1867 - 1953
Gertrude Lindsey Hays, of Boise, was born near Pittsfield, Ill., February 20, 1867. Her family moved to Pittsfield when Hays was 10 years old, and she graduated from high school in 1885. She attended summer normal schools, and in the spring of 1886, she taught in Detroit, Mich. December of the same year, she came to Idaho and taught in Soda Springs and Blackfoot, Idaho, until 1887.
The wife of Samuel Hubbard Hays and mother of six children, Hays worked with many women's clubs and civic and political interests. She was a member of the Young Woman's Christian Association, Tuesday Musical Club, Saturday Fortnightly Club and the Boise Columbian Club, of which she was president from 1898 to 1900.
In May, 1906, Idaho Governor Frank R. Gooding appointed Hays a regent of the University of Idaho. She served for seven-and-a-half years.
University of Idaho Alumni Office - Moscow
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Hays Hall - 1927-present
Women's dormitory turned home of the Office of Alumni Relations
By Alexiss Turner
Women were never seen downtown in anything other than a dress. Yelling out dorm windows to friends or dates arriving through the courtyard was strictly prohibited. Weekday curfew was 10 p.m., and if residents were late, they accumulated “late minutes.” Too many late minutes, and the privilege of going out on a Saturday night was lost.
A lot has changed over the years in the University of Idaho's Gertrude L. Hays Hall. Now home to the Office of Alumni Relations, Creative Services & Print Management, and Navy ROTC, the building was first built in 1926 as a women's dormitory - home to about 125 Vandals a year.
From the 1930s until the 70s, to ease parents’ minds at the thought of sending their daughters to the University of Idaho, unmarried women were required to live on campus.
When Jane Cooke Vogt arrived on campus in 1966, the Wallace Complex was brand new. Cooke Vogt said its co-ed halls were a glimpse into the future of campus life.
“It was really a different time,” she said. “I was right on the cusp of a big change.”
Like herself, who came to campus from Nampa, Idaho, Cooke Vogt said many Idaho students were not debutantes. However, she said when she set foot in Hays Hall, there was an expectation of greatness.
“It was really prim and proper and fancy-dancy,” she said.During dress dinners in Hays Hall, women were required to wear elegant clothes. School clothes were forbidden, as dictated in the Associated Women Students Handbook. Cooke Vogt said many wore heels and nylons or tights.
“It got to be a real drag trying to keep panty hose,” she said.
Each woman was given a numbered napkin clip, a copper clip Cooke Vogt said was probably a student’s industrial project from the 1920s. The clip was used as a placeholder and designation for the linen napkin residents were given each night. On Sundays, wherever you placed your napkin clip, was the place you sat for several dinners.
Each table had a hostess, who was in charge of making requests on behalf of the table. Others were not permitted to speak to the hashers, or waiters, serving each table.
“You couldn’t talk to hashers,” Cooke Vogt said. “You couldn’t flirt with hashers … you could smile at hashers … but you couldn’t talk to them."
The rule of silence didn't hinder Sue Spencer Engels when she arrived at Hays Hall in 1965. Her late husband Dave worked as a hasher at Hays Hall.
From her second-floor room, Sue could see hashers enter and exit the building through the mirror of her built-in vanity, which was a staple in all Hays Hall dorm rooms. She said in an instant she could run down to the courtyard for a casual run-in with her future husband.
The couple's first date was arranged with the help of a fellow resident under the job title of dining room girl.
"This person, socially, had an enormous amount of power," Sue said.
Dining room girls were in charge of organizing receptions for dances and other meetings. Receptions meant hashers would be hired - and the dining room girl could facilitate dates between residents and the new help.
Sue and Dave were married the end of Sue's sophomore year. In 1970, the two made the university their alma mater - Sue with a degree in accounting and Dave in history. Dave went on to graduate in 1973 from the College of Law.
Men were allowed in the common areas of the dormitory, but not past curfew. Cooke Vogt said women in the hall were coached – and public displays of affection were prohibited. No holding hands, putting your feet on the furniture or resting your head on a date's shoulder, she said.
Above the living and dining rooms - which were also shared by the neighboring women's dormitory, Forney Hall - there were three floors of dorm rooms. The top floor was reserved for sleeping porches, where residents slept in bunk beds. When Frances Ellsworth '71 lived at Hays Hall in 1967, she said windows were left open for health code reasons - even if it meant allowing snow and rain to blow into the room. Preparation for bed was done in layers, she said.
"You'd put on a pair of pajamas, socks, a nightgown over that, a robe over that," she said.
Fire drills were conducted often, to ensure the women were prepared to escape the brick and gable-roofed building if the need occurred. There were two methods of exiting upper floors of the building, Ellsworth said, by sliding down the enclosed metal shoots on the southwest side of the building or sliding down a canvas tarp rolled down from a bedroom window to firemen below.
The enclosed nature of the metal slides meant the ride down was a dark one, so Ellsworth said the roll-out tarps were preferred. The tarps were so popular, Ellsworth said it was common for more women to come down the slides than actually lived in the hall - as several would find their way back inside for a second ride.
Cooke Vogt lived in Hays Hall for three years before moving off campus her senior year. Graduating in 1970 with a degree in theatre, she was one in the last group of women to live in the residence hall before the ground floor was remodeled in 1971 to act as office space.
Next year marks the 125th anniversary of the University of Idaho. Members of the university community present and past are invited to help tell our story. Have a favorite memory to share? Email us with your discoveries!