ENC and Women’s Rights: A Feminist History
The Church of the Nazarene (CotN) has a long-standing history of women in leadership. Since its inception, the CotN has ordained women into ministry, while even today many denominations still resist ordination of women. The Nazarene Church has long believed in the equality of women. Some of the first Nazarene churches in America, including the Malden Church of the Nazarene just a few miles away, were founded by women pastors. Today, ENC’s feminist story continues with our President, Dr. Corlis McGee. Dr. McGee is the first female president of a Nazarene institution in the United States. How wonderful that we get to be part of a school that values women in leadership!
Before Eastern Nazarene College was known as ENC, it was called Pentecostal Collegiate Institute (PCI) and accepted female students in its first class. It was a welcoming place where women could learn alongside their male peers. Soon after its founding, ENC hired two women to lead the two strains of student focus, academics, and spiritual life. Bertha Munro was the first Dean of the College and Olive Winchester, of the famed Winchester Riffle Family, was in charge of the spiritual side.
(Students at Pentecostal Collegiate Institute)
Bertha Munro originally came to ENC in 1919 from Taylor University in Indiana. She attended Boston University, Radcliff, and Harvard Alumna. Munro Hall was named for Bertha and was originally the women’s dorm on campus and also the dining facility for all campus. Today, Munro Hall is the second oldest building on campus right behind Canterbury Hall and is used as the upperclassman female dorm. Bertha was appointed as ENC’s first Dean of the College in 1923 by the then President, Floyd Nease. As Dean, Bertha was tasked with overseeing the education of all ENC students, men, and women. Bertha was one of the earliest women to hold a Chief Academic Officer role at a coeducational institution in the country. Fun Fact: Floyd Nease is ENC’s Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Linda Scott’s Grandfather!
(Dean Bertha Munro)
Bertha’s co-worker Olive Winchester was the first woman ordained in any denomination in the UK. She was also the first woman to receive a doctoral degree from Drew University. While at ENC Olive served as the Head of the Theology Department. After her time at ENC, she went on to become the Chief Academic Officer at Northwest Nazarene College, now University
In May of 1919, the Board of Trustees appointed Miss Clara Lincoln as the first Alumni Representative on the ENC board and also the first female trustee. That same year, Miss. Florence Cobb came from TaylorUniversity to ENC to take over the Expression Department along with Miss. Ella Gale who became the Director of Music.
(Esther Williamson, Alice Spangenberg)
Alice Spangenberg, Esther Williamson, and Edith Cove are more than the namesakes for buildings on campus. Alice was an ENC alum who after achieving a master’s degree, returned to her Alma Mater as a professor. Alice’s high-performance in her graduate program opened doors for future ENC students who were interested in pursuing additional degrees. Esther Williamson was a beloved English Teacher at ENC and Edith Cove was one of ENC’s finest music teachers.
Flash forward almost 100 years and ENC elected its first female president in 2005. Dr. Corlis McGee is an inspiration for women in higher education and frankly, for all women. She is the first woman in the United States to serve as president of a Nazarene institution. She has worked tirelessly for 12 years to bring ENC into the 21st century. ENC students and faculty alike have enjoyed getting to know her and will be sad to see her go in May when she leaves to continue her teaching career at Trevecca Nazarene University.
(Dr. Corlis McGee)
The next time you take a walk around campus, think about the passionate educators and leaders who helped provide this opportunity for you. Maybe you or a friend will become the next great female leader in ENC’s future!