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Women at Northwestern Timeline

When Northwestern first opened its doors, the first faculty and students were male. Track the history of women's inclusion in Northwestern, both as faculty members and academics.

1855: Both Northwestern University and the North-Western Female College open.

The Female College was unaffiliated with Northwestern University. It faced financial difficulties, and was replaced with entirely new school, Evanston College for Ladies, which was chartered in 1869 with its founders.

1869: Northwestern Board of Trustees decides to admit women to University classes "on the same terms and conditions as young men."

They are convinced by new president, Erastus O. Haven, who was an advocate of coeducation.

1871: Francis Willard is elected President of Evanston College for Ladies.

Willard, who had graduated from the Northwestern Female College in 1859, came from a teaching career in secondary schools in New York and Pennsylvania.

That year, the Evanston College for Ladies enrolled 236 women, with classes held in the former Northwestern Female College building. Willard raised $30,000 for a new building.

1873: Evanston College for Ladies becomes Women’s College of Northwestern.

As a result of the 1872 Great Chicago Fire, Evanston College for Ladies donations dried up. Northwestern assumed management and property of the Evanston College for Ladies. It became the Women’s College, and Frances Willard served a dual role as both dean and professor of aesthetics and rhetoric. She resigned in 1874 after clashing with University President Charles H. Fowler over the rules for female students.

1877: Jane Bancroft Robinson becomes fourth Dean of Women

Bancroft taught French language and literature. In addition to teaching two-thirds the number of classes of a regular professor, as dean she was expected to supervise female students:

“Girls of 14 and 15 in the preparatory department needed close personal and motherly care. It was not unusual for the mother of such a girl to write to me to know if the teachers accompanied the young ladies in their walks.”

1886: Rena A. Michaels becomes fifth Dean of Women

Michaels, who was also a professor of French language and literature, served as the Dean until 1891.

Michaels received her MA and PhD at Syracuse University; at this time she became a founding member of the Alpha Phi sorority. In 1881, Alpha Phi became the first women's fraternal organization Northwestern.

1892: Northwestern University acquires Women’s Medical College

The school had been founded in 1870 for female medical students in the Chicago area.

One of its founders was Mary Harris Thompson, who studied medicine under Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell. Thompson stayed on at the school as a professor until her death in 1901. Read more about her.

1893: Bertha Van Hoosen, women's health pioneer

Starting as a clinical assistant in 1893, Van Hoosen became an instructor, and then professor, of embryology. An advocate for women surgeons, she later founded the American Medical Women's Association. Read more about her.

1897: Alice Hamilton, Professor of Pathology

In 1897, Alice Hamilton became a faculty member at Northwestern Women's Medical School. While in Chicago, she became involved with the Hull House, where she was a resident. She witnessed the effects of industrial work on health and became a pioneer in the field of occupational health. Read more about her.

1901: Dr. Eliza Root publishes an op-ed on co-education in Women’s Medical Journal.

Root was a faculty member at Northwestern’s Women’s Medical College. Read more about her.

1919: Dr. Anna Ross Lapham becomes the first female professor at Northwestern School of Medicine.

In addition to graduating with her MD from Northwestern, Lapham served as Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Dean of Women at Northwestern Medical School. Read more about her.

1920: Women’s Suffrage

Northwestern students had been fighting for women's voting rights for years before it was won nationally. In 1911, The Equal Suffrage League put on a play called, "How the Vote was Won."

1926: Women admitted to Northwestern Medical School

The Women’s Medical College had been dismantled due to financial difficulties in 1902.

1936: Dr. Beatrice Tucker, pioneering obstetrician

In 1936, Tucker became an Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern Medical School. In addition to her work at Northwestern, Tucker ran the Chicago Maternity Center, which provided Chicago’s working class with prenatal care and safe home birth. Learn more about her.

1941: Anne Youmans, tuberculosis researcher

Anne Youmans began work as a fellow in 1941 in Northwestern’s Microbiology-Immunology Department, where she later becomes an instructor and faculty member. She spends her career studying tuberculosis and eventually develops a vaccine with her husband, Dr. Guy Youmans. Learn more about her.

1942: Evelyn Tilden, Dental School researcher

Tilden studied the bacateria in saliva. Starting as an associate microbiology professor in 1942, she remained at Northwestern for 12 years and became a full professor and chairman of her department. Learn more about her.

1953: Psychology professor Janet Taylor Spence develops the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale

Hired as the first female instructor in Northwestern's Psychology Department in 1949, she later learned that her appointment was an experiment that was expected to fail. Learn more about her.

1955: Christina Enroth-Cugell begins a 31-year career at Northwestern.

She went on to teach for the Department of Physiology and McCormick School of Engineering as one of the school’s first female professors. Learn more about her.

1960: Dr. Augusta Webster, trailblazer.

In 1960, she became the female full professor in Northwestern’s Medical School. Later, she was first woman in the country to head a department of a major teaching hospital. Learn more about her.</a href>

1960: Patricia Thrash is appointmented the last Dean of Women until 1969

Thrash served as Associate Dean of Students from 1969-1972.

1966: Paula Stern, researcher

Stern joined the School of Medicine in 1966. She continued her research into bone cell biology for 49 years.

“Bone research has continued to be exciting, and over the years has led me to learn more about rheumatology, immunology, nephrology, cancer, cardiology, and neuroscience, as these areas impact bone.”

1971: Joyce Hughes is hired as a tenure-track professor at the Northwestern's School of Law

This makes her the nation’s first African American female tenure-track law professor, outside of a historically black college and university. She continues to work at Northwestern's Pritzker School of Law. Learn about her.

1972: Julia Weertman becomes the first female faculty member of Northwestern’s Materials Science and Engineering Department.

She became the first woman in the United States to chair an engineering department in 1987. Learn more about her.

1972: Rose Stamler, blood pressure expert

In the course of her career, she helped shift the approach to cardiovascular disease, shifting the focus from treatment to prevention. She worked at Northwestern until her death in 1998. Learn more about her.

1978: Jean Hardisty, activist

A political scientist, Hardisty helped open Chicago's first shelter for battered women in 1978. She left academia in the 1980s to study the anti-feminist women’s movement that contributed to the rise of the New Right. Learn more about her.