Women's colleges in the United States

Women's colleges in the United States

Women's colleges in the United States are institutions of higher education in the United States whose student populations are composed exclusively or almost exclusively of women (some colleges, such as Mary Baldwin College admit men to graduate or returning student programs while maintaining a single-sex undergraduate student body). They are often liberal arts colleges. There are approximately sixty active women's colleges in the U.S.

Origins and types

:"Main article": "Timeline of historically black women's colleges"

Mount Holyoke College (Mount Holyoke Female Seminary) in 1837] Education for girls and women was initially provided for in the 18th Century by Moravian settlements in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Moravian College, founded in 1742 in Germantown and later moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvaniawas originally called the "Bethlehem Female Seminary". It began to grant undergraduate degrees in 1863 and became the "Moravian Seminary and College for Women" in 1913. In 1954, it combined with the boys school, "Moravian College and Theological Seminary" and became coeducational. [http://www.moravian.edu/about/history.htm] The Moravians of Salem, North Carolina began what is now Salem College in 1772 in Winston-Salem.

Institutions of higher education for women, however, were primarily founded during the early 19th century, many as teaching seminaries. As noted by the Women's College Coalition:

:The formal education of girls and women began in the middle of the nineteenth century and was intimately tied to the conception that society had of the appropriate role for women to assume in life. Republican education prepared girls for their future role as wives and mothers and taught religion, singing, dancing and literature. Academic education prepared girls for their role as community leaders and social benefactors and had some elements of the education offered boys. Seminaries educated women for the only socially acceptable occupation: teaching. Only unmarried women could be teachers. Many early women's colleges began as female seminaries and were responsible for producing an important corps of educators. [http://www.womenscolleges.org/history/default.htm The Rise of Women's Colleges, Coeducation] ]

Irene Harwarth, Mindi Maline, and Elizabeth DeBra further note that, "women's colleges were founded during the mid- and late-19th century in response to a need for advanced education for women at a time when they were not admitted to most institutions of higher education." [cite news | first=Irene | last=Harwarth | url=http://www.ed.gov/offices/OERI/PLLI/webreprt.html | title=Women's Colleges in the United States: History, Issues, and Challenges | publisher=ed.gov | date= | accessdate=2006-10-14] Early proponents of education for women were Sarah Pierce (Litchfield Female Academy, 1792); Catharine Beecher (Hartford Female Seminary, 1823); Zilpah P. Grant Banister (Ipswich Female Seminary, 1828); and Mary Lyon. Lyon was involved in the development of both Hartford Female Seminary and Ipswich Female Seminary. She was also involved in the creation of "Wheaton Female Seminary" (now Wheaton College, Massachusetts) in 1834. In 1837, Lyon founded "Mount Holyoke Female Seminary" (Mount Holyoke College). [cite news | url=http://www.mtholyoke.edu/cic/about/index.shtml| title=About Mount Holyoke| publisher=mountholyoke.edu| date= | accessdate=2006-09-01] Harwarth, Maline, and DeBra note that, "Mount Holyoke’s significance is that it became a model for a multitude of other women’s colleges throughout the country."cite web| url=http://www.ed.gov/offices/OERI/PLLI/webreprt.html| title=Women's Colleges in the United States: History, Issues, and Challenges| author=Irene Harwarth| coauthors=Mindi Maline and Elizabeth DeBra| publisher=U.S. Department of Education National Institute on Postsecondary Education, Libraries, and Lifelong Learning] . Both Vassar College and Wellesley College were patterned after Mount Holyoke. cite web|url=http://www.dean.sbc.edu/crispen.html|title=Seven Sisters and a Country Cousin|author=Jennifer L. Crispen| coauthors=| publisher=sbc.edu] Wesleyan College was the first college chartered for women, receiving its charter in 1836. Vassar was the first of the Seven Sisters to be chartered as a college in 1861.While there were a few coeducational colleges (such as Oberlin College founded in 1833, Antioch College in 1853, and Bates College in 1855), most colleges and universities of high standing at that time were exclusively for men. The first generally-accepted coordinate college, H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College, (with Tulane University), was founded in 1886, and followed a year later by Evelyn College for Women, the coordinate college for Princeton University. The model was quickly duplicated at other prestigious universities. Notable nineteenth century coordinate colleges included Barnard (with Columbia University), Pembroke (with Brown University), and Radcliffe College (with Harvard University).

