As early as 1880, there was a need expressed for a hall for women. While women attended Wooster from the beginning, they tended to be the daughters or relatives of local families or faculty. Most respectable families would generally not send their daughters off to board in the type of eating clubs male students of the college inhabited that provided them with room and board. The end result was that the lack of a women’s dormitory on campus limited the access of women to Wooster.
Annie Irish, a graduate and the first female faculty member at Wooster, helped to form the Wooster Women’s Educational Association in 1883. It was composed of faculty wives and townswomen, and its purpose was to advance the interests and increase the advantages of young women pursuing their studies in the University. One of Irish’s major goals was to get a women’s dormitory built on campus.
The first college dormitory at Wooster was finally built in 1895 for $20,000, and it opened to Wooster women in January of 1896. Hoover Cottage provided accommodations for 68 women and all of the modern conveniences of the day, including a room for gymnastic exercise. The dorm was overseen by a competent matron and was under the direct care of the Faculty. It was located just east of Old Main. Sadly, Annie Irish died of scarlet fever on February 12, 1886.
In February of 1896, the women organized a Ladies Gymnasium Exhibition, the proceeds from which would be ussed to purchase equipment for the new ladies gymnasium in Hoover Cottage. The event sold out and was a great success!
Since the early 1990’s, women in elocution often taught physical culture for the ladies. However, by 1897, this position was identified as a Director of Ladies Gymnasium. The College Catalogue notes that the Hover Cottage gymnasium was provided with pulley-weights, swinging rings, wands, dumb-bells, and Indian clubs.
“There are two gymnasiums, the one for the young women being in Hoover Cottage. Courses are offered throughout the year but are required only in the second term. The first and third terms are given to out-door sports.” (College Catalogue, 1900-1901, p. 54)
Hoover Cottage girls were often cited as providing recreational teams to compete against the “town” girls. They competed in basketball games as early as 1886. On April 21, 1897, the Hoover Girls formed two teams to play a game of baseball on campus. The women also enjoyed the bicycle craze of the 1890’s, with students pedaling to and from the college regularly, and bicycles often lining the area around the Hoover cottage porch.
By 1907, a second dormitory- Holden Hall- was built for women. It also included a gymnasium room its the front basement. At that point, women’s gymnasium work moved to the Holden Hall facility.
Hoover Cottage was eventually razed in 1968.