Women of Williams Homepage

In the spring of 1971, seven women walked across the Williams commencement stage to receive diplomas for the first time in the institution’s history. In the fall of 1971, the first four-year class of women and men arrived on campus.

In the spring of 1971, seven women walked across the Williams commencement stage to receive diplomas for the first time in the institution’s history. In the fall of 1971, the first four-year class of women and men arrived on campus.

While the impact of half a century of coeducation on the Williams undergraduate experience has been profound, the legacy forged upon the Society of Alumni—the Williams beyond Williams—has been equally significant. Alumnae pushed our community to be more inclusive, expansive and interconnected than ever before.

This is an opportunity to reflect on the term ‘alumnae,’ acknowledging the historical shifts of inclusive language. It is a moment to celebrate the pathbreaking women of 1969-1975 who first claimed the recognition, particularly the transfer and exchange women who paved the way. This is also a time to recognize, honor, and acknowledge all alumnae across gender diversity, identity, and expression who have since affirmed their space at Williams and shaped the Purple Valley and the world beyond.

In marking the milestones of 50 years of coeducation and 200 years of the Society of Alumni, we look toward 2050 as the year when the Society will finally achieve gender parity. With all members of the Eph community, and for all those who will come after - we chart a collective future of belonging, gender equity, and a truly inclusive definition of ‘Women of Williams.’

This moment is part celebration, part critical reflection, and part forward momentum. It is an invitation to “Dwell with the Gallant, till the suns and mountains never more shall be.”

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save the date

Women of Williams Conference
May 19-21, 2023

Alumnae of every age and stage are invited to share their journeys and be their most authentic selves.

~ Enjoy inspirational and engaging conference programming ~
~ Learn from other Williams women ~
~ Experience meaningful, memorable takeaways ~

events

woman seated looking down at phone with purple and gold banner above her

Women of Williams Conference

5/19/2023 at 8:00am ET

Mark your calendars now for a special three-day conference featuring Women of Williams across all ages and stages!

Purple Prose Book Club & Author Talk

5/18/2022 at 2:00pm ET

Find your copy of our March-May 2022 Purple Prose Book Club reading selection The Henna Artist, and save the date for a special author talk featuring Alka Joshi.

Williams @ Work – Distill the Data: How to Tell a Nonprofit’s Social Impact Story with Existing Resources and Effective Practices

5/24/2022 at 3:00pm ET

Alison LaRocca ’06, president & CEO of Luminary Evaluation Group, will reveal how you can leverage existing impact data to tell a compelling story about your organization’s impact.

Dwelling of the Gallant: Women of Williams

6/10/2022 at 2:45pm ET

Join us for an inspiring Reunion 2022 program featuring four Women of Williams from across the decades, as we celebrate the profound impact more than 13,000 alumnae have had on Williams and the world.

stories

Celebrate the distinct experiences and impact of half a century of Williams Women in this collection of stories—and contribute your own "tweet-sized" reflection!

“Some Sort of Honor”

Band Director Fran Cardillo welcomed women to the band hoping they would consider being the first “some sort of honor.” For these three women it might have been an honor but mostly it was “just so much fun.”

First Female Athletes Reflect on Culture and Competition

The College’s first coeducational class in the fall of 1970 included approximately 95 women and about 1,250 men, and the first women’s athletic teams were formed alongside long-standing men’s teams. In this look back from the Williams Record, women spoke to the benefits and challenges that joining the athletic community posed.

‘Pioneer Williams women’

In this Williams Record feature, read about the lesser-known history of women learning at the College long before coeducation was ever on the horizon — women who studied alongside male students but did not receive degrees until years or decades later, if they received a degree at all.

Williams Women in Arts Leadership

Williams women who run museums and galleries discuss their experiences, their influences and the future of their organizations with Pamela Franks, Class of 1956 Director of WCMA.

‘Like an adventure’: The beginnings of coeducation, 50 years ago

This Williams Record article by Irene Loewenson and Kiara Royer follows Williams’ path to coeducation, women’s residential and social life, and experiences of sexism.