While the majority of women's colleges are private institutions, there were a few public colleges. In 1884 the legislature of the state of Mississippi established Industrial Institute & College, (later Mississippi University for Women) the first public college for women in the United States. Other states soon followed: Georgia created Georgia State College for Women in 1889, and North Carolina created North Carolina Women's College in 1891. This is similar to the establishment of Douglass Residential College (Rutgers University) which was founded as the "New Jersey College for Women in 1918" by Mabel Smith Douglass. [Citation | last =Harwarth | first =Irene | author-link = | last2 = | first2 = | author2-link = | year =1997 | date = | title =Women's Colleges in the United States: History, Issues, & Challenges | place =Darby, PA | publisher =Diane | edition = | volume = | id = | isbn =0788143247 | url =]

Additional types of women's colleges include the Seven Sister colleges in the Northern United States, historically black female educational institutions, and women's colleges in the Southern United States.

20th century history


In 1942 during WWII, debate arose concerning the role of colleges and student in the war. The draft age had been lowered to 18 and a few questions arose: which men would go to college, which into the army, how would they be trained, and would the colleges be run by the military or educators? Women and women's colleges also entered into the debate: "Urging a national service act for women, the American Council on Education's President George Zook said: 'It is clear that women students cannot expect to pursue college as usual while their brothers and male friends are rushed off. . . . Courses for women are going to be shortened and they are going to be directed toward preparation for specific types of war service. . . . These war jobs are going to appear to college women to be hard and distasteful. Stronger words could be used for what many of the men are going through.' "cite web
title=Who Will Run the Colleges?
accessdate= 2008-08-07
date= 26 October 1942
work= TIME

Women's College Coalition

The Women's College Coalition (WCC) was founded in 1972 and describes itself as an "association of women's colleges and universities – public and private, independent and church-related, two- and four-year – in the United States and Canada whose primary mission is the education and advancement of women." [ [http://www.womenscolleges.org/about/wcc Women's College Coalition:About Us] ]


Two of the Seven Sister colleges made transitions during and after the 1960s. The first, Radcliffe College, merged with Harvard University. Beginning in 1963, students at Radcliffe received Harvard diplomas signed by the presidents of Radcliffe and Harvard and joint commencement exercises began in 1970. The same year, several Harvard and Radcliffe dormitories began swapping students experimentally and in 1972 full co-residence was instituted. The departments of athletics of both schools merged shortly thereafter. In 1977, Harvard and Radcliffe signed an agreement which put undergraduate women entirely in Harvard College. In 1999 Radcliffe College was dissolved and Harvard University assumed full responsibility over the affairs of female undergraduates. Radcliffe is now the "Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study" in Women's Studies at Harvard University. The second, Vassar College, declined an offer to merge with Yale University and instead became coeducational in 1969. The remaining Seven Sisters decided against coeducation. Mount Holyoke College engaged in a lengthy debate under the presidency of David Truman over the issue of coeducation. On 06 November 1971, "after reviewing an exhaustive study on coeducation, the board of trustees decided unanimously that Mount Holyoke should remain a women's college, and a group of faculty was charged with recommending curricular changes that would support the decision." [cite news | url=http://www.mtholyoke.edu/cic/about/detailed.shtml| title=Mount Holyoke:A Detailed History| publisher=mtholyoke.edu| date= | accessdate=] Smith College also made a similar decision in 1971. [cite news | url=http://www.smith.edu/collegerelations/presidents.php| title=Smith Tradition| publisher=smith.edu| date= | accessdate=] In 1969, Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College (then all-male) developed a system of sharing residential colleges. When Haverford became coeducational in 1980, Bryn Mawr discussed the possibly of coeducation as well, but decided against it. [cite news | url=http://www.brynmawr.edu/visit/history.shtml| title=A Brief history of Bryn Mawr College| publisher=brynmawr.edu| date= | accessdate=] In 1983, Columbia University began admitting women after a decade of failed negotiations with Barnard College for a merger along the lines of Harvard and Radcliffe (Barnard has been affiliated with Columbia since 1900, but it continues to be independently governed). Wellesley College also decided against coeducation during this time.

