda Gloria Tagle, the first Latina federal judge; Dora Dougherty Strother, aviation psychologist, engineer, and first woman to fly the B-29 Superfortress; Barbara Vacker, director of Texans for ERA and White House assistant in 1979 on national strategy for the amendment's passage; and Jean Ross Howard Phelan, aviation lobbyist and founder of the Whirly-Girls.

Many of the well-known women regularly visit Texas Woman's University include Sarah Weddington has lectured and/or taught courses since the early 1980s and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, who have recently participated in leadership conferences; currently, Major General Mary Saunders (Ret.), who graduated from TWU in 1970 and became the highest ranking African-American woman in the United States Air Force, serves as director of the university's Leadership Institute. Recent guests to the Denton campus have included Sandra Day O'Connor, Gloria Steinem, Frances "Sissy" Farenthold, Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey, who visited the campus in 1998 and 2005. Other historic campus visits include readings, performances, and lectures by Carl Sandburg, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Sinclair Lewis, Itzhak Perlman and Amelia Earhart.


Little Chapel in the Woods

Built in 1939 and dedicated by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, the Little Chapel in the Woods has been named one of Texas’ most outstanding architectural achievements by the Texas Society of Architects. Designed by leading American architect and Denton resident O'Neill Ford, recruits from the National Youth Administration constructed the building, while more than 300 students in the college's fine arts programs designed and created the building’s artwork, including the stained glass windows, lighting, woodwork, doors, ceiling beams, and flooring. The stained glass windows depict scenes of "Women Ministering to Human Needs" including nursing, teaching, speech, literature, service, dance, and music. The Chapel is open to the public daily and remains a popular destination for recitals, baptisms, and weddings; the original bridal book contains thousands of names of couples who were married between the years 1939 and 1979. The original bridal book is currently on display at the Blagg-Huey Library.

Texas Women's Hall of Fame

Hubbard Hall, the former central dining facility, now houses the Texas Women's Hall of Fame. Created in 1984 by the Texas Governor's Commission on Women, the state-established exhibit honors Texas women who make significant public contributions to the state. Inductees include Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, former First Ladies Barbara Bush and Lady Bird Johnson, former Governor Ann Richards, former Texas First Lady Anita Perry, former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Oveta Culp Hobby, Olympic gold medalist Sheryl Swoopes, astronauts Mae Jemison and Sally Ride, entertainer Selena Quintanilla-Perez, and businesswoman Mary Kay Ash.

Texas First Ladies Historic Costume Collection

Established in 1940, the historic costume collection contains original dresses predating Texas statehood by First Ladies of the Texas Republic, as well as those worn by Texas First Ladies to the Governor's Inaugural Ball and gowns donated by Presidential First Ladies Mamie Eisenhower, Lady Bird Johnson, Barbara Bush, and Laura Bush. As of 2018, the collection consists of 47 gowns, of which 21 are on a rotating display in the Administration Conference Tower. Each dress has been loaned or donated by various sources to the University, with most dresses and their preservation costs through donations from Texas chapters of Daughters of the American Revolution, the Denton Benefit League, or directly from the First Ladies themselves.


The university originally offered sports through the Women's Recreation Association, joining the Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics for Women in 1969 in seven sports: basketball, volleyball, field hockey, tennis, badminton, swimming, and track. Known as the "Tessies," the school won its first national title at the CIAW National Intercollegiate Track and Field Championship that same year.

In 1979, TWU became the Pioneers; after the CIAW ceased operations in 1982, the university officially joined the NCAA Division II. The Pioneers currently compete in the Lone Star Conference, but only in women's sports; the gymnastics team competes in the Division I Midwest Independent Conference. Current programs include:

  • Basketball
  • Soccer
  • Volleyball
  • Softball
  • Gymnastics

    Established in 1972, the TWU Gymnastics squad has won the USA Gymnastics Collegiate National Championships with a record eleven team championships since 1993, with the most recent championships coming back to back in 2017 and 2018.

    In 2014, the athletics program was awarded the inaugural Lone Star Conference Women's Academic Excellence Award, given to the member institution with the highest team G.P.A. As of 2015, the Pioneers have a 65-semester (more than thirty years) of posting a department G.P.A. of 3.0 or higher by all student-athletes.

    Student life

    The Lasso and The Daedalian

    In print since 1914, The Lasso is a student-produced weekly newspaper. The Lasso began as a daily publication and switched to a weekly format in the 1990s, adding an online version in 2003. Notable past editors include Pulitzer Prize-winner Caro Crawford Brown; Grace Robinson New, the first female television news reporter in Dallas; Kathy Williams, assistant news director Houston's NBC affiliate; and Stacie Walker, an award-winning former national news editor for Newsday.

    A magazine, The Dadaelian, was published monthly by students in the Elocution, Physical Culture and Vocal Music department in 1906 to highlight student-created prose, poetry, and visual art; it switched to a quarterly format in 1914. It is currently published online as a literary journal featuring short stories, artwork, photography, and poetry.


    Approximately three percent of undergraduate women are active in a sorority on campus.

