Ask Abe: New Girl(s) in Town

An Alum

When did the UW first start accepting female students?

Abe

This may seem like a simple question, but it actually has three answers: 1863, 1871, and 1874. In 1863, the UW first allowed women in its Normal Department, which taught students who would “norm” other students — that is, help to form their behavior and intellect. In other words, it taught teachers. (It was the forerunner of the School of Education, which was officially established in 1930.) However, then-president Paul Chadbourne was outspokenly opposed to the idea of coeducation, so the Normal Department was replaced by an entirely separate Female College, which opened in 1871. When Chadbourne’s successor, John Bascom, took over in 1874, the Female College was closed, and women were admitted to all departments then available within the university. In 1901, to “honor” President Chadbourne’s views on coeducation, the board of regents renamed the women-only dormitory Chadbourne Hall.