A few historically black women's colleges became coeducational: Barber-Scotia College adopted coeducation in 1954; Tillotson College (a women's college from 1926-1935) is now coeducational Huston-Tillotson University; Hartshorn Memorial College merged with Virginia Union University in 1932; and Mary Allen Seminary [ [http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/MM/kbm8_print.html Mary Allen Seminary] ] became coeducational in 1933. Bennett College, originally founded as a coeducational school, became a women's college in 1926.

Mississippi University for Women changed its single-sex admissions policy to include men in 1982 following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in "Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan". The court found that the university would be in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause if it denied admission to its nursing program on the basis of gender [ [http://www.ihl.state.ms.us/universities.html Mississippi IHL - Mississippi's Universities ] ] . The 5-4 opinion was written by Justice O'Connor, who stated that "In limited circumstances, a gender-based classification favoring one sex can be justified if it intentionally and directly assists members of the sex that is disproportionately burdened." She argued that there are a disproportionate number of women who are nurses, and that denying admission to men "lends credibility to the old view that women, not men, should become nurses, and makes the assumption that nursing is a field for women a self-fulfilling prophecy." ["Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan", 458 U.S. 718 (1982)] The ruling did not require the university to change its name to reflect its coeducational status. [ [http://www.muw.edu/pie/vision.html MUW - Planning and Institutional Effectiveness ] ] .

On May 3, 1990, the Trustees of Mills College announced that they had voted to admit male students. [cite news | first= | last= | url=http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F30610F73C540C778CDDAC0894D8494D81 | title=Venerable School for Women Is Going Co-ed| publisher=nytimes.com.com | date= 1990-05-04| accessdate=] This decision led to a two-week student and staff strike, accompanied by numerous displays of non-violent protests by the students. [cite news | first= | last= | url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0CE6DE1738F936A35756C0A966958260 | title= Mills Students Protesting Admission of Men| publisher=nytimes.com.com | date= 1990-05-05| accessdate=] [cite news | first= | last= | url=http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F30616FC355E0C758CDDAC0894D8494D81 | title= Disbelieving and Defiant, Students Vow: No Men| publisher=nytimes.com.com | date= 1990-05-06| accessdate=] At one point, nearly 300 students blockaded the administrative offices and boycotted classes. [cite news | first= | last= | url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0CE1DE133EF93BA35756C0A966958260| title= Protest Continues at College Over Decision to Admit Men| publisher=nytimes.com.com | date= 1990-05-08| accessdate=] On May 18, the Trustees met again to reconsider the decision, [cite news | first= | last= | url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0CE5DA1130F931A25756C0A966958260| title= College to Reconsider Decision to Admit Men| publisher=nytimes.com.com | date= 1990-05-12| accessdate=] leading finally to a reversal of the vote. [cite news | first= | last= | url=http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F30616F63C550C7A8DDDAC0894D8494D81| title= Women's College Rescinds Its Decision to Admit Men| publisher=nytimes.com.com | date= 1990-05-19| accessdate=]

