“Our past acclaims our future…”
On June 4th 1959 twenty-four young women – students of the Collegiate School for Girls – crossed the stage at the Tuckahoe Woman’s Club to collect their diplomas. For many of these young women the commencement ceremony – the school’s 44th – was the culmination of thirteen years spent living, learning, and growing up in Collegiate’s Town School buildings on Monument Avenue in the heart of the city of Richmond.
1959 was a transitional period. The nation was moving form the relative comfort and prosperity of the post-war era toward an uncertain future defined by challenges to the established order and expectations. The Collegiate School, which had opened a second campus on the far west side of the city in 1954, was preparing to leave Richmond completely, ending its 45 year presence in the center of town. 1959 saw the effort to consolidate and expand the school on the River Road campus accelerate and would prove to be the second to last year of the Town School. The young women of the Class of 1959 said goodbye to life at the Town School and began the next stage of their lives – saying goodbye to teachers and friends, leaving for college, starting careers, and getting married.
What was life like for Collegiate students in the 1950s? What did the school mean to them and how did it shape their lives? How did they view the world and how did their views change over time?
The pages that follow are the beginning of an effort to answer those questions by telling the stories of the Class of 1959. Drawing on the collection of the Julia A. Williams Archive & Study Center, newspaper accounts, secondary sources on the period, and – most importantly – the stories of the women of the Class of 1959, we hope to provide a portrait of student life at the Collegiate School for Girls in the City of Richmond and the end of the Town School-era and of the lives of the incredible group of women that graduated that year.