Women’s hall reaches century mark

Exactly 100 years ago, women students of the Berkeley campus finally got a room of their own.

Actually, it was a building of their own, modest but suitable for intimate social gatherings and meetings. On Nov. 23, 1911, in a small but important step in the evolving status of women at the University of California, women students gathered to dedicate Senior Women’s Hall, now known as Girton Hall.

Men, of course, already had a building of their own: Senior Men’s Hall, a rustic log cabin built with the university’s blessing and private donations more than five years earlier.

After senior women students started advocating for their own building, alumna and architect Julia Morgan donated her services to design the home-like wooden structure. By mid-1911 they’d acquired most of the needed funds, university approval and a site overlooking Strawberry Creek.

Women’s groups and other students used the building for everything from women’s teas to faculty talks and “barn dances,” with the floor strewn with hay. By the late 1960s, however, the world and the campus had changed, and the place of the hall in the life of Berkeley’s women students had diminished.

In 1970 the ASUC was granted use of Girton Hall as a childcare facility. Today, it’s one unit of a large campus childcare operation run through Residential and Student Services Programs. Girton stands today just north of the Haas Business School complex, moved there in 1946 from the original site, about 160 feet uphill to the east.