Light on the hill: A history of Tufts College, 1852-1952

Miller, Russell



WHEN TUFTS COLLEGE OPENED ITS DOORS in 1854, the Universalist Church had established sixteen academies or seminaries. The College was unique for the denomination in two respects: it was the Universalists' first venture into higher education, and it was the only school of any kind under their auspices that was not coeducational in some degree when it was created. Twenty years after Tufts began to receive students, the Universalists had added three more colleges to the educational scene, and all of them were coeducational from the beginning.[1]  Meanwhile, Tufts clung to a policy labeled "For Men Only."

The Trustees were made aware of this deficiency while the College was still in its infancy and were reminded of it with mounting vehemence for the next thirty-odd years until the pressure was too great to be resisted any longer. In view of the advanced ideas about the rights of women already held by most Universalists, it was not surprising that women should apply for admission almost immediately.[2]  The first such application was received by the faculty in the summer of 1856, only two years after the College opened. A young lady from South Reading (Wakefield), Massachusetts, had made the first move. The faculty was completely at a loss as to how to handle the problem, for there is no record that the


possibility of making Tufts coeducational when it was founded was ever discussed in official circles, and there were no facilities of any kind providing for this contingency. So the only alternative was to refer the matter to the Executive Committee of the Trustees. There is no record that this body took positive action either.

Although Tufts pioneered in New England by encouraging all qualified applicants to apply regardless of race or religious creed, thereby practicing what its charter preached, it had, in fact, been founded under the auspices of Universalists, and it was they who felt a sense of responsibility for its policies and its future. In 1855, even before the young lady from South Reading applied for admission, the Massachusetts Universalist Convention had resolved that "the institution known as Tufts College, in arranging the basis of its operations, consider the propriety of opening it to both sexes alike, and of awarding its honors according to proficiency in study, irrespective of sex." When Tufts' first Commencement was held in 1857, special comment was made about the large number of ladies who "graced the occasion with their cheering presence." It was somewhat archly noted that only their forbearance and liberality made their presence possible at an institution which was "pandering to old fogey prejudices" by following the narrow and unenlightened policy of not admitting women to its privileges and advantages. The denominational press was full of communications complaining that women had fully expected to enter Tufts when it opened but had been unable to do so. Their only alternative, except to wait until the College saw the light, was to enter such institutions as Oberlin or Antioch, where they would be welcomed.[3]  It was a crushing blow to see one-half the potential student population deprived of its rights to higher learning. Who was to blame? Obviously, it was "a limited minority of conservative minds . . . [who] . . . could see nothing but chaos, ruin, destruction in the mingling of the sexes in halls for highest culture."

The situation was in no way bettered for another two decades. When Dean Academy at Franklin, Massachusetts, which had been chartered in 1865 as a preparatory school for Tufts, announced in 1870 that it was inaugurating a collegiate curriculum for women


only, separate from the existing coeducational academy, the suggestion was immediately made that Tufts become coeducational. It seemed foolish to operate two separate sets of college facilities within fifty miles of each other, especially when Dean was planning to use the Tufts curriculum as a model. A writer in the Christian Ambassador commented rather tartly that "This old, fossilized idea of herding only men together in college for educational purposes" had already proved unsatisfactory in some instances. Furthermore, men had "proved themselves far less proficient in pursuit of their studies than as if they had been stimulated by the presence and ambition of lady students." To show that this desire to make Tufts coeducational was no idle threat, one of the faculty of Dean Academy presented to President Miner in 1873 the credentials of two promising young ladies who were completing their preparatory course at Dean. He asked the Tufts president point-blank if the two candidates should report to Tufts to take the entrance examinations scheduled the week after the letter was sent. If President Miner answered, the reply is not recorded.

Pressure was soon exerted from another quarter. In the course of a discussion on coeducation at a Boston club in the same year, according to a report in the Boston Globe, a clergyman had asserted that "at the time of the foundation of Tufts College he had predicted that it would never come to anything unless it admitted women to its privileges, and now he found it perfectly dead when it might have been a live institution," possibly with a woman at its head. In fact, according to the report of the clergyman's remarks in the Boston Advertiser, Tufts "might have been one of the most powerful educational institutions in the country" if it had recognized the rights of women. It was probably inevitable that someone should suggest at the same time that those who repeatedly criticized such institutions as Tufts and Harvard for not admitting women should turn their siege guns on schools like Vassar, "which slams its doors in the face of boys."

