Alice Mary Baldwin in an office

In 1964, the most prominent building on East Campus was dedicated as the Baldwin Auditorium in honor of Dean Alice Mary Baldwin, one of the most significant administrators in the history of the university. Initially coming to Trinity College in 1923 as Dean of Women and the first woman to have full faculty status, she became Dean of the new undergraduate college for women in the new university in 1926, a position she held until her retirement in 1947.

In 1959, she wrote a ninety-page memoir “to be opened in twenty years” outlining her aims, accomplishments and frustrations as the university’s first major female administrator. Although longing for equal recognition with the men on campus for herself as well as for the female faculty and students, she realized that time and circumstance probably precluded such recognition for her. Nevertheless, her reminiscences clearly articulate a desire for total equality and document her diligent work toward that end for all women in the university community. The fact that she was a trained historian writing for posterity adds immeasurably to the value of the document.

The task before her was enormous. The governing male administrators were aware of the need for vital decisions on the Woman’s College concerning admissions, housing, curriculum, discipline, and the logistics of scheduling classes and transportation. They hardly gave a thought to Dean Baldwin’s personal primary concern of “desiring recognition as a fellow administrator, not simply as a woman to be treated with Southern courtesy.” She was in fact at times not treated with courtesy but in a long career she did win considerable respect. She retired proud of her accomplishments in the Woman’s College and of its role in the developing university. Unfortunately the equality she worked so hard for would emerge slowly but it has developed in large measure because of the foundation she built.

When Alice Baldwin arrived on campus approximately 200 women lived in Southgate dorm. At her retirement in 1947 the Woman’s College occupied all of East Campus and its undergraduate enrollment totaled 1,128.

This article is adapted from If Gargoyles Could Talk: Sketches of Duke University by William E. King. Carolina Academic Press, 1997.