Historical Milestones

1869: Coeducation 

Northwestern University began admitting women in 1869, at the insistence of University President Erastus Otis Haven, a strong supporter of higher education for women. At the time, there were only a few co-educational universities in the United States, and college-level education for women was still considered a new and somewhat revolutionary concept. Read more about the history of women at Northwestern on the University Library Website.

From the archives: 

  • "Students' conduct was regulated through an innovative honor system that allowed select 'self-governed' students unusual freedom to 'do as they please—so long as they please to do right.' Although social rules were less rigid than those of the former Northwestern Female College, the College for Ladies still instructed students in etiquette; required church and Sunday school attendance (at individual students' denomination of choice); and aimed to provide the 'safeguards of a Christian home' to vulnerable females."
    - Guide to the Records of the Evanston College For Ladies
  • "Some thought the idea of coeducation was 'insane,' with literature and history professor David Wheeler, head of the faculty committee, pointing out that 'girls required looking after.' They also worried that young women might distract the male students from the serious pursuit of their studies, while others feared that 'too much mental exertion might defeminize them.'"
    Northwestern Magazine Spring 2001

1883: First African American Student 

Daniel Hale Williams graduates from Chicago Medical College of Northwestern University. Read more about Dr. Williams from University Archives.

1917: Kappa Alpha Psi 

Northwestern's first black Greek letter organization, Kappa Alpha Psi, is installed. (Theta Chapter)

1948: Program of African Studies 

The pioneering anthropologist, Melville J. Herskovits, founded Northwestern University's Program of African Studies (PAS) in 1948, one of the earliest centers of its kind in the United States. Today, the Program serves as a vital base for the world-class Africanist faculty, students, and professionals attracted to Northwestern and its renowned Herskovits Library of Africana Studies. PAS has achieved international prominence for its production of innovative scholarship, training of African specialists, and development of new ways of thinking about the African World. Learn more on the Program of African Studies website.

1961: Ending Discrimination in Greek Life 

A non-discrimination policy was passed with the intent to allow and encourage minority students to pledge groups. Despite having passed, a change in recruitment would not be seen for several years. Additionally, a by-law deadline was set for the removal of clauses in Northwestern fraternities, which refused a local chapter the right to select members because of race, religion, or ethnic origin. Read more about this policy on the Division of Student Affairs website.

1968: Black Student Agreement after the Bursar’s Office Sit-In 

After conducting a 38-hour sit-in, more than 100 Black students were able to reach an agreement with Northwestern University administration regarding many issues of concern to the Black community and the University at large. As part of the agreement, University administration agreed to work towards making the University a more friendly and welcoming place for its growing population of Black students. Read more in a 1968 Daily Northwestern article (pdf) covering the event.

1999: Asian American Studies Program Established 

The creation of the Asian American Studies Program as a minor in WCAS began in 1995 with intense student lobbying. Four years later, in 1999, the Asian American Studies Program was established as a minor in WCAS. See the Asian American Studies website for information on this program.

2004: LGBT Resource Center Founded 

The LGBT Resource Center was formed in 2004 to increase visibility and awareness of issues surrounding gender and sexuality by uniting existing community entities and developing their own educational and training programs. See the LGBT Resource Center website for more information.

2009: Latina and Latino Studies Program Created 

The Latina and Latino Studies Program was created because of great demand on the part of Northwestern students. The program allows students to explore the histories, political experiences, cultural, material and artistic expressions, and intellectual traditions of Latinas and Latinos living in the United States. Learn more about this program on the Latina and Latino Studies website.