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Harvard's History of Women


The Massachusetts Bay Colony founds a small college in Massachusetts.

Reverend John Harvard donates an estate, a generous amount of money, and a collection of 250 books to support the institution, and in his honor the school is renamed Harvard College.

The Society for the Collegiate Instruction of Women is founded, with the aim of providing women with an education equal to that at Harvard. The first president is Elizabeth Cary Agassiz. To ensure that classes are of the highest caliber, all lectures are given by Harvard faculty. The school is quickly nicknamed "The Harvard Annex."

The Annex is chartered as Radcliffe College by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Society is renamed in honor of the first woman to donate money and establish a scholarship at Harvard College, Anne Radcliffe. Her personal coat of arms is adopted as the coat of arms for Radcliffe College.

During World War II, Harvard and Radcliffe reached a formal agreement, allowing Radcliffe students to enroll in all courses at Harvard College. Women students are allowed into Harvard classrooms for the first time.

The donation of Maud Wood Park's suffrage papers forms the nucleus of Radcliffe's Schlesinger Library, today the foremost library on the history of women in the United States.

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, a professor of Astronomy, became the first female in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences to be promoted to full-professor. She later became the first female to head a department at Harvard.

Radcliffe students are granted Harvard diplomas signed by both presidents upon completion of their required course of study. Radcliffe Graduate School is closed down and women are first accepted to Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Coeducation living begins as an experiment in the spring. The first joint Harvard and Radcliffe commencement is held in Harvard Yard.

All Harvard and Radcliffe houses become coed.

Harvard Yard is opened to female residents.

Limits on the number of women undergraduates are abolished.

Harvard and Radcliffe come to an agreement reaffirming the financial and corporate independence of Radcliffe College, but delegating to Harvard the responsibility for women's undergraduate education in return for all tuition and financial aid funds from Radcliffe students. Radcliffe students become Harvard students with all the rights, responsibilities and privileges thereof.

Dean Henry Rosovsky established the Committee on Women's Studies (CWS), in response to petitions by both students and faculty members. In 2003, CWS changed its name and mandate to become the current Committee on Degrees in the Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality (WGS).

On October 1, Radcliffe College and Harvard University officially merged, thereby establishing the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard.

In Fall 2006 Harvard opened a Women's Center, which aims to promote awareness of gender issues.

Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust was appointed as the first female president of Harvard University.
Claudine Gay was appointed as the first woman and first Black person to be dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University.
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