21st century history

Beginning in late 2004 the debate concerning coeducation resurfaced when, citing decreased enrollment, Wells College, announced that it would adopt coeducation. [ [http://www.wells.edu/whatsnew/wnnwar50.htm#trustees Wells College - News ] ] In response, there were student protests on campus. [ [http://www.auburnpub.com/articles/2004/10/01/news/news01.txt AuburnPub.com - Trustees greeted by angry students ] ] [ [http://www.auburnpub.com/articles/2004/10/03/news/news02.txt AuburnPub.com - Students stage sit-in to protest ] ] [ [http://www.auburnpub.com/articles/2004/10/10/news/news03.txt AuburnPub.com - Wells students not going home ] ] Parents of students also became involved in the protests. [ [http://www.auburnpub.com/articles/2004/10/11/news/news03.txt AuburnPub.com - Angered Wells parents feel left out ] ] Some of the students stated that their protests were patterned after those which happened at Mills College in the early 1990s. [ [http://www.auburnpub.com/articles/2004/10/04/news/news02.txt AuburnPub.com - Wells students' sit-in patterned after Mills ] ] A website called "Wells for Women" was also established. [ [http://www.geocities.com/wellscollegepetition/ Wells for Women ] ] When the decision to adopt coeducation was approved, students filed a lawsuit which was eventually rejected. [ [http://www.msmagazine.com/spring2005/wellscollege.asp Ms. Magazine | When Wells Run Dry: Another women's college opens the door to men ] ] Wells became coeducational in 2005.

A few other colleges became coeducational. Immaculata University and Lesley College also announced that they would be adopting coeducation around this time and became coeducational in 2005. In 2006, H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College was dissolved as part of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (it is now a part of Tulane University). In 2007, Douglass College of Rutgers University merged with the coed Rutgers College, changing its name to the "Douglass Residential College." While a part of Rutgers, it will offer dormitories and classes exclusively for women. Regis College became coeducational in 2007.

