Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: December 16, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963992 | Print ISBN: 9781412906784 | Online ISBN: 9781412963992| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Women's Colleges, Historic
Mary K. Clingerman
In the nineteenth century, American women found few opportunities to pursue any higher learning because collegiate education was available only to men. During this century, most women who chose to attend college went to a women's college, and the majority of those women enrolled at one of the “Seven Sister” schools in the Northeast. These schools are Mt. Holyoke (1837), Vassar (1865), Wellesley (1875), Smith (1875), Radcliffe (1878), Bryn Mawr (1885), and Barnard (1889). From their experimental nineteenth-century origins to their presently declining numbers, these colleges provided unique environments that fostered rigorous intellectual growth. This entry briefly recounts their history and accomplishments. In the early nineteenth century, common schools rapidly cropped up across the country and provided instruction in the basic rudimentary skills (reading, writing, and arithmetic), but these new schools required cheap labor to run them. Society looked to hard-working young women of middling backgrounds to fill this role. ...