In 1833 Oberlin College became the first American college to grant undergraduate degrees to women. Over 40 years later Western Reserve College granted its first undergraduate degree to a woman. In the meantime, Reserve’s Medical School conferred the second regular American medical degree to a woman in 1852, and also graduated 6 of the first 7 women with regular medical degrees in the country. Case Institute of Technology did not begin regular peacetime admission of women to its undergraduate program until 1960. Clearly, the advancement of women’s education at CWRU has not followed a linear path.
Many factors contributed to opening higher educational opportunities to women. It took courage and tenacity on the part of the women who broke each barrier. It took the assistance of the male faculty and trustees. It also took the support of groups of women: support boards, alumnae associations, study commissions, and others.
In 2003, the Archives, with support from the Flora Stone Mather Alumnae Association, developed a small web site to celebrate the personal achievements of the individual women who were CWRU’s “firsts” – students, faculty, administrators, and philanthropists.
In honor of the Celebrating Women endowment campaign, this web site is being expanded to highlight the shared achievements of women acting together to advance women’s educational opportunities at Case Western Reserve University. The first groups featured are the Flora Stone Mather Alumnae Association and Mather Advisory Council. They contributed funds, influence, and moral support, establishing a century-plus tradition of support for women’s education.