Debate increased when Randolph-Macon Woman's College announced that it would adopt coeducation and change its name. Former Interim president Ginger H. Worden argued (in a 17 September 2006 editorial for the "Washington Post") that it was not economically feasible for the college to remain single-sex as young women are no longer interested in attending women's colleges. [cite news | first=Virginia| last=Worden| url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/15/AR2006091500939_pf.html| title=Why We Had No Choice but to Go Coed| publisher=washingtonpost.edu | date=2006-09-17| accessdate=2006-10-20] In response, a number of presidents of women's colleges challenged Worden's article, arguing that other women's colleges are still doing well and attracting students. This includes: Agnes Scott College, [cite news | first=Elizabeth| last=Kiss| url=http://www.agnesscott.edu/news/newsDetails.aspx?Channel=%2FChannels%2FAdmissions%2FAdmissions+Content&WorkflowItemID=46ad7d9b-8645-4f7a-ba6b-0a67bfa466b2| title=Reaffirming Our Commitment to Women’s Education | publisher=agnesscott.edu | date= | accessdate=2006-10-20] Columbia College, [cite news|first=Caroline|last=Whitson|url=http://www.columbiacollegesc.edu/news/2006/news_2006_thecase.asp|title=The case for women’s colleges| publisher=thestate.com | date= 2006-10-17| accessdate=2006-10-20] The Seven Sisters, [cite news | first= April| last=Simpson| url=http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2006/11/05/sisters_dont_want_a_future_in_coeducation/| title='Sisters' don't want a future in coeducation: Women's colleges see an obligation| publisher=boston.com| date=2006-11-05 | accessdate=2006-11-06] a separate article from Mount Holyoke College, [cite news |first=Joanne|last=Creighton|url=http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2007/05/21/why_we_need_womens_colleges?mode=PF|title=Why we need women's colleges| publisher=boston.com | date= 2007-05-21| accessdate=2007-05-21] [ [http://www.mtholyoke.edu/offices/president/14897.shtml Mount Holyoke College :A Tradition of Their Own] ] Simmons College, [cite news |first=Susan|last=Scrimshaw|url=http://bostonworks.boston.com/news/articles/2006/10/04/yes_to_womens_colleges/ |title=Yes to women's colleges| publisher=boston.com | date= 2006-10-04| accessdate=2006-10-14] Sweet Briar College and Hollins University. [cite news | first= | last= | url=http://www.roanoke.com/editorials/commentary/wb/wb/xp-82587 | title=Women's colleges must be an option| publisher=roanoke.com | date= 2005-09-14| accessdate=2006-10-14] In addition, there were numerous protests on campus including rallies, blocking administrative offices, mass requests for transfer transcripts, banners all over campus, striking from classes, and participation in quiet protest to highlight lack of student voices in the board of trustee votes. [cite news | url=http://www.newsadvance.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=LNA/MGArticle/LNA_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1149190292109&path=| title=R-MWC sends message to board of trustees|publisher=NewsAdvance.com |date = August 29, 2006| first= Janet | last=Nguyen | accessdate = 2007-02-18] [cite news | url=http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=RMWC | title=YouTube footage of campus protests and efforts to save RMWC|publisher=Youtube |date = December 15, 2006| first= | last= | accessdate = 2007-02-18] This led to the formation of a non-profit "Preserve Education Choice" (PEC), [ [http://www.preserveeducationalchoice.org Preserve Education Choice] ] comprised of students, faculty, and alumnae who are trying to reverse the decision. Two lawsuits were filed by "Preserve Educational Choice". [ [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/21/AR2006102100901.html Coed Vote Brings Legal, Financial Repercussions] ] On January 23, 2007, both lawsuits were dismissed in Lynchburg Circuit Court. [ [http://www.newsadvance.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=LNA/MGArticle/LNA_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1149192817387&path= Challenges to coed decision dismissed] ] PEC raised enough money, however, to appeal both dismissals [http://www.jacksonville.com/apnews/stories/070207/D8Q4O7F02.shtml] and a group of nine students brought the case to the Virginia Supreme Court where "Richmond lawyer Wyatt B. Durrette Jr. asked the state's high court to grant an appeal of the group's lawsuit. [ [http://www.dailypress.com/news/local/virginia/dp-va--scova-coedvote-la0709jul09,0,5437428.story?coll=dp-headlines-virginia Va. Supreme Court hears argument for appeal of coed challenge] ] In addition, Professor emeritus of romance languages, Charlotte Stern, published the 24 page letter (with signatures from alumnae, former professors and a former president of Randolph's board of trustees) condemning the decision on the PEC website. [cite news | url=http://www.preserveeducationalchoice.org/SternopenletterRevised.pdf| title=How the Board of Trustees Hijacked R-MWC Right Before Our Eyes|publisher=Preserve Educational Choice Inc.| date=30 June 2007 | first=Charlotte | last=Stern| accessdate = 2007-07-22|format=PDF] cite news | url=http://www.newsadvance.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=LNA%2FMGArticle%2FLNA_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1173352092666&path=!news!archive| title=She said, she said: The coed debate broken down|publisher=The News & Advance | date=22 July 2007 | first=Christa| last=Desrets| accessdate = 2007-07-22] Ginger Hill Worden, Interim President, responded to this letter. [cite news | url=http://www.randolphcollege.edu/strategicplan/20reasons_response.asp| title=Ginger Hill Worden, Interim President, responds to What Every Trustee Should Know and 20 Reasons Why You Should Change Your Vote|publisher=Randolph College| date= | first=Ginger Hill| last=Worden| accessdate = ]

The Virginia Supreme Court agreed to hear appeals in both the student contract and charitable trust cases. The Court affirmed the trial court's decision in both cases in opinions issued June 6, 2008. [cite news | url=http://www.newsadvance.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=LNA/MGArticle/LNA_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1173352841194&path= | title=Richmond Appeals go to Virginia Supreme Court|publisher=The News & Advance | date=31 July 2007 | first=Christa| last=Desrets| accessdate =] It was re-named Randolph College on July 1, 2007, when it became coeducational.

