KU remembers Emily Taylor
Emily Taylor, dean of women from
1956 to 1975, sits with a group of KU students in this 1971 photograph.
Taylor, who died on May 1 at the age of 89, was regarded by many as a
mentor who devoted her life to advocating for women. Kansas Alumni
Mentor and leader in women’s rights movement dies at 89
Emily Taylor, a leader in the women’s rights movement for three
decades at KU, died May 1 in Lawrence. She was 89.
women who knew Taylor as KU’s dean of women from 1956 to 1975 regarded
her as a mentor who devoted her life to changing the perception of women
in society, as well as helping them to explore opportunities in academics
and professional careers.
“I knew her at a time when there was certainly a lot of energy regarding
social issues,” said Priscilla Reckling, a 1971 KU graduate who
is program director in the Office of Grants and Research at the KU School
of Nursing. “I think for many of us, she stimulated our thinking
about what was possible in the world and what we could contribute to the
Kathryn Vratil, a student at KU in the 1970s, said Taylor knew the potential
Vratil and other young women possessed.
“Without Emily Taylor, I would not have had the idea—let alone
the courage—to attend law school at a time when less than 10 percent
of the students were women,” said Vratil, now the U.S. District
Court judge in Kansas City, Kan. “She challenged generations of
KU students to rethink what we thought we knew about the responsibilities
and opportunities for women in American society.”
KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said Taylor’s contributions to KU
would be long remembered.
“Emily Taylor’s conviction, drive and enthusiasm for the cause
of equal rights among women and minorities left an incredible legacy at
KU and the nation,” Hemenway said. “At a time when the opportunities
for women were very limited, Emily fought to give them the same opportunities,
both academic and professionally, as the men.
“Emily has influenced the lives of countless numbers of students
in the course of her life. Her death is a profound loss for the KU family,
and we express our deepest sympathies to her family and friends. She will
Marlesa Roney, vice provost for student success at KU, remembers a story
Taylor often told of attending a national conference with some students
in the late ’60s while serving as KU’s dean of women. It was
lunchtime, and the women and men were standing in line waiting to be served
“They started pulling the men out of the line and seating them in
the dining room first,” Roney said. “Emily asked what was
going on; they told her the men needed to eat first because they needed
to go back to work. Emily insisted the women be served at the same time
as the men.
“It’s those kinds of examples that helped me to understand
the courage and energy that she had to create change and the impact she
had on people.”