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Women's colleges in the United States are U.S. institutions of higher education that exclude or limit males from admission. 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




Education for girls and women was initially provided within the family, by local dame schools and public elementary schools, and at female seminaries found in every colony but limited to young ladies from families with the means to pay tuition and, arguably, still more limited by the focus on providing ladylike accomplishments rather than academic training. These seminaries or academies were usually small and often ephemeral, usually established founded by a single woman or small group of women, they often failed to outlive their founders. In evaluating the many claims of various colleges to have been the "first" women's college, it is necessary to understand that a number of these eighteenth or early 19th century female seminaries later grew into academic, degree-granting colleges, while others became notable private high schools. However, to have been a female seminary at an early date is not the same thing as to have been a women's college at that date.

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.


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." 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, Massachusettsmarker) in 1834; it was re-chartered as a college in 1912. In 1837, Lyon founded Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (Mount Holyoke Collegemarker), it was chartered as a college in 1888. 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.". Both Vassar Collegemarker and Wellesley Collegemarker were patterned after Mount Holyoke. 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.
Some early women's colleges, such as Oread Institute chartered as a college for women in Worcester, Massachusettsmarker 1849, failed to survive.

Another early women's school was the Moravian Collegemarker, founded as a female seminary in 1742 in Germantown and later moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvaniamarker itwas 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.[366927] The Moravians of Salem, North Carolina began what is now Salem College in 1772 in Winston-Salemmarker.

While there were a few coeducational colleges (such as Oberlin Collegemarker founded in 1833, Antioch Collegemarker in 1853, and Bates Collegemarker in 1855), almost all colleges and universities at that time were exclusively for men. The first generally-accepted coordinate college, H.marker Sophie Newcomb Memorial Collegemarker, (with Tulane Universitymarker), was founded in 1886, and followed a year later by Evelyn College for Women, the coordinate college for Princeton Universitymarker. The model was quickly duplicated at other prestigious universities. Notable nineteenth century coordinate colleges included Barnardmarker (with Columbia University), Pembroke (with Brown Universitymarker), and Radcliffe College (with Harvard Universitymarker).

While the majority of women's colleges are private institutions, there were a few public colleges. In 1884 the legislature of the state of Mississippimarker established Industrial Institute & College, (later Mississippi University for Women) the first public college for women in the United States. Other states soon followed: Georgiamarker created Georgia State College for Women in 1889, and North Carolinamarker created North Carolina Women's Collegemarker in 1891. This is similar to the establishment of Douglass Residential College marker which was founded as the New Jersey College for Women in 1918 by Mabel Smith Douglass.


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

World War II

In 1942 during World War II, 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.' "

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 Statesmarker and Canadamarker whose primary mission is the education and advancement of women."

Coeducation

Two of the Seven Sister colleges made transitions during and after the 1960s. The first, Radcliffe College, merged with Harvard Universitymarker. 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 Collegemarker, declined an offer to merge with Yale Universitymarker and instead became coeducational in 1969. The remaining Seven Sisters decided against coeducation. Mount Holyoke Collegemarker 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." Smith Collegemarker also made a similar decision in 1971. In 1969, Bryn Mawr Collegemarker and Haverford Collegemarker (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. In 1983, Columbia University began admitting women after a decade of failed negotiations with Barnard Collegemarker 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 Collegemarker also decided against coeducation during this time.

A few historically black women's colleges became coeducational: Barber-Scotia Collegemarker 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 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.marker Supreme Courtmarker 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. 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." The ruling did not require the university to change its name to reflect its coeducational status..



On May 3, 1990, the Trustees of Mills Collegemarker announced that they had voted to admit male students. This decision led to a two-week student and staff strike, accompanied by numerous displays of non-violent protests by the students. At one point, nearly 300 students blockaded the administrative offices and boycotted classes. On May 18, the Trustees met again to reconsider the decision, leading finally to a reversal of the vote.

21st century history

Beginning in late 2004 the debate concerning coeducation resurfaced when, citing decreased enrollment, Wells Collegemarker, announced that it would adopt coeducation. In response, there were student protests on campus. Parents of students also became involved in the protests. Some of the students stated that their protests were patterned after those which happened at Mills Collegemarker in the early 1990s. A website called Wells for Women was also established. When the decision to adopt coeducation was approved, students filed a lawsuit which was eventually rejected. Wells became coeducational in 2005.

A few other colleges became coeducational. Immaculata Universitymarker and Lesley College also announced that they would be adopting coeducation around this time and became coeducational in 2005. In 2006, H.marker Sophie Newcomb Memorial Collegemarker was dissolved as part of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (it is now a part of Tulane Universitymarker). In 2007, Douglass Collegemarker of Rutgers Universitymarker merged with the coed Rutgers Collegemarker, 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. 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 Collegemarker, Converse College (Spartanburg, SC), Columbia College, The Seven Sisters, a separate article from Mount Holyoke Collegemarker, Simmons Collegemarker, Sweet Briar Collegemarker and Hollins University.

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. This led to the formation of a non-profit "Preserve Education Choice" (PEC), comprised of students, faculty, and alumnae who are trying to reverse the decision. Two lawsuits were filed by Preserve Educational Choice. On January 23, 2007, both lawsuits were dismissed in Lynchburg Circuit Court. PEC raised enough money, however, to appeal both dismissals 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. 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. Ginger Hill Worden, Interim President, responded to this letter.

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. 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.

Forbes Top Ten Women's Colleges

In August, 2009, Forbes Magazine offered their choice of the ten best women's colleges in the United States:

  1. Barnard Collegemarker
  2. Bryn Mawr Collegemarker
  3. Cedar Crest Collegemarker
  4. Mills Collegemarker
  5. Mount Holyoke Collegemarker
  6. Simmons College
  7. Smith Collegemarker
  8. Spelman College
  9. Sweet Briar Collegemarker
  10. Wellesley Collegemarker


See also



Further reading



Notes

  1. The Rise of Women's Colleges, Coeducation
  2. Women's College Coalition:About Us
  3. Mary Allen Seminary
  4. Mississippi IHL - Mississippi's Universities
  5. "Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan", 458 U.S. 718 (1982)
  6. MUW - Planning and Institutional Effectiveness
  7. Wells College - News
  8. AuburnPub.com - Trustees greeted by angry students
  9. AuburnPub.com - Students stage sit-in to protest
  10. AuburnPub.com - Wells students not going home
  11. AuburnPub.com - Angered Wells parents feel left out
  12. AuburnPub.com - Wells students' sit-in patterned after Mills
  13. Wells for Women
  14. Ms. Magazine | When Wells Run Dry: Another women's college opens the door to men
  15. Mount Holyoke College :A Tradition of Their Own
  16. Preserve Education Choice
  17. Coed Vote Brings Legal, Financial Repercussions
  18. Challenges to coed decision dismissed
  19. http://www.jacksonville.com/apnews/stories/070207/D8Q4O7F02.shtml
  20. Va. Supreme Court hears argument for appeal of coed challenge
  21. Why Women's Colleges Are Still Relevant


External links




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