Breaking the Code

Three alumnae—Sarah Megan Thomas ’01, Hilary Klotz Steinman ’90 and Amy Butler Greenfield ’91—reveal the untold stories of female spies and codebreakers during World War II, in this Williams Magazine interview by Williams Spanish and comparative literature professor Soledad Fox Maura.

‘Freed by Title IX’

Coinciding with the College’s move towards coeducation, Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs including athletics, was passed in June 1972. Learn about the first official female varsity sports teams in this Williams Record feature by Kiara Royer ’24.

Williams Women

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the graduation of the first women admitted to Williams as first-year students, Williams Magazine takes a look at the lives and the impact of these Ephs—one from each decade—and that of one of the newest additions to their ranks.

Early Days for One Woman at Williams, 1970-1973

As part of the Society of Alumni Bicentennial, Thomasin Jean Berry ’73 writes about her experience being among some of the first female students at Williams.

burn

Bret Hairston ’21, an English major with a concentration in Africana studies, explores the subjectivity of Black women in their prose and poetry.

Giving Back Purposefully

After being diagnosed with cancer, Isa Catto ’87 found joy in meaningful giving alongside other Williams women.

How Did We Get Through?

Jackie Laughlin ’75 reflects on the ongoing work of building the Black legacy at Williams in this “Every Person Has a Story” narrative.

An American Tragedy

Jiayang Fan ’06 shares the double bind of being an Asian woman in this Williams Magazine excerpt adapted from her New Yorker magazine piece, “The Atlanta Shooting and the Dehumanizing of Asian Women,”

In the Game

Learn how the 1972 anti-discrimination law known as Title IX played out in Williams athletics, in this Williams Magazine feature by Peter May ’73 commemorating the 40th anniversary of Title IX.

videos

Hear the narratives and perspectives of Ephwomen across the decades in these recorded events celebrating Women of Williams.

timeline

Learn about the history of Women of Williams in this composite timeline, courtesy of the Williams College Archives & Special Collections; the Society of Alumni Bicentennial Archival Committee; and the Williams College Timeline of Inclusion and Exclusion.

1793

Williams College opens with eighteen (male) undergraduates.

1798 November

The Adelphic Union, Williams’ literary/debating society, argues ‘Whether Females Ought to be Educated Equally with Males.’ The dispute is settled in the negative. This same topic will be debated four times over the next three years.

1837

Oberlin College accepts women students making it the first coed college in America.

1848 July

The Seneca Falls Convention, the first woman’s rights convention in the world, is held in upstate New York.

1859 March

The Adelphic Union again debates ‘Ought Women to be admitted as Students in our Colleges?’

1869

Swarthmore College goes coed. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton found the National Woman Suffrage Association.

1871

Prof. John Bascom moves to appoint ‘a committee to examine the subject and report at the next yearly meeting, as to the propriety of admitting women to pursue the college course of study with the other sex.’ (Vidette Sept. 16, 1871)

1871 September

‘As far as regards the … assertion, that women have a right to as good an education as men, we reply, of course they have; just as good. But they do not, therefore, need the same.’  (Student editorial, Vidette Sept. 30, 1871)

1871 October

‘The Senior class at Williams College did, in reality, vote not to allow ladies to attend the Saturday morning recitations in the catechism under Dr. Hopkins… the Senior class has a right to say, as it thus did indirectly, that it does not wish ladies to be admitted…’ (Vidette Oct. 28, 1871)

1871 November

‘With all the various institutions and modes of teaching which have sprung up in our midst, to meet the wants of a progressive age, are there not better and fitter seminaries in which women may be educated…?’ (Alumnus letter, Williams Review Nov. 27, 1871)

1872 June-July

In June the majority and minority reports regarding Williams going coed are presented at the Society of Alumni meeting. The majority report, while upholding the right of women to higher education, decline to have women attend Williams. (Vidette July 6, 1872)

1896

Throughout the 19th century, women appear on campus, suitably chaperoned, for houseparties.

