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50 Years of Women at
Yale College

5   Milestones
for Womxn on Campus


Nathan Hale—who enrolled at Yale in 1769—debated the question “Whether the education of daughters be not without any more just reason neglected than that of our sons” and wins with the affirmative position.

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The startled registrar cleared his throat. “I’m sorry, but women are not admitted.”

“Why not?” The cool eyes rested upon him.

“Why—er—they never have been.”

“You’ll have to admit me,” the young woman put in grimly. “There isn’t a thing in your catalogue that bars women.”


Lucinda Foote received an admission interview for Yale College. While the admissions committee acknowledges that she was qualified, she is denied an acceptance letter. Her sex is cited as the sole reason for her rejection.


Yale School of Fine Arts became Yale’s first co-educational school in 1869. Alice and Susan Silliman are admitted into the graduate program alongside the traditional cohort of male students.


Yale Law School accidentally admitted its first female student—Alice Rufie Blake Jordan—who applied using only her initials. MORE


Yale Graduate School admits women for the first time; 20 female students enroll.

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Yale awards PhDs to female students for the first time.

7 women in a class of 21 received their degrees. MORE


Florence Bingham Kinne was the first female instructor at Yale; her title in the Pathology Department was Assistant in Instruction. She held this position 11 years before the Yale School of Medicine began to admit female students.


Jane Addams is the first female awardee of an Honorary Degree (a Master of Arts). MORE


Anna Maria Rhoda Erdmann is hired as Yale's first female lecturer.


The first women were admitted to the Yale School ofMedicine after a Yale Corporation vote on June 16th. MORE

Helen Robertson Gage is the first woman to graduate with a Master’s in Public Health from Yale. Four years later, she also became the first woman to earn the DrPH degree from Yale.


Dr. Louise W. Farnam is the first woman to receive a medical degree from the School of Medicine.

Catherine Turner Bryce becomes the first female Assistant Professor (in Elementary Education).

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Yale School of Nursing was established, and it remained an all female institution until 1955.


Annie Warburton Goodrich became the first dean of the Nursing School, also making her the first female dean at Yale. MORE

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Drama School opens, and women are admitted in the first classes. One third of the first class was female, and one quarter of the faculty was comprised of women.


Otelia Cromwell was the first African American woman to receive a doctorate from Yale, with her PhD in English.


The first women are admitted to Yale Divinity School, and the first two female graduates received their degrees in 1935.


Beatrix McCleary Hamburg became the first African American woman to graduate from the School of Medicine in 1948.

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Professor Bessie Lee Gambrill in the Department of Education, became the first woman to receive tenure at Yale outside of the School of Nursing.


Ellen Ash Peters, a graduate of Yale Law School ‘54, became the first female faculty member of YLS two years later. She was appointed to the Connecticut Supreme Court in 1978, and Chief Justice in 1984. In 1994 she became the first female president of the Conference of Chief Justices.


Marie Borroff was the first female appointed to the Department of English. She was later the first female appointed to the position of a Sterling Professor.

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Pauli Murray was the first African American to receive a doctorate from Yale Law School. She enrolled at Hunter College in the 1920s, graduating in 1933 after deferring her studies following the Great Depression. She enrolled in the law school at Howard University and graduated first in her class. MORE


The first women were admitted to the School of Forestry, which was the last of the professional schools to admit women.


President Brewster announced that Yale would begin the transition to a coeducational institution on November 14th.


He made the announcement in the Trumbull dining hall, and said that the women arriving next year would live in Trumbull College.

“Coeducation Week” had started just ten days earlier, as a test run for coeducation at the undergraduate level. Elga Wasserman, Assistant Dean of the Graduate School, was appointed to lead the planning of the transition to coeducation. By 1965, 75% of American colleges had already gone coeducational. MORE

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Yale College entered first year of coeducation.

In regards to the females' applications being superior to the mens,' one admissions officer remarked that they were“the female versions of Nietzsche’s Übermensch.”

