Home | Classifieds | Aggiesports.com | BrazosSports.com | Movies | Television | Site Map
A&M News
Bonfire Memorial
Bonfire Tragedy
Bush Center Notes
Links
A&M News
Agriculture
Announcements
Business & Technology
Classifieds
Columnists
Community
The Eagle
Entertainment
Faith & Values
Food
Health & Fitness
Home & Garden
Kids Korner
Lifestyles
Newspapers in Education
Obituaries
Opinions
Politics
Region/State
Schools
Sports
Subscriptions
Weather
World
Stock Quote

Aggieland Primer

Apartment Guide
Bonfire Memorial
Beautiful Living
Bridal Showcase
Dining Guide
Family Matters
Healthy Living
Holidays on the Brazos
Job Fair
Red, White, & Blue Out
Senior Resource Book
Springtime in the Valley
Summer Fun
Vital Signs
Email this to a Friend Subscribe

Updated September 10, 2004 3:40 AM

Women joined Corps 30 years ago

By BRETT NAUMAN
Eagle Staff Writer

CORRECTION

On Page A1 Friday, the cutline for a photo of women cadets marching in formation should have said the event was a 1976 football game against SMU.

'Waggies' helped usher in a new tradition at Texas A&M


Eagle photo/Butch Ireland

Texas A&M University freshman Brynn Hayes of College Station has followed her mother, Dawn-Marie Baletka, in joining the Corps of Cadets. Baletka was in the Corps when she attended A&M in the 1980s.


Special to The Eagle

Members of the first group of women admitted to the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets march in formation as Company W-1, as it was known then, during the 1976 football game against SMU.

A uniformed cadet refused to shake Roxie Pranglin’s hand when she first asked about joining Texas A&M University’s Corps of Cadets 30 years ago

Pranglin and the 51 other women who first integrated the all-male organization in the fall of 1974 were the target of harassment and countless insults, she remembers today.

But the women banded together and did not let those who believed women would ruin the Corps overshadow the life lessons they learned in the military-based organization, several members of that first class said.

Many will return to College Station on Friday to commemorate the 30th anniversary of when women were first allowed to join the Corps. A reunion and the opening of a museum exhibit dedicated to women in the Corps will mark the event.

Several of those pioneering women said there was an overwhelmingly negative reaction on campus to the integration. At the time, the entire campus referred to the women in the female Corps unit, W-1, as “Waggies.”

While most of the harassment came from men in the Corps, other female A&M students and former students took part in the insults, former cadet Ceil McKinney said.

People would call yell insults across campus, calling the women cadets whores, sluts and other degrading terms, she said.

“ We had men telling us we didn’t have the right to be there,” McKinney said, likening the atmosphere to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. “I really understood what it is was like to be a minority who is despised.”

Roxie Pranglin came to A&M from Mississippi in 1974. Her father, Harrison Pranglin, graduated from the school in 1943 and fondly told her stories of his days in the Corps, she said.

So, when university officials announced during her freshman visit months before the fall semester began that women were being accepted in the Corps, she decided to join.

Pranglin said she never will forget the cadet she met during that trip at an informational meeting about the Corps. The cadet stood in a hallway and greeted potential Corps members at the Memorial Student Center.

After greeting her father, the cadet stood with a blank expression on his face and refused to acknowledge the 18-year-old as she walked into the meeting.

“ The cadet, he couldn’t say anything,” Pranglin said. “We just walked on and left him. I can still remember us walking down that hallway. It has stayed with me.”

The values and traditions she learned about during that meeting made her want to be part of the Corps, she said. And, despite knowing the experience would be rough, she had her father’s blessing.

“ If he had felt this was not a good decision or if it had made him angry, I probably would not have joined,” Pranglin said. “When I told him my decision he said, ‘I guess you’ve made your choice.’”

But the male cadet’s reaction to her at the meeting was mirrored by too many others when Pranglin arrived at A&M months later, she remembered. Many upperclassmen refused to “whip out” or shake hands with women cadets, she said.

The first women in the Corps also didn’t have uniforms or a place to live during the first year. They were scattered in apartments across A&M’s campus and in the community.

While the nickname “Waggie” was meant to demean, Pranglin said many women her unit embraced it. One of her friends even personalized the license plate on her Volkswagen with “Waggie.”

“ Within the next couple of days, all four tires were slit,” she said.

The integration of women into the Corps was a gradual part of A&M’s transition from a small military college to one of the largest public universities in the nation, university archivist David Chapman said.

While many argue A&M should have integrated the Corps sooner, Chapman said, the question is whether that would have been possible because women were first admitted in 1963.

Although the first years in the Corps were difficult for women, the campus gradually became more accepting of them each year. Pranglin said the naysayers were just a loud minority by her senior year.

However, by the late 1970s women still were not allowed to serve in leadership positions or groups within the Corps, such as the Ross Volunteers, Parsons Mounted Cavalry and the Aggie Band.

Melanie Zentgraf, a female cadet, filed a class action lawsuit against A&M in 1979, saying the exclusion of women from such groups was discriminatory. A federal court decision finally forced A&M to open the groups to women in 1988.

Zentgraf grabbed national headlines with the lawsuit and drew the ire of then-A&M President Jarvis Miller. Miller refused to shake her hand when Zentgraf graduated in 1980.

The lawsuit divided the campus and led to a backlash against women who were in the Corps, according to Dawn Marie Baletka, who entered the Corps in 1980.

“ There are those who would sing her praises from sunrise to sunset, and there are those who would not,” Baletka said. “Some thought she set women in the Corps back 10 years.”

Baletka said she owes much to the 26 women out of that first group of 52 who refused to quit, despite what seemed like insurmountable challenges.

Her daughter, Brynn Hayes, entered the Corps as a freshman this year and is one of 162 women cadets scattered throughout the Corps. Women-only units such as W-1 and S-14 — an Air Force squadron — were phased out in 1990.

Hayes said she is one of only two women now in the Corps whose mothers also belonged to the organization.

On Saturday afternoon, she will walk onto Kyle Field with the Corps for the first time during the A&M football game. Hayes said she owes that privilege to women like Pranglin who laid the groundwork.

“ Marching out onto Kyle Field Saturday will be one of the most memorable experiences of my life,” Hayes said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it if it hadn’t been for those women who fought for us. They paved the way.”

The mother and daughter will attend the reunion this weekend. Baletka said she is excited about seeing some friends she hasn’t seen in years. Friendships will be instantly reignited, she said.

Pranglin, who rose to commanding officer in W-1 by her senior year, said she, too, will attend the reunion with her husband, son and daughter.

The 48-year-old works for West Texas A&M University as assistant director for continuing education and hopes the weekend might inspire her twins, Harrison and Bailey Albriecht, to attend A&M.

Although her years in the Corps presented the toughest physical and emotional challenges of her life, they built character, Pranglin said. While many cruel things were done to the women of her unit, she did not complain, she said.

Even during her sophomore year, when upperclassmen stuffed pig manure in the air conditioning ducts of the W-1 dorm building, she kept going. That was one of the many stories she kept from her parents in Mississippi, she said.

“ My mother had a fiery enough personality,” Pranglin said, “that she probably would have picked up the phone and called the president.”

Brett Nauman’s e-mail address is bnauman@theeagle.com.

Theeagle.com | Classifieds | Aggiesports.com | BrazosSports.com | Privacy | Contact | Site Map | Subscribe
© 2000 - 07 The Bryan - College Station Eagle