Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

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Founded by the first state legislature in 1908, the Oklahoma Industrial Institute and College for Girls (OIICG) was located by the second state legislature in Chickasha, Grady County. Although women were admitted to five of Oklahoma=s state-supported colleges and universities at the time, a female-only college was deemed necessary in part to keep women students from going out of state for their higher education. The legislators were undoubtedly also influenced by the waning beliefs that women did not learn at the same rate or quantity as men and that females in the classroom would distract their male counterparts. Additionally, separate schools were historically established to educate women for their "peculiar" role as homemakers. Originally, OIICG was both a preparatory high school and women's college. By 1925 the school discontinued the preparatory portion, but the college remained all-female until 1965.

For the first few years of existence the school housed students and held classes in available buildings in Chickasha. In 1911 the first building, Administration (Troutt Hall), opened on the school's permanent campus, which in the year 2000 included more than thirty buildings. Due to a wrong impression created by the college's original name, the school's governing authorities began using "Oklahoma College for Women" (OCW) in 1912, although the state legislature did not formally change the name until 1916. Around this time the school began to emphasize liberal and fine arts, although vocational education remained fundamental to the course of study.

After fifty-seven years as the state's only public all-women's college, OCW became co-educational in 1965, at which time the name changed to the Oklahoma College of Liberal Arts (OCLA). OCLA was designed to continue the liberal arts tradition of OCW but expand the student base by accepting male students into the four-year degree program. Men had previously been allowed to attend certain classes at OCW but not to pursue a degree. Although OCLA sought to invigorate liberal arts education in the state, due to administrative difficulties and the general societal unrest of the times, the college floundered. In a 1974 effort to rejuvenate the school, the name of the institution was changed to the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma (USAO). Although the name was new, the basic liberal arts program endured. As USAO, at the end of the twentieth century the institution remained the state's only public higher education facility offering strictly a comprehensive bachelor's degree in one of twenty-six academic areas.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: The Chickasha Centennial Commemorative Booklet Committee, Chickasha, Oklahoma, 1892-1992 (Chickasha, Okla.: The Chickasha Centennial Committee, 1992). Anna Lewis, "The Oklahoma College for Women," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 27 (Summer 1949). "Oklahoma's Only Exclusive Women's College," Harlow's Weekly, 6 February 1915. Cynthia Savage, National Register Nomination for the Oklahoma College for Women Historic District, Oklahoma State Historic Preservation Office, Oklahoma City (March 2001).

Cynthia Savage

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