1915 November

Women’s suffrage is voted down in Williamstown.

1920 August

On August 18, the 19th amendment is ratified, guaranteeing all American women the right to vote.

1931

Williams College grants its first degree to a woman, Beatrice (Wasserscheid) Acly. A secretary in the Dean’s Office, Ms. Wasserscheid successfully petitioned the Board of Trustees to allow her to complete her Master’s degree in American Literature.

1935

Emily Cleland is the first woman to teach at Williams, completing her husband’s Geology 6 course in spring 1935 upon his death.

1946

After the War, 778 veterans return to campus, 69 of them with wives. A number of these women found their way to the classroom where, as the 1946 yearbook noted, ‘their eagerness to learn . . . has aroused the admiration of the faculty to a man.’

1955

‘When the subject of coeducation was brought up at a Gargoyle-Scarab dinner last year, President Baxter smiled, ‘Not in my time.’’ (Williams Alumni Review May 1956)

1958

Doris deKeyserlingk comes to Williams to reorganize the Russian Department. She is the first tenured female faculty member at the College.

1962 June

The trustees decide to implement the Angevine Committee’s recommendation that the College provide housing, dining and social facilities for all undergraduates. This decision effectively leads to the abolition of fraternities at Williams.

1965 September

Fred Rudolph, Prof. of History, authors a report on the possibility of establishing a coordinate college, using the model of Harvard and Radcliffe, and situating it at Mount Hope.

1967 April

The Trustees appoint a joint faculty-trustee Committee on Coordinate Education and Related Questions. For the next two years, the Committee wrestles with coeducation options. One option centers on establishing a coordinate college (sometimes referred to as ‘Mary’). Other possibilities under consideration include exchange arrangements, or urban centers used by several cooperating colleges with resident faculty.

1969 January

Committee X, a subcommittee of the Committee on Coordinate Education, produces its interim report on the effect of the addition of women students on the curriculum. Although ‘studies of course preferences in a variety of coeducational and coordinate institutions indicate that men and women tend to make different choices,’ the Committee recommends a ‘plural curriculum.’

1969 January

The faculty vote, without dissent, to recommend that the College ‘include undergraduate women in its educational program in significant numbers at as early a time as is feasible.’

1969 January

Thirty exchange students from Vassar arrive at Williams to study for the spring semester. They live in Goodrich House, Goodrich Annex, and Doughty House.

1969

Yale, Princeton, Kenyon and Trinity go coed.

1969 February

The Student Committee on Co-ordinate Education and Related Matters is established. Eight (male) students proceed to visit a variety of coordinate and newly-coed institutions to inform their April report supporting coeducation at Williams. The Committee reports that its ‘decision is a deliberate choice made in light of Williams’ unique identity…’

1969 April

African-American students take over Hopkins Hall issuing fifteen non-negotiable demands regarding the admission of African-American students, hiring of Black administrators and faculty, and strengthening the Afro-American Studies program.

1969 Spring

The Vassar exchange students report that their ‘experience has been a very good one for all of us’ while noting that they have noticed that men and women students behave differently in the classroom.

1969 May

The College reviews the effect of women students on course enrollments.

1969 May

The faculty vote by voice vote, without dissent, ‘recommend[ing] that Williams College include undergraduate women in its educational program in significant numbers…’

1969 June

Responding to the final report of the Committee on Coordinate Education, the Trustees vote unanimously to admit women on a regular undergraduate basis beginning fall 1971. Admitting women will effectively grow the undergraduate population from 1250 to 2000 and ‘add to the range of studies’ offered. (Williams Alumni Review​ summer 1969)

1969 September

Sixty-two exchange students from the original Ten College Exchange Program arrive at Williams.

1969 October

The Vietnam moratorium envelopes the Williams community.

1969 Winter

Williams Record editor reports on a student poll regarding coeducation: 81% are in favor, 14.5% oppose.

