Women's college

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Women's colleges in higher education are undergraduate, bachelor's degree-granting institutions, often liberal arts colleges, whose student populations are composed exclusively or almost exclusively of women. Some women's colleges admit male students to their graduate schools or in smaller numbers to undergraduate programs, but all serve a primarily female student body.

Women's colleges around the world[edit]

Women's colleges in the United States[edit]

Early history[edit]

Women's colleges in the United States were a product of the increasingly popular private girls' secondary schools of the early- to mid-19th century, called "academies" or "seminaries." According to Irene Harwarth, et al.,[1] "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." While there were a few coeducational colleges (such as Oberlin College founded in 1833, Lawrence University in 1847, Antioch College in 1853, and Bates College in 1855), most colleges and universities of high standing at that time were exclusively for men.

Critics of the girls’ seminaries were roughly divided into two groups. The reform group, including Emma Willard, felt seminaries required reform through “strengthening teaching of the core academic subjects.” Others felt seminaries were insufficient, suggesting “a more durable institution--a women’s college--be founded, among them, Catharine E. Beecher. In her True Remedy for the Wrongs of Women (1851),[2] Beecher points out how “seminaries could not offer sufficient, permanent endowments, buildings, and libraries; a corporation whose duty it is to perpetuate the institution on a given plan.”[1][3]

Another notable figure was Mary Lyon (1797-1849), founder of Mount Holyoke College, whose contemporaries included Sarah Pierce (Litchfield Female Academy, 1792); Catharine Beecher (Hartford Female Seminary, 1823); Zilpah P. Grant Banister (Ipswich Female Seminary, 1828); George Washington Doane (St. Mary's Hall, 1837 now called Doane Academy). Prior to founding Mount Holyoke, Lyon contributed to 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.[4]

Women's College Coalition[edit]

The Women's College Coalition is an association of women’s colleges and universities that are two- and four-year, public and private, religiously affiliated and secular. It was founded in 1972, at a time in which the Civil Rights Movement, the Women's Rights Movement, and Title IX, as well as demographic and technological changes brought about rapid and complex social and economic change in the United States. Additionally, the landscape of higher education dramatically changed as many previously all-male colleges became coeducational, offering women many more educational options. By the late 1970s, women’s enrollment in college exceeded men’s and, today, women make up the majority of undergraduates (57% nationally) on college campuses. Women earn better college grades than men do, and are more likely than men to complete college.

During the past several years, the Women’s College Coalition engaged in research about the benefits of a women’s college education in the 21st Century. Drawing upon the findings of research conducted by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and Hardwick-Day on levels of satisfaction among students and alumnae at women’s colleges and coeducational institutions, as well as the Association of American Colleges and Universities, NAICU and others, the Coalition makes the case for women’s education and women’s colleges to prospective students, families, policy and opinion makers, the media, employers and the general public.

Women's Colleges and Universities in North America[edit]

Women's colleges in Asia[edit]

Women's colleges in Europe[edit]

United Kingdom[edit]

Mary Astell was one of the first English women to advocate the idea that women were just as rational as men, and just as deserving of education. First published in 1694, her Serious Proposal to the Ladies for the Advancement of their True and Greatest Interest [5] presents a plan for an all-female college where women could pursue a life of the mind.[6]

Women's colleges in the Middle East[edit]

Kingdom of Bahrain
United Arab Emirates
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Most major universities in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are composed of two branches: a women-only branch and a similar male-only branch. This includes the following universities:

The following are female-only institutions:



Brescia University College is Canada's only university-level women's-only educational institution. Brescia is affiliated with and located on the campus of The University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Harwarth, Irene; DeBra, Elizabeth; Maline, Mindi (1997). "Women's Colleges in the United States: History, Issues, and Challenges". http://books.google.com (National Institute on Postsecondary Education, Libraries, and Lifelong Learning, U.S. Dept. of Education). Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  2. ^ Beecher, Catharine E (1851). True Remedy for the Wrongs of Women; with a history of an enterprise having that for its objective. Boston: Phillips, Samson & Co. 
  3. ^ Smith, Wolf and Morrison. Paths to Success: Factors Related to the Impact of Women’s Colleges. p. 263. 
  4. ^ Horowitz, Helen Lefkowitz (1993) [1984]. "Alma Mater: Design and Experience in the Women's Colleges from Their Nineteenth-Century Beginnings to the 1930s". http://books.google.com (Alfred A. Knopf, NY (1984); University of Massachusetts Press). ISBN 0585083665. OCLC 43475535. Retrieved 2013-09-12. 
  5. ^ Astell, Mary. "Serious Proposal to the Ladies for the Advancement of their True and Greatest Interest: in two parts (1697)". London: Printed for Richard Wilkin. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  6. ^ The Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections (RMC). "Women in the Literary Marketplace (1800-1900): Mary Astell". Cornell University. OCLC 54305884. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  7. ^ About Brescia University College

External links[edit]