Amy Solomon was the first female to register for freshman classes.

The Yale Slavic Chorus and the New Blue are founded as the first all-female singing groups.

Jan Costelle was  the first female to win a place on the Yale debate team.

Betsy Thomas was appointed “Dean of Women.”

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Yale’s first cohort of women undergraduates (transfer students) graduated on June 14th.

Secret societies Book and Snake, Manuscript, Berzelius, Elihu, and fraternity society St. Anthony Hall all began to accept women.

Nancy Kaplan became the first female manager of a varsity sport after being offered the position for the wrestling team as a joke. She was later moved to the position of “statistician” to appease the Yale Athletic Board.


Women’s Squash, Tennis, and Field Hockey teams were the first women’s teams elevated to Varsity status.


first class of women who came to Yale as freshmen graduate (177 of the original 230; 12 graduated early and some enrolled in the 5 year BA program)


Yale adopts sex blind admissions in January. 

Mory’s admits 80 women as members, 125 years after its founding. 

Rosemary Stevens becomes the first female master of a residential college, Jonathan Edwards. 

The Yale Undergraduate Women’s Caucus is formed. 


The Office for Women in Medicine is created.


Sue Halpern ’77 and Sarah Deutsch ’77 become two of the thirteen women awarded Rhodes Scholarships in the first year the scholarships are awarded to women. 

Women’s Caucus successfully works to set up a “Woman’s Space” in Hendrie Hall.

Provost Hanna Holborn Gray begins her term as acting President of Yale University after the resignation of Kingman Brewster and served in this capacity for 14 months. 


Lisa Brachman is elected as the first female president of the Yale Political Union.


Female enrollment reaches 46% of freshman class.

This is 6% over the goal of a 60/40 ratio.

The Women’s Studies Program is approved as a permanent part of the Yale curriculum.

Women’s Volleyball wins the Ivy League Title, but is cut from varsity to club level. 

Anne Gardiner Perkins becomes the first female editor-in-chief of the YDN. 

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The first issue of Aurora, a feminist magazine at Yale, is published.


Whim-n-Rhythm holds its first concert.


Yale Women’s Fencing Team wins Yale women athletics’ first national championship.


Margaret Chen was the first woman elected as YCC president.


The Women’s Table, created by Maya Lin, is commissioned to commemorate the 20th anniversary of women at Yale.

Maya's design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC was chosen in a national design competition for the memorial while she was still an undergrad at Yale. In 2016, she was one of the recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.


Judith Rodin was the first woman to be appointed dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Skull and Bones taps its first class that includes women.

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For the first time in Yale history, women outnumber men in the freshman class, with a ratio of 50.7% women to  49.3% men.


Women’s Health Research at Yale is founded by Dr. Carolyn Mazure.


Rebecca Chopp becomes the first female dean of the Yale Divinity School. MORE

Sharon Oster becomes SOM’s first tenured female faculty member to be appointed Dean of the Yale School of Management. MORE

Emilie Townes was the first woman and the first African American to serve as Yale Divinity School’s associate dean of Academic Affairs.


Weili Cheng is the first female Yale College graduate to serve as chair of the Yale Alumni Association.


Deborah Berke is the first female dean of the Yale School of Architecture.

Marta Kuzma is the first female dean of the Yale School of Art.

Indy Burke is the first female dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Heather Gerken is the first female dean of Yale Law School.



The first residential college named after a woman with the opening of Pauli Murray College. Calhoun College was also renamed to Grace Hopper College, making history as two residential colleges are now named after women. 

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First female admitted to The Whiffenpoofs (Sofia Campoamor ‘19)

Vicky Chun is Yale’s first female athletic director.


2019 marks 50 years of coeducation at Yale College.


Four Yale women (Lillian Moore-Eissenberg ’20, Christina Pao ’20 and Liana Wang ’20, and recent graduate Laura Plata ’19) won Rhodes scholarships, the largest number of women from Yale to receive the award in a single year.

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