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Deering Library October 2019 – June 2020

On the Same Terms: An Exhibition

The decision to admit women to Northwestern looks like it came with an easy-to-define moment in history: June 23, 1869. That’s when the Board of Trustees recorded in its handwritten minutes: “Resolved that we approve of the admission of young women to the classes of the University upon the same terms and conditions as young men…” 

But the truth is, the history of education of women, womxn and gender-diverse individuals at Northwestern is complex. University Archives is the home of Northwestern history, and much of that complex history is well documented in our collections. Here we present the beginning of this story told in full in the cases of Deering Library.

Explore the History

The exhibition “First in a Long Line” examines the twisty and tenuous path Northwestern took to educating college-age women in an era when it was not yet widespread.

Social Reform Sweeps into Evanston

Northwestern University's decision to admit women students in 1869 came during a time of expanding opportunity for women and a wave of schools opening their doors to women.

Learn more about this wave of social reform. 

In this way, the inconvenience and evils which many dread may be avoided.”

Northwestern president, Erastus O. Haven, on the concept of housing and supervising women separately in a sister school, to prevent excessive commingling of men and women students on one campus.

Read about the solution proposed by Haven.

Fireworks and Fire

By September of 1871, coeducation, of a sort, had begun at Northwestern through the Evanston College for Ladies. But the summer of 1871 brought with it the Great Chicago Fire, which shaped the history of coeducation at Northwestern.

Learn about how Evanston College for Ladies became the Women’s College of Northwestern. 

See the Exhibit

This exhibition in Deering Library draws on records, photographs and correspondence from University Archives to examine the 1869 decision and the precarious first years of coeducation at Northwestern. The display will remain on view through Commencement 2020.

Visit the Libraries Website for Details