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Coordinate Colleges for American Women

A Convergence of Interests, 1947-78


Linda C. Morice

Coordinate Colleges for American Women: A Convergence of Interests, 1947–78 explores the history of the coordinate college—a separate school of higher learning for women connected to an older, all-male institution. This book places special emphasis on three (previously all-male) liberal arts colleges located in the Midwest and upstate New York. They established women’s coordinate colleges in the years following World War II, but ended them by 1980, becoming fully coeducational. The author draws on new primary sources to show that, in each case, a coordinate college was created to meet the converging interests of the founding institution—not to improve the education of women. The work is set in the context of four major social movements during the mid-to-late twentieth century involving civil rights, student rights, antiwar protest, and women’s liberation.

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Chapter 3. A Bequest in Search of a Home


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In June 1882, Hanover College conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws degree on Maria Mitchell, discoverer of “Miss Mitchell’s Comet” and professor of astronomy at Vassar.1 Aside from her prominence, the event was notable in two respects: (1) Hanover President Daniel Webster Fisher stated, “So far as I know, this was the first instance … in the United States [in which] the Doctorate of Laws was given to a woman, and I could learn only one precedent in the world at large.”2 (2) By 1882 Hanover had graduated 484 men—but no women.3 Founded in 1827 as an academy for young men—and operating since 1833 as a male liberal arts college—Hanover adopted coeducation in 1880 and admitted female students the following year. President Fisher wrote that the trustees wanted to mark the occasion by awarding an honorary degree to a woman who would be “universally recognized as worthy of such distinction.”4 Although the Indianapolis News covered Mitchell’s receipt of the Doctor of Laws from the Indiana college, the event was inaccurately reported elsewhere.5 According to Fisher, the press credited Mitchell’s honorary degree to Dartmouth College, perhaps confusing Hanover College with Hanover, New Hampshire, where Dartmouth is located. Additionally, from 1896 to the present, publications have incorrectly stated that Maria Mitchell received a degree from Hanover College in 1832, or 1852, or 1853—long before Hanover admitted women.6 By ← 61 | 62 → contrast, there...

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