Notable alumnae of women's colleges

Women's colleges in the United States have produced a number of important alumnae in the arts, politics, and in the sciences. [cite news | first=| last=| url=http://www.womenscolleges.org/alumnae/default.htm| title=Alumnae of Women's Colleges | date=| accessdate=]

ee also

* List of current and historical women's universities and colleges in the United States
*Timeline of women's colleges in the United States
* Seven Sisters (colleges)
*Women's colleges in the Southern United States
*Women's College Coalition

Further reading

*Creighton, Joanne V. " [http://www.mtholyoke.edu/offices/president/14897.shtml A Tradition of Their Own: Or, If a Woman Can Now Be President of Harvard, Why Do We Still Need Women’s Colleges?] ."
*Guy-Sheftall, Beverly. "Black Women and Higher Education: Spelman and Bennett Colleges Revisited." "The Journal of Negro Education", Vol. 51, No. 3, The Impact of Black Women in Education: An Historical Overview (Summer, 1982), pp. 278-287.
*cite news | first=Elizabeth| last=Kiss| url=http://www.agnesscott.edu/news/newsDetails.aspx?Channel=%2FChannels%2FAdmissions%2FAdmissions+Content&WorkflowItemID=46ad7d9b-8645-4f7a-ba6b-0a67bfa466b2| title=Reaffirming Our Commitment to Women’s Education | publisher=Agnes Scott College | date= | accessdate=2006-10-20
* Harwarth, Irene B. " [http://www.ed.gov/pubs/WomensColleges/index.html A Closer Look at Women's Colleges] ." National Institute on Postsecondary Education, Libraries, and Lifelong Learning, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, 1999.
*---, Mindi Maline and Elizabeth DeBra. " [http://www.ed.gov/offices/OERI/PLLI/webreprt.html Women's Colleges in the United States: History, Issues, and Challenges] : Executive Summary." U.S. Department of Education National Institute on Postsecondary Education, Libraries, and Lifelong Learning.
*Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research (IUCPR). " [http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news/page/normal/3705.html New study finds women’s colleges are better equipped to help their students] ."
* Horowitz, Helen Lefkowitz. " [http://books.google.com/books?vid=ISBN0870238698&id=Z3qWLyDZ8PsC&pg=PP1&lpg=PP1&ots=xMmu_yuuHV&dq=alma+mater&sig=N7RcPpZKbQvPM1m5ohSuIcu_KxU#PPP1,M1 Alma Mater: Design and Experience in the Women's Colleges from Their Nineteenth-Century Beginnings to the 1930s] ," Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993 (2nd edition).
*Muhlenfeld, Elisabeth and Nancy Gray. " [http://www.roanoke.com/editorials/commentary/wb/wb/xp-82587 Women's colleges must be an option] ." "The Roanoke Times", September 14, 2006.
* Rosenberg, Rosalind. " [http://beatl.barnard.columbia.edu/learn/documents/coeducation.htm The Limits of Access: The History Of Coeducation in America] ." In "Women and Higher Education: Essays from the Mount Holyoke College Sesquicentennial Symposia." Ed. John Mack Faragher and Florence Howe. New York: Norton, 1988.
*cite news |first=Susan|last=Scrimshaw|url=http://bostonworks.boston.com/news/articles/2006/10/04/yes_to_womens_colleges/ |title=Yes to women's colleges| publisher="The Boston Globe" | date= 2006-10-04| accessdate=2006-10-14
*cite news | first= April| last=Simpson| url=http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2006/11/05/sisters_dont_want_a_future_in_coeducation/| title='Sisters' don't want a future in coeducation: Women's colleges see an obligation| publisher="The Boston Globe" | date=2006-11-05 | accessdate=2006-11-06
*cite news|first=Caroline|last=Whitson|url=http://www.columbiacollegesc.edu/news/2006/news_2006_thecase.asp|title=The case for women’s colleges| publisher=Columbia College | date= 2006-10-17| accessdate=2006-10-20


External links

* [http://www.womenscolleges.org/ Women's College Coalition]

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