Timeline of women's colleges in the United States

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Women's Colleges The following is a timeline of women's colleges in the United States. These are institutions of higher education in the United States whose student populations are comprised exclusively or almost exclusively of women. They are often liberal arts colleges. There are approximately sixty active women's colleges in the U.S.

Colleges are listed chronologically by the date in which they opened their doors to students.

First and oldest[edit]

Main article: Timeline of women's colleges in America historically for black students

Many of the schools began as either schools for girls, academies (which during the late 18th and early 19th centuries was the equivalent of secondary schools), or as a teaching seminary (which during the early 19th century were forms of secular higher education), rather than as a chartered college. During the 19th century in the United States, "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."[1]

The following is a list of "oldest" and "first" schools:

  • 1742: Bethlehem Female Seminary, (now Moravian College): established as a seminary for girls, it eventually became the Moravian Seminary and College for Women and later merged with nearby schools to become the coeducational school, Moravian College.
  • 1772: Single Sister's House, (now Salem College): Originally established as a primary school, it later became an academy (high school) and finally a college. It is the oldest female educational establishment that is still a women's college, and the oldest female institution in the Southern United States.
  • 1803: Bradford Academy - First Academy in Massachusetts to admit women. The first graduating class had 37 women and 14 men.
  • 1818: Elizabeth Female Academy: first female educational institution in Mississippi; it closed in 1843
  • 1827: The Linden Wood School for Girls (now Lindenwood University): is the first institution of higher education for women west of the Mississippi River.
  • 1833: Columbia Female Academy (now Stephens College): Originally established as an academy (for both high school and college-aged women), it later became a four-year college. It is the second oldest female educational establishment that is still a women's college.
  • 1837: St. Mary's Hall (now Doane Academy): Originally established as a female seminary by George Washington Doane 2nd Bishop of the Episcopal Church of New Jersey. First academic school founded on church principles in the United States. Now a PK-12 Co-educational day school.
  • 1837: Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (now Mount Holyoke College): It is the oldest (and first) of the Seven Sisters. It is also the oldest school which was established from inception (chartered in 1836) as an institution of higher education for women (teaching seminary) that is still a women's college.
  • 1839: Georgia Female College (now Wesleyan College): It is the oldest (and the first) school which was established from inception (chartered in 1836) as a full college for women.
  • 1848: Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now Moore College of Art and Design): It is the first and only art school which is a women's college.
  • 1851: Cherokee Female Seminary: It is the first institute of higher learning exclusively for women the United States west of the Mississippi River. Along with the Cherokee Male Seminary, this was the first college created by a tribe instead of the US federal government.
  • 1851: Auburndale Female Seminary (now Lasell College): A private institution founded by Edward Lasell, becomes the first "successful and persistent" junior college in the United States, and the first junior college for women. It began offering four-year bachelor's degrees in 1989 and became coeducational in 1997.
  • 1851: Tennessee and Alabama Female Institute (later Mary Sharp College): It was the first women's college to grant college degrees to women that were the equivalent of those given to men; the college closed due to financial hardship in 1896.
  • 1851: "College of Notre Dame" (now Notre Dame de Namur University): This was the first women's college in California and the first in the state authorized to grant the baccalaureate degree to women. The university is now coed.
  • 1852: Young Ladies Seminary (now Mills College): It is the first women's college in United States west of the Rocky Mountains
  • 1854: Columbia Female College (now Columbia College): Located Columbia, South Carolina. The college has survived the march of General Sherman and 3 campus fires. Georgia O'Keeffe taught for a year before she created her own artistic way. The college's day program is still all-female, but its evening program is coed.
  • 1855: Davenport Female College (later Davenport College): Founded in Lenoir, North Carolina. Merged with Greensboro College in 1938.[1]

Timeline[edit]

Colonial–era schools[edit]

Moravian College, originally the Bethlehem Female Seminary founded in 1742
  • 1742: Bethlehem Female Seminary: Founded in Germantown and later moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It received its collegiate charter in 1863 and in 1913, it became the Moravian Seminary and College for Women. In 1954, it merged with the male institution Moravian College and Theological Seminary and became the coeducational school, Moravian College[2]
  • 1772: Little Girls' School (now Salem College): Originally established as a primary school, it later became an academy (high school) and finally a college. It is the oldest female educational establishment that is still a women's college, and the oldest female institution in the Southern United States.

