Imagine Cal Poly without women. Quite a different place, isn’t it?
During the 1929-30 academic year, California passed legislation officially excluding females from all enrollment or admission processes, effective June 30, 1929.
Due to a shortage in funds and other factors, females were not admitted to Polytechnic School (Cal Poly’s name at the time) for nearly 30 years.
Female enrollment in the years prior to the ban was already very low. According to “A History of California State Polytechnic College: The First 50 Years, 1901-1951,” only 10 female students were enrolled for the 1924-25 academic year. Until 1929, women comprised less than 5 percent of total enrollment. Costs for keeping up programs such as the “household arts” major, in which only seven female students registered, became too high.
It also became unnecessary for institutions such as Polytechnic School to offer such programs, as they were being taught in California public high schools, including in at least one as nearby as Atascadero.
Furthermore, Polytechnic School’s female population was increasingly local. By the Fall of 1928, all 19 female students were from San Luis Obispo County. In the years prior, a growing number of men were coming to Polytechnic School, so extra space was needed in the dormitories to house them.
All of these factors, along with a recommendation by Superintendent Cooper, pushed lawmakers to determine that “on or after June 30, 1929, no female student shall be admitted as a new student at the California Polytechnic School.”
Interestingly enough, within the next two years, the San Luis Obispo Parent-Teachers Association, County Superintendent of Schools R. L. Bird, and Charles E. Teach, City Superintendent of Schools, all requested that lawmakers allow women to once again be enrolled, but this was to no avail.