By Alan Simmer ’07
The history of housemothers runs deep at Wartburg—all the way back to 1861 and the St. Sebald campus.
That year, Auguste von Schwartz came to the college from St. Petersburg, Russia, to serve as hausmutter. Though the position was discontinued after the college shifted to Galena, Ill., in 1868, it was reinstituted in 1910 on the Waverly campus when the college began accepting both men and women.
Anna Vollmer was the first housemother in Wartburg Hall, the first women’s residence hall built on campus, and she served from 1910 to 1923. She was “like a mother to all,” according to Still on the Move: Wartburg College 1852-2002, Ron Matthias’ history of the first 150 years of the college.
Vollmer Hall, which houses many first-year students, still bears her name. It was the first building named for a woman on campus—and the only one for a half-century.
The end of the role of housemothers—or head residents, as they came to be known—came in 1973. With increasingly liberal attitudes came less desire to police students’ free time and fewer rules governing it, as evidenced by the abolition of the last vestiges of women’s hours by the board of regents in 1971.
Many of the support roles filled by head residents are now taken up by student resident assistants on each floor.