Myra Beach Jordan

Myra Beach Jordan was born in Calhoun County, Michigan on March 17th, 1863, to Joseph Phelps Beach and Susan Atmore Beach.[1] She graduated from Battle Creek High school in 1881, and spent eight years teaching in Duck Lake, Bouton, Climax and Battle Creek before studying literature at the University of Michigan in 1889. After spending two years as an undergraduate, she departed for the Utah Territory to continue working with high schoolers, as a history and English teacher at the newly-established Salt Lake City High School. After returning to the University of Michigan in 1893, she married Fred Jordan, an Assistant Librarian for the University of Michigan, who had been her trigonometry tutor while she was an undergraduate. [2]

Meanwhile, Dean of Women Dr. Eliza Mosher’s health was worsening. In 1902, she sent a series of letters to President James Angell urging him to find a replacement so she could return to her private medical practice in Boston.[3] Angell briefly considered terminating the position of Dean of Women altogether, but ultimately chose Myra Beach Jordan as Mosher’s successor.[4]

Unlike Mosher, Jordan appeared to have no desire to teach classes at the University. Upon her appointment, the Dean’s office was moved from the faculty room to a corner of the women’s gymnasium. Her position was termed both “informal” and a simple “advisory capacity.”[5] Yet despite the somewhat lower prestige of her office, Jordan managed to become enormously influential in University housing policy. Notably, she successfully pushed the in loco parentis system in women’s housing, which required all female students to live in housing she had approved, and, by extension, to be subject to her housing rules. That typically involved restrictions on the company women could bring into the house and strict curfew hours.[6] Jordan was also a capable fundraiser, helping to gather money for the creation of the Martha Cook women’s residence, as well as the Helen Newberry, Alumnae House, Betsy Barbour House, and Adelia Cheever House residences.

Besides being a formidable figure in student housing, Jordan was powerful in the social life of campus. Within her first year as Dean, she became famous for being able to recognize and greet all the women on campus by name. She organized and wrote the script for the first Junior Girls’ play, and began the tradition of holding a Senior dinner prior to the play. In addition, she organized a system of student employment for women undergraduates, created an honorary society for unmarried independent women called the Senior Society, and helped found Wyvern, a junior honorary society.[7]

Jordan remained Dean of Women until her retirement in 1922. Upon her retirement, the Board of Regents commended her work, saying, “It is strikingly to her credit that thanks to her methods no untoward circumstance or happening of a serious nature has arisen among women students in recent years.”[8] As her role as a “mother” to the women students of the University involved safeguarding the morals of her charges, Jordan seems to have been effective in enforcing her housing rules.

After her retirement, Jordan went on a trip to Italy with her husband. She died on October 23rd, 1932 of a prolonged illness.[9] By that point she’d already seen a part of the legacy she left behind—in 1930, Mosher-Jordan hall was dedicated to honor both her and Dr. Eliza Mosher for serving as Dean of Women.

  1. Walter Dennison, “Two New Members of the Senate–The New Dean of Women,”The Michigan Alumnus (1902) 9: 18-19. 
  2. Battle Creek Enquirer, October 17, 1943.
  3. Eliza Mosher to James B. Angell, January 14, 1902, James B. Angell Collection.
  4. Edward A. Birge to James B. Angell, June 3, 1902. ibid.
  5. Dennison, “Two New Members of the Senate.” 
  6. “Housing Facilities for Women at the University of Michigan,” March 12, 1921, Ann Arbor, Housing Facilities for Women 1921-1937; James Tobin, “The End of ‘Hours’,” Heritage Project: University of Michigan, 2017,; Wilfred B. Shaw, The University of Michigan: An Encyclopedic Survey (Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1941), 283-284.
  7. Shaw, The University of Michigan, 283-284.
  8. Statement by Board of Regents, Jan. 4, 1922, Proceedings of the Board of Regents (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1923): 364.
  9. “Second Dean of Women on Campus Passes Away,”The Michigan Alumnus (1946) 53: 115. 
Image Credit:

“Myra Jordan,” Rentschler’s Studio (Ann Arbor, Mich.), Myra Beach Jordan Photograph Collection.