Literacy and Liberty

“Backlash and Barriers” How Dickinson’s Co-Educational Movement Sparked Controversy
Posted by: , November 18, 2018, 10:35 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Guiding questions: 

How did the movement towards co-education at Dickinson start? How quickly (or not) did admittance of women grow? 

How did Dickinson members react to gender integration? What resources did people use to voice their frustration/opposition?

What was the justification for co-education at Dickinson? 

What successes did female students achieve during their early years at Dickinson? How did they affect the college? 

What caused Dickinson to fully support co-education after years of opposition? How does gender integration “play out” in today’s context of the college? 


 Integration of women into higher education generated another milestone in the history of Dickinson College. 100 years after its establishment, the college admitted Zatae Longsdorff, the first woman to attend Dickinson (archives website). In the early years of integration, the community recognized the female students but still viewed the males as academically superior.  Following the increased arrival of women to campus, many members of the college refused to accept the rise in diversity. Students, faculty, alumni, and trustees expressed their concerns and frustrations through letters directed to the college’s administration. Nearly 20 years after the initiative, men (and some women) called for Dickinson to re-establish itself as an all-male institution. However, women proved to achieve greater academic success, which drew in defense from administration who supported the co-educational structure of the college. Struggles prevailed over women’s educational equality in the early 20th century, but women continued to contribute to the rich academic and social life of the college. Through various documents of community members, the attitudes and actions against co-education help to reveal their insecurities towards the rising statuses of women. Additionally, the cries of inequality from those who opposed integration fueled a resistance of young-women to achieve an equal education at Dickinson.  




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Jacob–I find the point of focus for your emerging project–not the event of going co-ed at Dickinson, but subsequent resistance to it–so fascinating, in part because we (the royal we!) are so often taught to think of “milestones,” to borrow your word, as achievements completed once and for all. I wonder if you might give a little more specificity and value to this moment of attempted institutional retrogression as you think about this strong project.

   Professor Seiler 11.20.18 @ 1:54 pm

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