Southern Female University

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The Southern Female University (founded as Hawthorne College, later the Anniston College for Young Women) was a girl's school which occupied the former Lakeview Hotel in Birmingham's Lakeview Park from the fall of 1892 to December 1893.

The school was founded in 1889 on the initiative of Reverend J. B. Hawthorne, a popular preacher from Atlanta, Georgia. He hoped to establish a Baptist college for girls that would equal the successes of the Presbyterians' Florence Synodical Female College. Informal classes met in the Mitchell Malone residence across from Hawthorne's new home in Florence while financial support was solicited and plans for a school building were being made.

Hawthorne himself returned to Atlanta before the handsome 4-story building in North Florence was completed in late 1890. Reverend L. D. Bass succeeded him as president of what was now called the Southern Female University. He welcomed the school's first formal class of 125 students on September 15, 1891. Promises made by the city to connect the new building to the municipal water supply and to extend paving and streetcar service to the campus were slow to materialize. In 1892 Bass accepted an invitation from Henry Caldwell of the Elyton Land Company to move the school to the recently-closed Lakeview Hotel. Among the amenities promised to prospective students were elegant furnishings, steam heat, electric lights and bells, and pure water. The grounds also included facilities for lawn tennis, swimming and boating, and healthful chalybeate springs.

Caldwell served on the board of trustees for the relocated school, along with Belton Gilreath, Joseph Hardie, P. T. Hale, R. F. Manly, B. D. Gray, Mark Myatt, E. K. Campbell and Frank Evans and a number of other members from several southern states.

The University was headed by Misses Eliza and Corine Janes, former principals of Janes' Female Seminary in Cuthbert, Georgia and Union Female College in Eufaula, Barbour County. H. G. Lamar was the institution's business manager, and Miss Mabel Younglove was employed as administrative secretary. The faculty included Dr & Mrs Bass, Professor & Mrs S. F. Werren, Professor & Mrs C. H. Tatum, Mrs W. P. Ellis, Professor P. H. Strickland, Misses Mattie Rutledge, Agnes Leftwich, Annie Broadus, Sue Harrington, Emma Carr, Mattie Lee Horn, Sallie Price, Mrs Aldridge, Mrs Broadus, Thomas Bass, Joe Bass and Imogene Tatum.

The faculty and most of the student body arrived at Union Station on October 14, 1892 and were said to have been greeted by a crowd of 10,000 well-wishers. Twenty-three pianos from Florence arrived in three boxcars on October 20.

The school's second fall term commenced on September 7, 1893. On December 6 of that year the school building was destroyed by a fire, thought to have originated in a faulty flue. J. R. Robbins and James Foster were injured helping save the students from the fire. One of the girls, Minnie Dean of Warrior, lost her life when she entered the building to retrieve some of her jewelry.

The Southern Female University re-opened in the former Anniston Inn in Anniston the next spring. It was later renamed the Anniston College for Young Ladies, the school disbanded in 1909. The original school building in Florence reopened as the Florence University for Women, but was closed after that structure was also destroyed by fire on March 2, 1911.

References

  • "The 'Oxford Caps'." (October 21, 1892) Birmingham Age-Herald
  • "College Girl Burned to Death" (December 8, 1893) Springfield Daily Republican
  • Sulzby, James Frederick (1960) Historic Alabama Hotels and Resorts. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press ISBN 0817353097