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The Queen

Mrs. Walker with officers of the Cavalier Ladies, an organization of students’ wives Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Virginia Library
A portrait of Mrs. Walker hung for many years in the student lounge of Newcomb Hall. Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Virginia Library

Best known as the Queen, Mrs. Alfred E. Walker was hired by the University in 1918 to bring a “feminine touch” to student activities at Madison Hall. She became a central figure of student life during her 35 years as the “beloved and indefatigable hostess at the Student Union,” as described by Virginius Dabney in Mr. Jefferson’s University.

“It was a brand new idea to have a woman at Madison Hall,” reported Alumni News. “She started right in as though not scared at all with her tea dances … She has poured tea for generations of students … and makes them like it. But Mrs. Walker does vastly more than pour tea.”

In addition to hosting Sunday afternoon teas, she chaperoned hundreds of dances and was involved in countless aspects of cultural and recreational life around the University. “Mrs. Walker was on such close terms with the boys that she often sat in on meetings of the Student Union and even presided over some of them,” wrote Dabney. “When a social and recreational center for first-year men was opened on McCormick Road in 1950, ‘there was only one thing to call it—Queen’s Club,’ said the Alumni News. There, the Queen helped to carry out President Darden’s program for aiding entering students to adjust to University life.”

Described by the Cavalier Daily as “one of the University’s most cheerful faces,” Mrs. Walker mingles on the portico of the Rotunda. Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Virginia Library