Skip to Main Content

History of the University of Mary Washington

Institutional Name Changes & Our Time as Part of the University of Virginia

History of Mary Washington College at the University of Virginia

While currently known as the University of Mary Washington, from 1944 to 1972 the school was known as Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, as the University of Virginia's sister school. 

The challenge to start a liberal arts college for women began at the 1928 General Assembly, where a committee was started to study the matter. The idea of having this school on the University of Virginia's land was opposed by their Board of Visitors rector, president, and alumni association. However, UVA's president Edwin A. Alderman made the suggestion of renovating either a private women's school or a state teaching college into this liberal arts college for women. (Crawley 2008).

The name "Mary Washington" was suggested by Judge Alvin T. Embrey, who stated that "the establishment of this University for Women at Fredericksburg under the name of Mary Washington College, in part as a memorial to the noble woman who lived and is buried in Fredericksburg would endow the institution with a charm and appeal to all womankind that could be secured in no other way" (Crawley 2008, 39).

Three young women pose outside of a porch area, kneeling in the grass, 1918.



Dr. Alvey and Dr. Crawley's books were both used in the research of making this site, and are good resources on the history of the University of Mary Washington.

Alvey, Edward. History of Mary Washington College: 1908-1972. Charlottesville, VA: Univ. Pr. of Virginia, 1974.

Crawley, William Bryan. University of Mary Washington: A Centennial History, 1908-2008. Fredericksburg, VA: University of Mary Washington, 2008.