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At 85, Alumnae Association Assesses Its Future
"FOR THE MONTH of February, we will resign our editorial chairs to the Co-eds of the University, bless 'em! At the end of the month, the Co-eds, bless 'em! will return the mutilated publication to our hands for repairs." -- Punch Bowl, January 1902.
The first women gained admission to Penn in 1876, but gaining respect and access to the same college opportunities as their male classmates came much later. The same was true of Penn's earliest female graduates, who, after being shut out of the all-male General Alumni Society, formed their own group -- the Association of Alumnae -- on February 7, 1912.
In the 85 years since, the group waged a decades-long battle for a women's dormitory (won in 1960 with the opening of what is now Hill House); pushed for a swimming pool for women in the 1920s (Hutchinson Gym and Pool was the result); conducted an educational survey that led to the admission of women to the Engineering and Wharton schools in 1954; and in 1963 helped establish the Continuing Education for Women program, later expanded to include men because of its success.
Today, the Association, which became part of the General Alumni Society in 1946, continues to sponsor various projects, but now that women make up half the undergraduate student body -- and as graduates, can participate in the organizations of their choice -- does the Association of Alumnae still serve a need at Penn? A questionnaire was recently sent to 268 Penn alumnae to find out what they think.
"What we found out was there were still some people who desired to have this continue, particularly because of the stress on women as far as [juggling] education and jobs and managing a home and playing multiple roles," says Association President Sally Jannetta, PT'57. "Our focus this year will be to implement some new programs with [women's issues] in mind and to increase our new membership."
According to the self-study report, survey respondents agreed that an alumnae association can still play an important role by: facilitating alumnae involvement in Penn's development; giving women a special voice at the University; providing bonding, camaraderie, and reinforcement for many generations of women; and developing leadership skills for women.
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