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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).

See also Likes Older Women.



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  • Thelma "Hot Toddy" Todd (Connie Bailey) in the 1932 Marx Brothers movie Horse Feathers. 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.
  • Horse Feathers was in fact mostly a spoof of a 1927 film called simply The College Widow featuring Delores Costello as the title character, Jane Witherspoon. The daughter of a professor, Jane was technically a bit young to be considered a true college widow but filled the role anyway. This itself was a remake of a 1915 silent film of the same name, in which Jane was played by Ethel Clayton.
  • Vivien Leigh plays a variation on the college widow in A Yank at Oxford, the variation being that she's not really a widow, just the neglected wife of a much older husband.
  • The coach's wife in Tea and Sympathy wasn't exactly a widow, although her husband didn't pay much attention to her, which is why she turned her attention to the young man whom his more 'hearty' classmates thought was gay... but he wasn't.
  • The wife of the dean in Animal House. 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.
  • Annie Savoy in Bull Durham is basically this, although the younger men she seduces aren't from the local college, they're from the local minor-league baseball team.
  • 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.
  • In the hockey film Youngblood with Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, and Keanu Reeves, the character Miss McGill owns a boarding house and seduces and then sleeps with the players who board with her.


  • Hilda "Sharpie" Corners from Robert A. Heinlein's novel The Number of the Beast 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.

     Live-Action TV  

  • In the Bones episode "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.

     Video Games  

  • In Spellcasting 201: The Sorcerer's Appliance, Hillary Tickingclock becomes one when her husband dies. This status ends when her husband is brought back from the dead at the end of the story. Of course, she had been regularly screwing the students (and anyone else who dropped by) before the professor died, and continued doing so after he came back to life.