All female colleges are not as numerous as they once were. But they do still exist with many of them thriving better than ever. Though all gender institutions have been declining due to social demand, all female colleges are still going strong and bring many benefits to the educational table. What many would call ‘old-school’ is actually a growing phenomenon that is taking old standards and creating new worlds of opportunity for women.
The Original Purpose
When colleges were first built, they were for men only. Women did not have any formal education beyond that of tutors in their younger years. Colleges weren’t needed. Instead they attended finishing schools. These were designed to prepare the young ladies for their role in society as wife, mother, and hostess.
It wasn’t until 1833 that the first college allowed women to enter their hallowed doors that went beyond finishing schools and looked to extend the education of women to that equal to men. The word ‘equal’ was not as accurate but the attempt was made that would lead to more substantial colleges for women. (https://www.nwhm.org/html/exhibits/education/1800s_6.htm)
Over time, the colleges began to create programs that would educate women and train them to enter the world competitively against the men. But it would take time, brave souls to create the programs, and brave women to attend.
Those Who Have Attended
Attending all female colleges is not something that only occurred in the 1800s and early 1900s before the sexual revolution of the 1960s. It is something that many do today. You might be surprised how many famous women attended all women colleges. According to one site, these women all attended colleges just for women: Emily Dickinson, Pearl Buck, Katharine Hepburn, Sylvia Plath, Meryl Streep, Gertrude Stein, Alice Walker, Madeleine Albright, Gloria Steinem, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Diane Sawyer, Sofia Coppola, and Barbara Walters. (http://www.collegeview.com/articles/article/women-s-colleges)
All the names listed are ones we recognize. They are writers, actresses, politicians, and public relation goddesses. Obviously, these colleges know what they are doing.
The Changing Times
As mentioned, the intent of early schools for women were not to set them up to achieve successful careers in anything but as a mother and hostess. In fact, it was believed by many that women biologically could not “meet the rigors of academic study” as too much book learning might give “women brain fever.” (http://www.essortment.com/benefits-attending-womens-college-40273.html).
I’d say that times changed when you look at the women’s colleges today. These women aren’t suffering from brain fever or unable to compete with me academically and professionally. The times have changed, and they are the flagships for those changes.
Society has gone through many upheavals from integration of races to more equality for women. The colleges have begun to reflect those changes. They admitted those of other races and eventually created more co-ed universities, but the women’s colleges have still survived as they recognized many unique characteristics of women and have developed curriculum to meet them and enhance their abilities.
It is obvious from the list of alumni that the all female colleges are getting it right.
What does the future hold for all female colleges? I have to admit I’m slightly worried that women’s colleges will begin to disappear if enough men make a stink about not getting in. After all, women are arguing that they should not be kept out of all men institutions. In that regard, I fear what the future holds.
Yet these institutions have proven to be stronger than most believe they are. They have not only stood the test of time, they have grown bigger, stronger, and more influential. Female universities have outshone many co-ed institutions. Disappear anytime soon? I sincerely doubt it. They have a future which I hope is a very long one.
There are many benefits to attending an all female college. One survey reported that women who attended these colleges were “more engaged in effective educational practices and reported higher levels of feelings of support and greater gains in college.” (http://www.collegeview.com/articles/article/women-s-colleges) Other studies have shown many other benefits including:
- increased self-confidence
- strong leadership skills
- better testing scores
- potential for leadership jobs
- powerful jobs men typically have
- high number of philanthropists
(One source: https://www.saintmarys.edu/benefits)
Women who go to all female colleges are not there to learn needlework. They are prepared to take on jobs previously thought to be only for men. These women lead society in all areas and have proven to benefit it. Through these gender specific schools, they are given the training they’ll need to survive in a man’s world and leave their mark.
From their track record, women only colleges have been more than successful. They began to prepare women for the lives they would lead and wives and mothers and progressed with the times to prepare them for leading nations. These colleges don’t have to worry about co-ed problems. They focus on preparing the women who attend to take on the world and be everything they can be.