1780s–1820s[edit]

1830s[edit]

Mount Holyoke College (Mount Holyoke Female Seminary) in 1837

1840s[edit]

  • 1841: Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College: The college was founded as an academy for young women in 1841 by a French nun, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is the nation's oldest Catholic liberal arts college for women. In 1846, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College was granted the first charter for the higher education of women in the state of Indiana. SMWC conferred its first bachelor of arts degree in 1899. The College's campus program remains an all-female institute. However, SMWC now offers co-educational distance and graduate programs.
  • 1841: Academy of the Sacred Heart (now Manhattanville College)
  • 1842: Fulton Female Academy (now Synodical College): Founded in Fulton, Missouri, it closed in 1928
  • 1842:Valley Union Seminary (now Hollins University): Established in Roanoke, Virginia as a coeducational school, it became a school for women in 1852, and was renamed Hollins Institute in 1855, Hollins College in 1911, and Hollins University in 1998
  • 1842: Augusta Female Seminary (now Mary Baldwin College): Founded in Staunton, Virginia, it became the Mary Baldwin Seminary in 1895, and the Mary Baldwin College in 1923
  • 1843: Memphis Conference Female Institute (later Lambuth University): Became coeducational in 1923. Closed in 2011; the former Lambuth campus now houses a branch campus of the University of Memphis.
  • 1843: Port Gibson Female College: closed in 1908
  • 1844: Saint Mary's College (Indiana): Founded by the Sisters of the Holy Cross
  • 1845: Baylor Female Department (established alongside Baylor University as the Female Department. Obtained separate charter in 1866, moved to Belton, TX 1886. Later names were Baylor Female College, Baylor College for Women, Mary Hardin-Baylor College, and now known as University of Mary Hardin-Baylor
  • 1845: Limestone Springs Female High School: (now Limestone College) Founded in Gaffney, South Carolina, it began accepting a few male students in the 1920s (who did not live on campus) and became fully coeducational in the late 1960s
  • 1846: Greensboro Female College: Charted in 1838 in Greensboro, North Carolina; it is now the coeducational school Greensboro College
  • 1846: Illinois Conference Female Academy: It is now the coeducational school, MacMurray College
  • 1847: Kentucky Female Orphan School (now Midway College): The school's day program on its main campus remains all-female to this day. However, it offers coeducational programs on evenings and weekends at several satellite locations around Kentucky, as well as online. It planned to open a coeducational pharmacy school at a separate campus in 2011, but withdrew that school's accreditation application for unknown reasons.
  • 1847: Academy of Mount Saint Vincent: (now College of Mount Saint Vincent). Founded by the Sisters of Charity of New York; moved from Manhattan to current Riverdale, Bronx site in the 1850s and began service as degree-granting, four-year liberal arts college in 1911. Became coeducational in 1974.
  • 1848: Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now Moore College of Art and Design): It is the first and only art school which is a women's college
  • 1848: Chowan Baptist Female Institute; it is now the coeducational school Chowan University
  • 1848: Drexel University College of Medicine: It is now, after several changes including becoming co-ed, Drexel University's College of Medicine
The Oread Institute was founded as a college in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1849

1850s[edit]

1860s[edit]

1870s[edit]

1880s[edit]

Bryn Mawr College's Pembroke Hall

1890s[edit]

1900s[edit]

1910s[edit]

  • 1911: Pine Manor College
  • 1911: Connecticut College: It became coeducational in 1969
  • 1912: Saint Joseph's College of Maine: Became coeducational in 1970
  • 1913: College of Saint Benedict: Has been partnered with the all-male Saint John's University, located about 5 miles (8 km) away, since its creation. While the two schools are legally and administratively separate, with separate residential facilities, they share a common academic program with fully coeducational classes.
  • 1914: Westhampton College: Founded as the coordinate college for Richmond College (1830) and a component of its growth into the University of Richmond (1920). Today, the academic operations of the two colleges are merged, but Westhampton College remains as the co-curricular program for undergraduate women and curricular women's studies.
  • 1914: Johnson & Wales School of Business: Started as a business school for women with one typewriter and one student. The mission “to teach a thing not for its own sake but for what lies beyond” is still in line with JWU’s current mission. The school, through many name changes is now Johnson & Wales University.
  • 1916: Russell Sage College
  • 1918: New Jersey College for Women: Founded as the coordinate college for Rutgers University and became Douglass College in 1955. In 2007, it was merged with the other undergraduate liberal arts colleges at the main Rutgers campus, at that time becoming a non-degree granting unit of Rutgers and being renamed Douglass Residential College.
  • 1919: Emmanuel College, Boston: It became coeducational in 2001

1920s[edit]

Mount St. Mary's College, Doheny campus

1930s–1980s[edit]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Notes[edit]