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College Widow

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"In my day a college widow stood for something... in fact, she stood for plenty!"
Groucho Marx, Horse Feathers

A character type dating to at least the early 20th century (there is a 1915 silent film entitled The College Widow), but now a Forgotten Trope: a single woman living in a college town who attracts, encourages and enjoys the attention of the young men from the local school. Often she is the younger wife of a deceased faculty member or college president, but in any case she is barely older than the students she courts. (Which is not to say that older examples don't exist; see, for example, Dean Wormer's wife in Animal House.) As a genuine widow, she came upon a healthy taste (and talent) for sexual relations legitimately, but her youth left her with her wifely desires still burning hot; she thus turns to the school's handy supply of strapping young men to fill them. Her house, just off the campus, is usually the home to at least one Wild Teen Party a week if not more, and during Prohibition it's all but a speakeasy.

In an era when most colleges and universities were male-only, she was usually the only outlet for a healthy young man's sexual urges short of the nearest brothel, and often far less expensive. Naturally, other local citizens viewed her as being a singlehanded danger to the moral rectitude of hundreds if not thousands of impressionable young men. Usually seen as a Femme Fatale if not The Vamp, although she normally serves no master but her own libido.

A Forgotten Trope since at least the 1960s, if not decades earlier. With the advent of co-education, this character type died a quick death as accusations of sexual iniquity quickly shifted to female college students (then, subsequently, male college students, as well).

Compare Likes Older Women, when a character has a preference for much older potential partners, and its Sub-Trope, Stacy's Mom, when teenagers/young adults regard a middle-aged individual as hot. Sub-Trope of The Smurfette Principle, the general tendency for there only being a token woman in an otherwise all-male cast.


Films — Live-Action

  • Animal House: Marion Wormer, the dean's wife. Although her husband is still living, he doesn't pay too much attention to her (preferring instead to use her as arm candy), and she finds him stuffy and boring. So she turns to the frat boys and their Wacky Fratboy Hijinks successfully.
  • Bull Durham: Annie Savoy is a glamorous, worldly-wise older single woman in Durham who regularly seduces promising rookies from the Bulls team.
  • Dead Poets Society: Subverted with Chris Noel. She's unwillingly involved in a Love Triangle caused by the Cock Fight between her Jerk Jock of a boyfriend and a Welton Academy student. Welton is a male-only, private school, while Chris and her boyfriend attend the public high school, some kilometers away from Welton. Chris sneaks off to the newly-reformed Dead Poets Society due to her own interest in literature, so she keeps attending the meetings even after her girl-friends ditch it. The subversion comes when you realize she's the Only Sane Woman in the love rivalry and sneaks off out of genuine interest, not to seduce the Welton boys.
  • Horse Feathers (Marx Brothers): Thelma "Hot Toddy" Todd (Connie Bailey). It turns out that she's at least partially a spy for a rival college, using the men she dates to get information that will help the other college's football team win.
  • Spring Dreams: Tamiko likes to bed younger college students, and a lot of them, like "10, 20, 50 men." Her very proper Japanese family is deeply embarrassed.
  • Tea and Sympathy: The coach's wife isn't exactly a widow, it's just that her husband doesn't pay much attention to her. This is why she turns her attention to the young man whom his more 'hearty' classmates mistakenly think is gay.
  • A Yank at Oxford: Vivien Leigh plays a variation seeing that she's not really a widow, just the neglected wife of a much older husband.
  • Youngblood: Miss McGill owns a boarding house and seduces and then sleeps with the players who board with her.


  • The American Credo: "That middle-aged widows are very fond of college boys." (#651; New #858)
  • The Number of the Beast (Robert A. Heinlein): Hilda "Sharpie" Corners is explicitly described as a college widow (although she protests that all of her paramours were age-appropriate). Given Heinlein's history of creating retro-flavored futures, this may be an instance of a deliberate use of an outdated trope to indicate that the book does not, as it initially seems, start 20 Minutes into the Future of our universe.
  • The Stand: Rita Blakemoor's husband died two years before the story begins, thus she's the first eligible woman Larry meets.

Live-Action TV

  • Bones: In "The Beaver in the Otter", the Victim of the Week, an underachieving college student, had been carrying on an affair with the college President's wife. Reading between the lines, it seems that she regularly finds young college boys to have affairs with behind her husband's back.


  • Allegro: Beulah always tags along when her sister goes to the campus to visit her boyfriend Charlie. Because she's single, there's more than one boy who would kill to go on a date with her.
  • The College Widow (1904): By virtue of being the college president's daughter, Jane is the only woman on Atwater's campus. Despite the play being the Trope Maker, she's a downplayed example because she doesn't encourage attention from the whole student population but is asked by her father to charm one particular high-school graduate into attending Atwater College. Therefore, she only focuses on him. It might seem to be the Trope Namer if it weren't for the fact that the expression "college widow" already existed since the nineteenth century but it's definitely the Trope Maker.

Video Games

  • The Spellcasting Series: In Spellcasting 201: The Sorcerer's Appliance, Hillary Tickingclock becomes when Otto dies. However this has no noticeable impact on her mood or sex drive, as she's always had extramarital affairs with the students. She'll gladly sleep with Ernie while wearing her mourning clothes, for that extra touch of class.