By Allison Dillard, Reference Services Coordinator
At first of its kind in so many respects, Georgia Female College in Macon, Georgia was officially chartered in 1836 becoming the oldest degree granting women’s college in the world. The school’s name changed to Wesleyan Female College in 1843 and later, finally, to Wesleyan College, but the mission to bestow college degrees upon well deserving women has remained unchanged. Thanks to the foresight of determined Macon citizens and leaders from the Georgia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the college’s January 7, 1839 opening day lead to the enrollment of ninety young women eager for the opportunity to finally earn their college educations. Although the college had its ups and downs in the early years, even with soldiers present and military bands continually trying to serenade the ladies, the college was successful in keeping its doors open throughout the Civil War and beyond.
It should come as no surprise that the world’s first women’s college would also birth the world’s two oldest nationally recognized “Greek” sororities for women. The Adelphean Society, now Alpha Delta Pi, was founded in 1851 and the Philomathean Society, now Phi Mu, was founded shortly thereafter in 1852. Still today, over one hundred and sixty years later, Alpha Delta Pi and Phi Mu members continue to thrive on college campuses around the country whilst adhering to the very same values that their founding sisters embraced so many years ago in Macon.
To learn more about Wesleyan College, sororities, and the life and times of Civil War era college students, visit the Georgia Historical Society to explore the rare book collection’s The First Hundred Years of Wesleyan College: 1836-1939, the Mary Read Scrapbook of Wesleyan College, c. 1921-1922 (MS 1129), and various other items such as newspaper clippings, letters, photographs, dance cards, and more.