An Overview of Judson College


Judson College was a private women’s college in Marion, Alabama. It was founded in 1838 and suspended its academic operations on 31 July 2021.

Brief History

It was founded by members of Siloam Baptist Church in 1838, making it the fifth-oldest women’s college in the country. Judson was named after Ann Hasseltine Judson, the first female foreign missionary from the United States to Burma (now Myanmar). Businesswoman Julia Tarrant Barron and General Edwin Davis King, with the support of other members of Siloam Baptist Church, enlisted the help of Dr. Milo Parker Jewett, a recent graduate of Dartmouth College and Andover Theological Seminary. Jewett had come to Alabama with the goal of establishing a school for young women that would provide them with the same quality of education that young men received at Harvard and Yale. Jewett became the first president of Judson and later of Vassar College. Judson has been affiliated with the Alabama Baptist Convention throughout its history and received funding from the convention.

The principal building of the campus is Jewett Hall, the third of this name. The first Jewett Hall, built in 1840, was a four-story Greek revival building named after Milo P. Jewett. It was destroyed by fire in 1888. The rebuilding of Jewett Hall was begun that same year. In 1947 the dome was hit by a lightning strike and fire consumed the building. Rebuilding efforts began almost immediately, and funds were raised by the sale of bricks from the rubble. A third fire occurred in the attic of this building as mattresses were lit on fire, but the fire was put out without much damage to the building.

Other notable buildings on campus include A. Howard Bean Hall, a former Carnegie library which now houses the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame as well as 2 classrooms, the Alumnae Auditorium, and the Women’s Missionary Union residence hall.

The college was granted an exception to Title IX in 2015 which allowed it to legally discriminate against LGBT students for religious reasons.

Enrolment at Judson in 2019 was 268 and the college offered bachelor’s degrees in liberal arts and pre-professional programmes.

In 2020 the college experienced severe financial challenges due to declining enrolment and COVID-19. In December, the college’s president issued an urgent plea for $500,000 in donations to prevent the college from closing immediately. Although it had raised $1.3 million, enrolment dropped from 145 in the fall of 2020 to 80 for the fall of 2021. In May of 2021, the college’s board of trustees voted to close the college and begin Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. The college closed its residence halls after the spring semester ended and suspended academic operations after the summer term ending 31 July 2021.

In 2022, the school’s archives were transferred to Samford University, a sister school, founded in Marion which relocated to Birmingham in 1887.

Student Life

Judson College participated in joint social and civic events with Marion Military Institute, also located in Marion. Many of these events and traditions date as far back as the Civil War and are connected culturally to that era.

Judson College was ranked among the “Absolute Worst Campuses for LGBTQ Youth” in the US by Campus Pride.

Notable Alumnae

  • Titilayo Adedokun (1973-), singer (soprano) and beauty queen
  • Gwen Bristow (1903-1980), author
  • Caroline Dormon (1888-1971), botanist and author
  • Margaret Lea Houston (1819-1867), First Lady of Texas
  • Billie Young (1947-2021), actress, activist, poet and educator.
  • Evelyn Daniel Anderson (02 August 1926 to 07 October 1998), American educator and advocate for the physically disabled.
  • Mary Ward Brown (18 June 1917 to 14 May 2013), American short story writer and memoirist.
  • Janie Shores (30 April 1932 to 09 August 2017) Supreme Court of Alabama judge and first woman to ever serve on that court.

Namesake Colleges

Judson University (Illinois) is the namesake of Ann Judson’s husband, Adoniram Judson.

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