Alice Shevlin Hall: A Space for Women

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Alice Shevlin Hall drawing.jpg

Prospective drawing of Alice Shevlin Hall, The Minnesota Alumni Weekly, May 14, 1906


    In 1906, Alice Shevlin hall was the first student building to open at the University of Minnesota and was built where Old Main had stood prior to burning down in 1904.[1] Shevlin Hall was named for the wife of Hon. Thomas Shevlin who donated $60,000 for the construction of the building.[2] He later donated another $20,000 to for an addition plus four $10,000 fellowships.[3] The building provided women with basic amenities like restrooms along with a space where they could engage in intellectual and social pursuits.[4]

Thomas Shevlin.jpg

Hon. Thomas Shevlin, The Minnesota Alumni Weekly May 14, 1906

     On May 14,1906 The Minnesota Alumni Weekly dedicated a large portion of an issue to describing the forthcoming Alice Shevlin Hall. One of the earliest ideas for a women's building would have been a tiny structure containing restrooms and little else. The plan for a larger women's building emerged around 1900 when Ada Hillman, general secretary of the U-YWCA, arrived at the University and discovered that that there was a lack of resources for women at the university. She decided that there was a need for dormitories, a women's building, and a Dean of Women.[5] Given that most women commuted from home or lived with relatives, a building for all university women was a more pressing issue than dormitories.[6]

Shevlin Hall interior drawing.jpg

Prospective drawing of living room, The Minnesota Alumni Weekly, May 14, 1906

      A committee of women was organized to furnish the space, as it was thought that the women who were to use the building should have a say in its interior appearance. The basement contained bathrooms, lockers and a lunch room. The main floor was "devoted to the social and religious life of the women students," and contained an assembly room, offices for the Women's League and YWCA, parlors and a large living room. The top floor contained study rooms and an emergency room where one could rest in case of illness. Shevlin Hall provided women with a place to study, rest, socialize and obtain healthful and affordable meals.[7]


[1] See: Ada Comstock, "The Alice A. Shevlin Hall," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, May 14, 1906, 10.
[2] Esther Chapman, "How the Women's Building Movement Started," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, May 14, 1906, 9.
[3] See: "Shevlin Makes Transfer," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, January 31, 1910, 4.
Helen Lydon, "The Student Government Association," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, May 10, 1910, 9.
[4] Ada Comstock, "The Alice A. Shevlin Hall," 10-11.
[5] Esther Chapman, "How the Women's Building Movement Started," 9.
[6] Ada Comstock, "The Alice a Shevlin Hall," 10.
[7] Ibid.

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This page contains a single entry by Caitlin Cohn published on October 23, 2012 10:28 AM.

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