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125 Years of Women at Penn

From studies to sports--from staff to senior administration-- from faculty to trustees--Penn women have been there and done that in the past 125 years. Much has changed since two women broke with tradition and enrolled at the University in 1876. This Timeline of Women Pioneers and Women's Achievements at the University of Pennsylvania is adapted from the extensive website, compiled and edited in July 2001 by University Archivist Mark Frazier Lloyd. For more on Women at Penn: 125 Years of History also see the celebration's website, which has a schedule of events and memories from Penn women.

[click on thumbnails below to see larger image and details. Photos courtesy of University Archives]

1876-1879: Women first appear at Penn as Special Students

1876 On October 13, two women--Gertrude Klein Peirce and Anna Lockhart Flanigen--enrolled as special students in the Towne Scientific School (the present-day SEAS). They were the first women to be admitted to collegiate courses customarily leading to a University degree. As special students, however, they were not eligible for a degree but took courses in the Department of Chemistry. In December, the Trustees established the Department of Music and adopted the academic requirements for the Bachelor of Music degree. This was the first academic program at Penn to admit women from the date of its establishment.



In June, the Trustees closed the Charity School, re-directing the income of the Charity School trust to collegiate scholarships for young men and to instruction for "female students" so far as the Provost thought appropriate at the UniversiIty.

1879 The Trustees announced that "persons of both sexes are now admitted" to the classes in English, Classics, History, Social Science, and Speculative Philosophy (or "Darwinism"), in the College; to the classes in General Chemistry, Physics, and Analytical Chemistry, in the School of Engineering; and to all classes in the Department of Music. They also announced the establishment of the Bloomfield Moore Fund, the income of which was dedicated to the education of women who planned to become teachers. The Bloomfield Moore Fund was the first endowment for women's education at Penn.

1880-1900: Women are first admitted as degree candidates on a limited basis; programs & schools specifically for women appear

1881 The Wharton School was founded, but did not admit women.
1882 The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences was founded and was the first to admit women at its establishment to courses leading to a degree. Rt. Rev. William Bacon Stevens, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania and also one of the Trustees of the University, then introduced a resolution explicitly prohibiting the admission of women to the College. The Trustees adopted the Bishop's resolution, but also adopted a resolution offered by another Trustee, George Whitney, "that the Trustees will organize a separate Collegiate Department for the complete education of women, so soon as funds are received sufficient to meet the expense thereof." The Trustees thereby committed themselves to establishing a college for women at Penn, but more than 50 years passed before the College for Women matriculated its first students.
1889 In October, the Senior Class in the College organized a protest against co-education and presented a petition to the Trustees signed by virtually all the members of the class. In November, however, the Trustees accepted the offer of Joseph M. Bennett to endow a college for women.
1890 In December, the Trustees formally established the Graduate Department for Women by adopting a resolution assigning the entire faculty of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences to secondary appointments in the Graduate Department for Women.
1894 In July the Trustees established a four-year course, leading to the degree of Bachelor of Science in Biology and open to men and women "on equal terms." This was the first, modern, full-time, four-year, undergraduate course open to women.

1901-1919: Women emerge in administrative and academic positions and as undergraduates begin to create traditions and organizations parallel to those of men


In February, women students petitioned the Trustees for the appointment of a Dean of Women. The Trustees referred to the petition to Provost Edgar Fahs Smith. No action was taken. In May, the Alumnae Association was founded.

1919 The Graduate School of Medicine was founded and matriculation was open to men and women alike.

1920-1932: Women appear on standing faculties and undergraduate women continue to develop their own college life

1920 The School of Education appointed Edith Baer, B.S., to the faculty position of Assistant Professor of Home Economics. She was the first woman to serve as an Officer of Instruction in the School of Education and the first woman to be a member of Penn's standing faculty.
1926 In June, undergraduate women held their own Ivy Day, placing the first of many ivy stones on the Chancellor Street wall of the new Bennett Hall. Women had participated in the annual Hey Day from the time of its establishment in 1916, but in 1926 the undergraduate men advised the women that they were no longer welcome.

1933-1950: College of Liberal Arts for Women is created

1933 The College of Liberal Arts for Women was founded and admitted women students only. For the first time in Penn's history, women were offered a full-time, four-year, liberal arts, undergraduate degree program. The standing faculty of the College for Women did not include any women.
1947 The College of Arts and Sciences appointed Elizabeth Farquhar Flower (A.M. 1936, Ph.D. 1939) to the position of Assistant Professor of Philosophy. She was the first woman to join the standing faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences. In 1956 she was promoted to Associate Professor and became the first woman to earn tenure in the College of Arts and Sciences.