1969 December

Five women receive acceptances to Williams, making them the first women who will receive undergraduate degrees from the College, as part of the Class of 1971. Williams will also admit cohorts of female transfer students to graduate with the Classes of 1972, 1973, and 1974.

1970

Colgate, Johns Hopkins and the University of Virginia go coed.

1970 February

The College hires its first female dean, Nancy McIntire. ‘Although I wasn’t called, and didn’t want to be called, ‘Dean of Women’ I was very conscious that that was one of the reasons I was here and one of my real interests was to make sure that the experience was a positive experience…’

1970 April

College Council recommends coeducational living arrangements.

1970 May

Students vote to strike protesting Pres. Nixon’s escalation of the Vietnam war and sending troops into Cambodia without consulting Congress. Faculty cancel classes.

1971 June

The first group of women students graduate: Jane Gardner, Judy Allerhand, Christy Shepard, Gair Hemphill, Joan Hertzberg (Class Valedictorian), Karen Mikus, and Ellen Josephson.

1971 September

Williams offers its first course on women, titled ‘The American Woman,’ taught by Professor of History Fred Rudolph.

1971 September

The Society of Alumni celebrates its 150th Anniversary, as the college welcomes the first four-year class of women to the Class of 1975.

1971

Jada Wattansiritham, a 26 year old research economist from Thailand, becomes the first woman enrolled at the Center for Development Economics.

1971

Gail Walker Haslett, a 29-year-old biochemist, is elected as a three-year Term Trustee of the College, making her the first women trustee ever to serve at Williams.

1972

Title IX is passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972, stating “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

1972 September

The Williams Graduate Program in the History of Art matriculates its first class of students: nine women and three men.

1973

Bobette Reed Kahn becomes the first Black woman to graduate from Williams College.

1975 January

Katharine (Mills) Berry ’57, Judith (Husband) Kidd ’64, Elizabeth Stoddard (Phillips) ’61 and Linda (Freeman) Armour ’62 each complete Williams coursework, 1957-1964 collectively. In January 1975, the College decides to grant them their degrees retrospectively.

1975

Eileen Julian is hired as an assistant dean in 1975 and moves into a tenure track faculty position by 1977, making her one of the first tenure track Black woman faculty.

1976

Pamela G. Carlton (Class of 1976) becomes the first woman graduate of Williams to serve as a Trustee of the college.

1976

Janet Brown (Class of 1973) becomes the first woman graduate of Williams to serve on the Executive Committee of the Society of Alumni.

1976

Gail Peek is hired in the Political Science Department, making her the first tenure track Black woman faculty.

1979

Joan Edwards is hired in the Biology Department, making her the first woman who identifies as Asian to be in a tenure track faculty position.

1980

Surviving spouses of alumni who died during the preceding year are elected for the first time as honorary members of the Society of Alumni, a practice that continues at each annual meeting.

1981

Beatrice Acly is honored at Commencement as the first woman to have received a degree from Williams, 50 years earlier.

1983

Nancy McIntire begins role of Assistant to the Vice President for Affirmative Action.

1983

Women’s Studies approved as an interdepartmental program with the full support of the administration and the Committee on Educational Policy.

1985

President Oakley adds sexual orientation to the non-discrimination policy at Williams College.

1988

Katharine Berry (Class of 1957) becomes the first woman elected as President of the Society of Alumni.

1993

Carmen Arroyo is hired as a tenure track faculty in the Psychology department, making her the first self identified female Latina tenure track faculty hire.

1999

Wendy W. Hopkins (Class of 1972) becomes the first woman to serve as Director of Alumni Relations and Secretary of the Society of Alumni.

2018

Maud S. Mandel named 18th President of Williams College, the first woman president.

2050

257 years after Williams’ founding, the Society of Alumni is projected to reach gender parity.

photos

Scroll down memory lane with a sampling of archival photographs and preserve your own as part of the Williams College Archives.