Women at Michigan Technological University
This article is about the history of women as students and staff at Michigan Technological University from soon after its establishment in 1885 to the present day. It focuses on their presence, status and attitudes towards them.
Women began to attend classes at Michigan Technological University, then the Michigan College of Mines, around 1890. The early female students were mostly daughters of professors or wealthy businessmen of the Houghton, Hancock area. They were allowed to take classes and were given special student status, which meant that they could be enrolled in courses but were not able to receive a degree. In other words, they paid the same money as the men in order to come to class and do all the work but received little for their work.
The first woman to receive a degree from MCM was Margaret R Holley, who was born in Lake Linden and received a liberal arts degree at a different university outside of the Upper Peninsula. She then moved back to Houghton to work on a chemistry degree, which she received in 1933 and two years later received a masters in chemistry from this school.
The first woman faculty member of the Michigan College of Mines came in 1927, her name was Ella Wood and was hired as an assistant professor for the Humanities department. She was made an associate professor by 1928, a full professor by 1935 and the head of geography and languages by 1937. Professor Wood was accepted into the university five years before women were allowed to pursue degrees. She also worked in the library and taught meteorology to assist with pilot training sessions to students during WWII. Her presence encouraged many young ladies to apply for special student status and take classes at the school and ultimately allowed women to receive degrees at this school. As co-ed enrollment increased, she promoted women involvement on campus and co-educational programs. She also became the academic advisor to all female students and thoroughly enjoyed the role of "mother" that she was able to play here to all of her students. Dr. Wood also held the title "Dean of Women", making her the first woman to receive the title Dean at the university.
Another early woman was Lucille Brinkman who was one of the first girls to do all of her degree work at Michigan College of Mines. Lucille’s brother helped her though school and later gave an interview about her to the Daily Mining Gazette. He said that his sister had to endure a lot of abuse from the other students and even her professors. One story he told was one day she went to class dressed in ski pants because she didn’t have enough time to change before her class started. At one point during the lecture the professor began to tell filthy stories about his or his friends experiences with women. When the professor realized that there was a woman in his class he told Lucille that “this is an engineering school and absolutely no place for a woman.” The professor later said if she had worn a dress and not ski pants he would have been aware of her presence and would not had told those stories.
The first woman varsity athlete was Nada J. Fenton, who was a member of the rifle team during the 1950s. She was a graduate of Houghton High school and entered MTU in 1952. Nada holds the record of being the first woman to ever fire on a varsity rifle team in the world.
As of the spring semester in 2010, the total enrollment at Michigan Technological University is 6,730. Of those students, 1,713 of them were females; which means female students make up about 25.4% of the enrollment at Michigan Tech.
- Michigan Tech Alumnus Jan/Feb 1967 V.4 #2
- "Co-eds- Past and Present." Michigan Tech Alumnus Magazine 1964:4-5
- The Daily Mining Gazette
- MTU archives vertical files Women at Tech
- Mroz, Glen. (2008, September 29). Mroz discusses Enrollment, Research, Finance and More at Forum. Tech Today.
- Nordberg, E. (August 2004). Co-eds in the early days of Tech. Alumnus from the Archives. Retrieved from Vertical File: Women at Tech, in the Michigan Tech Archives & Copper Country Historical Collections.
- Enrollment statistics. (2010, Spring). Retrieved from https://www.banweb.mtu.edu/pls/owa/stu_enrl_stats.p_display