1951-1968: Men's and women's activities at Penn begin to merge, while a few women faculty members gain tenure and advancement

1951 Women had also made major advances in the ranks of the faculty. Women had won appointments to the standing faculty in 13 of Penn's 15 schools. Only the faculties of Law and Engineering had failed to appoint or promote a woman to the rank of Assistant Professor or higher. Women held tenured faculty positions in nine of the 15--the School of Medicine, the Wharton School, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Education, the School of Fine Arts, the College of Liberal Arts for Women, and the schools of Social Work, Allied Medical Professions, and Nursing--and women held full or senior professorships in seven of those nine (Dr. Florence B. Seibert would not become Professor of Biochemistry in the School of Medicine until 1955 and no woman would hold a senior professorship in the School of Fine Arts until 1958).
1954 In February, Penn announced that in the fall semester, for the first time, women would be admitted to the undergraduate programs of SEAS and Wharton. These programs had been the last to exclude women. In September, 18 women enrolled in Wharton. Barbara G. Mandell was the first woman to enroll in SEAS.
1960 The University appointed R. Jean Brownlee (B.S. in Ed., 1934; M.A., 1936; Ph.D. in Political Science, 1940) as Dean of the College of Liberal Arts for Women. She was the first woman to be appointed Dean of that College and the third woman to be named an academic dean. In May 1959, the University had promoted her to Assistant Professor of Political Science in the Wharton School, but she was the only academic dean not to be a tenured member of the faculty.
1968 After more than 50 years of separate events, the women's and men's Hey Day ceremonies were merged in a single, co-educational program.

1969-1974: As more women are elected Trustees, the University deals with sex discrimination in faculty hiring and promotions

1970 The Faculty Affairs Committee of the University Council established the ad hoc Committee on the Status of Women. Ten months later the Committee reported that the total number of fully-affiliated University faculty of professorial rank was 1,091, but only 77 (or 7.0%) of the total were women and that only 11 women held full professorships (2.5% of the total number of senior faculty). Among fully-affiliated officers of instruction at the lower ranks, however, women held 81 (or 38.2%) of the 212 appointments of lecturers, instructors, and other positions. In addition, the total number of standing faculty in clinical medicine was 329, but only 24 (or 6.8%) were women and only 2 women held full professorships (1.7% of the total number of senior faculty).
1973 In January, the University's College of Thematic Studies offered the first Women's Studies program, an interdisciplinary set of ten courses. In April, an ad hoc group of women conducted a "Stop Rape" sit-in at College Hall and presented ten demands to the University administration "for security improvements, education to prevent rape, and medical, legal, and psychological support for victims." The number of demonstrators "ranged from 200 by day to 20 overnight" and included students, faculty, and staff. Negotiations focused on the design of a proposed Women's Center and the hiring of a security specialist dedicated full time to women's safety issues, as well as on physical plant improvements aimed at improving campus safety, such as new outdoor lighting, additional emergency telephones, and expansion of University bus service.

1975-92: Women students are fully integrated into the University, while women become ever present in the central and academic administration.

1975 The College of Liberal Arts for Women merged with the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the College of Arts and Sciences [for Men], and four social science departments in the Wharton School--Economics, Political Science, Regional Science, and Sociology--to form the new School of Arts and Sciences. Associate Professor R. Jean Brownlee, Dean of the College for Women, was appointed Dean of Academic Advising Services in the new School. She retired two years later, in June 1977. In August, the University and former Assistant Professor Phyllis R. Rackin settled out of court the litigation brought by Dr. Rackin against the University in 1973. A December 1974 ruling by the U.S. District Court found "that the University [was] engaged in state action and that this [had] profound implications in presenting a challenge to the University's authority to select and promote members of the faculty." As a direct result, in January 1975, the University's legal counsel reported to the full Board of Trustees that "strenuous efforts [were being] made to reach a fair compromise with the plaintiff." The terms of the August settlement included agreement by the University to the promotion of Dr. Rackin to the tenured faculty position of Associate Professor of English in General Honors, effective 1 July 1975, as well as the payment of all legal fees incurred in the litigation. The effect of this litigation was the opening to women of a more balanced and equitable set of procedures to be followed in the appointment and promotion of faculty at Penn.
1976 100 years after women first enrolled in the College as "special students," Penn had become fully co-educational. Penn's 13 schools were open to men and women "on equal terms" and women were enrolled in every degree program offered. Women were likewise members of the standing faculty in all 13 schools. Women had also entered the field of senior academic administration and served with distinction as deans of the schools of the College of Women, Nursing and Social Work. One of the two Vice Provosts of the University was a woman and women held two of the senior staff positions in the Office of the President. Five women were Penn Trustees.


1993-present: Women rise to the Presidency

1993 In December, the Trustees elected Judith Seitz Rodin (A.B., 1966), M.A., Ph.D., Provost of Yale, the seventh President and Chief Executive of Penn. She is the first alumna to serve as Penn's President and the first woman to serve as President of an Ivy League institution.


Almanac, Vol. 48, No. 10, October 30, 2001


October 30, 2001
Volume 48 Number 10

The answer is blowing in the wind; Penn agrees to purchase wind-generated electric energy.
The Political Science department has three newly appointed faculty members who have endowed chairs.
As winter weather approaches, the University has energy conservation initiatives ready to be implemented.
Dr. Norma Lang becomes the first woman and the first nurse to win the Codman Award.
The University celebrates 125 Years of Women at Penn, online with web sites and on campus with events.
The Government Affairs Update covers the recent developments in federal, commonwealth and city and community relations.
Volunteer opportunities in November are plentiful, including Shadowing Day and the Thanksgiving Food Drive.
There are two campus blood drives coming up in early November.