  • Alpha Omicron Pi
  • Alpha Gamma Delta
  • Sigma Sigma Sigma
  • Alpha Kappa Alpha
  • Delta Sigma Theta
  • Zeta Phi Beta
  • Sigma Gamma Rho
  • Sigma Lambda Gamma
  • Sigma Lambda Alpha
  • Sigma Alpha Iota


    Approximately two percent of undergraduate men are active in a fraternity on campus.

  • Kappa Sigma
  • Phi Beta Sigma
  • Phi Iota Alpha
  • Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia

    Notable alumni and faculty


  • Claire Myers Owens (B.S. 1916), social worker, novelist, and Zen Buddhist theologian
  • Caro Crawford Brown (B.A. 1925), winner of Pulitzer Prize for local reporting in 1955 for the Alice (Texas) Daily Echo
  • Laura Lee Bird (B.S. 1929, M.A. 1931), New York stage costume designer and poet
  • Margaret Virginia (Margo) Jones (B.A. 1932) and (M.A. 1933), pioneer in the American Resident Theater Movement and author of Theater In The Round; directed the world premiere of Inherit the Wind by Lawrence and Lee in Dallas in 1955
  • Nelle C. Johnston (B.S. 1936), pioneer in audiology and hearing sciences; founding president of Callier Center for Communication Disorders at University of Texas at Dallas
  • Lou Halsell Rodenberger (B.S. 1943), scholar of Texas women authors, particularly Jane Gilmore Rushing
  • Josephine Rice (B.A. 1944), first woman machine gun instructor in the United States Marines
  • Betty Heitman (B.A. 1949), co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee from 1983 to 1987; distinguished TWU alumnus, 1980
  • Anita Carraway Hill (B.A. 1950), Texas legislator
  • Betty Bohon Alford (B.S. 1954, M.S. 1956, Ph.D. 1965), first woman to sit on cotton board of U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Sue Titus Reid (B.A. 1960), lawyer and disability rights advocate
  • Johnnie Roebuck (B.S. 1964), educator and Arkansas legislator
  • Elma González (B.S. 1965), plant cell biologist
  • Joan Wall (M.M. 1969), mezzo-soprano and principal performer at the Metropolitan Opera Company of New York, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, and in Amsterdam, Boston, Philadelphia, Fort Worth and other US cities
  • Mary L. Saunders (B.S. 1970), retired major general in the United States Air Force, first female Director of Transportation in the USAF, and highest ranking African-American woman at the time
  • Millie Hughes-Fulford (Ph.D. 1972), NASA astronaut who studied osteoporosis and flew aboard STS-40 Spacelab Life Sciences (SLS 1) in June 1991, the first Spacelab mission dedicated to biomedical studies; first civilian scientist on a space mission
  • Elizabeth Ann Nalley (Ph.D. 1975), former President of the American Chemical Society
  • Helen Benjamin (B.A. 1977, Ph.D. 1989), chancellor of Contra Costa Community College District
  • Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash (M.S. 1979), a.k.a. Mrs. Anthrax, studied microbiology and went on to become a high-ranking Iraqi scientist; after surrendering herself in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, she was later deemed not a security threat and was released in 2005
  • Louise Ritter (B.S. 1982), won the 1988 Olympic gold medal in the women's high jump
  • Alia Moses, a.k.a. Alia M. Ludlum, (B.A. 1983), serves as District Judge for the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas
  • Juan L. Maldonado (Ph.D. 1986), president of Laredo Community College since 2007
  • Shirley Cothran Barrett (Ph.D.), served as Miss America in 1975
  • Donna Campbell (M.S.N), member of the Texas Senate and an emergency room physician from New Braunfels
  • Sylvia Garcia (B.A. 1972), social worker and Texas legislator
  • Alma Dawson (Ph.D. 1996), Russell B. Long Professor of Library and Information Science at Louisiana State University
  • Jill Marie Jones (B.A. 1999), actress, most recognizable role as 'Toni Childs' for six seasons in Girlfriends
  • Carly Patterson (B.S. 2014), won the 2004 Olympic gold medal in the women's gymnastics individual all-around, silver in individual balance beam, and silver in team competition
  • Michelle Tribble (B.A.S. 2016), winner of Hell's Kitchen (U.S. season 17) *


  • Mary Eleanor Brackenridge (1837–1924), founding university regent, suffragist, and community organizer
  • Carlotta Corpron (1901–1988), professor of photography, design, and art history
  • Pauline Gracia Beery Mack (1891-1974), professor and Dean of the College of Household Arts and Sciences; noted chemist and nutritionist and first woman to receive the NASA Silver Snoopy award.
  • Autrey Nell Wiley (1901-1990), B.A. 1922; professor and chair; American literary critic
  • Les Wilk (1931-1995), professor and resident director of the Southwest Institute of Design; official designer of the Miss Texas wardrobe from 1972 to 1987.
  • Toni LaSelle (1901-2002), instructor and professor; Art History and Studio Arts. Developed the Art History program at TWU.