Women have always been part of the UT story. When the university opened its doors in 1883, 58 of its 221 students — 26 percent — were women. Strange to consider such a strong collegiate presence 37 years before women were even allowed to vote.
When one of those 58, an outstanding student named Jessie Andrews, graduated just three years later with a B.Litt. degree in German, she became UT’s first female graduate. At the commencement ceremony she was presented a special award as the first female graduate.
Born in Mississippi in 1867, Andrews moved with her mother to Texas at age 7 and later graduated with honors from Austin High School. After earning her degree from UT and teaching for a year at a seminary for women in Austin, in 1888 Andrews was hired by the university to teach German and French, becoming the first female teacher at UT.
Not one to rest on her accomplishments, Andrews studied at the University of Chicago for nine consecutive summers and in 1906 earned her Master’s of Philosophy. She also was a published poet and was named poet laureate by the Texas Woman’s Press Association.
After 30 years on the Texas faculty, she resigned from teaching, citing disillusionment with Germany due to World War I. She joined her sister in operating a store and died the next year, 1919, from pneumonia. UT’s Andrews Dormitory, built in 1936, is named for her.
Today, 53 percent of UT students are female.