September 6, 1837 — Oberlin Collegiate Institute of Ohio went co-ed today in 1837 with 4 women and 30 men.
Oberlin College pioneered “the joint education of the sexes,” enrolling women students beside men from its opening in 1833. As Philo P. Stewart wrote, the Oberlin Collegiate Institute held as one of its primary objectives: “the elevation of the female character, bringing within the reach of the misjudge and neglected sex, all the instructive privileges which hitherto have unreasonably distinguished the leading sex from theirs.”
While the first women took classes with men, they pursued diplomas from the Ladies Course. In 1837, four women, Mary Kellogg, Mary Caroline Rudd, Mary Hosford and Elizabeth Prall, enrolled in the Collegiate Department, and in 1841, all but Kellogg graduated. Kellogg, who had left school for lack of funds, later returned to Oberlin after marrying James Harris Fairchild, future Oberlin College president.
Oberlin fused its commitment to coeducation with its support for the education of African Americans. So, in 1862, Oberlin graduated Mary Jane Patterson, the first African American woman to earn a college degree. Oberlin also enrolled Margru, also known as Sarah Kinson, who, as an African child, had been among the Amistad captives; Kinson was probably the first African woman to participate in American higher education.
Throughout its history, Oberlin has graduated remarkable women of passion, commitment, and achievement. Among the most famous nineteenth-century women included Antoinette Brown Blackwell (pictured above), Lucy Stone, Anna Julia Cooper, and Mary Church Terrell.
Words of Wisdom
I think, with never-ending gratitude, that the young women of today do not and can never know at what price their right to free speech and to speak at all in public has been earned.