Throughout the 1870's the controversy continued to wax in fervor and intensity. Many Universalists insisted that one's sex had no more to do with the question of who should be educated than whether one's hair was red or black. The issue was not whether the individual was male or female but whether women had the physical and mental equipment necessary to be admitted to and


pursue successfully a collegiate program. If that issue was resolved in the affirmative, then logically the next question was: "Should females have the same textbooks, the same lessons, the same training, that males should have?" Even granted that a difference in kind of education was desirable, assurance had to be given that the quality would be the same as that of the education received by men. The next question, regardless of the kind of education to be made available, was a crucial one: "Should females be in the same classes with males - the two sexes having the same lessons, and reciting in common?" The answer of most Universalists was a categorical "yes"; the absolute separation of the sexes in the educating process was a poor policy for either sex.

Collegiate coeducation was urged as part of a larger goal: the elevation of the position of women at large. It would help assure that they would be reading something besides trivia and that they would talk about something more profound than the latest fashions. It was hoped that a woman, as a result of higher educational opportunity, would "indignantly revolt" at being asked to be no more than a "walking advertisement of millinery." If no more, higher education might result in respectful acceptance on the public platform, from which women had so long been excluded. The supporter of this particular point may have had in mind the experience of the first coeds at Oberlin. In spite of the vaunted "equality of the sexes" there, the young ladies who had been assigned Commencement parts had to sit meekly and mutely on the platform while a male classmate read their speeches for them.

Long before the Tufts Trustees took their first vote on coeducation, every important argument ever offered for or against the higher education of women had reverberated across the land.[4]  Half a century before, the common opinion seemed to have been that women were mentally incapable of being educated in "the higher branches." After the women had effectively disproved this, the argument shifted and the question became: "Can a woman stand the pressure of an intellectual life on her physical constitution?"


There was no one answer. President Eliot of Harvard strongly opposed coeducation; one of his arguments centered around the presumed inability of women "to bear the nervous strain of collegiate study." Simultaneously, President Andrew D. White of Cornell and President James B. Angell of the University of Michigan were arguing just the contrary. The latter reported that his institution's experiment in coeducation had been an unqualified success. "Any lady," he asserted, "who can endure the draft that modern dress and modern society make upon her, can certainly endure any college course so far as physical endurance is concerned."

While the controversy over coeducation became more vocal and attracted more public attention, Tufts College remained silent, at least officially. Certain enterprising Universalists thereupon decided to press for a decision. At the Massachusetts Universalist Convention in the fall of 1873, Mrs. E. M. Bruce of Melrose offered a preamble and four resolutions calling for forthright action to promote coeducation at Tufts. Her wording was spiced with a certain amount of righteous indignation. First of all, it was clear, at least to her, that there was no obstacle to the introduction of the system at Tufts so far as the Trustees, the faculy, and the students were concerned. Her conclusion was derived from remarks made by President Miner in the course of a public speech during the Commencement festivities earlier in the year. The Trustees, she gathered, "had never taken ground against coeducation of the sexes at Tufts"; the presence of women "would not be disagreeable to the students"; furthermore, the faculty, it appeared, "would find delight in giving them instruction." What irked her was the fact that "the President of our first College . . . proceeded openly and squarely to shift the burden of responsibility for the exclusion of female students from the shoulders of the College management to the shoulders of the people" by declaring that "the doors of the College were closed to women solely on account of, and in deference to the backward state of public opinion." The resolutions therefore included a declaration that the State Convention, at least, disclaimed all responsibility for whatever backwardness existed in public opinion; that the Universalist leaders were pioneers in advocating and practicing coeducation in their schools; that a denial of the principle was a violation of the theories, declarations, and convictions of Universalists; and finally, that suitable


provision should be made for the reception of young women at Tufts in the near future. All of Mrs. Bruce's efforts were tabled by the Convention, but it was voted that they be considered again at the next meeting.

The annual State Convention in 1874 was faithful to its charge. So it was not surprising that Dr. Miner referred to the subject when he was called upon to speak on the general topic of the responsibility of the church in promoting reform movements. He "believed in a higher education for women" and had, for example, preached the first sermon in favor of a high school for girls in Boston. But this did not necessarily mean coeducation. "He was growing in his distrust of the policy of putting boys and girls into the same school and the same classes," and raised the question whether "separate schools for the sexes" might not be advisable. After all, he said, "a man is not a woman, a woman is not a man; and if education attempts to make either the other, it will fail." He had come to believe that Tufts College had better remain as it was for a while, "till its fruits can be compared with the fruits of the mixed policy."

Rev. John Coleman Adams of Newtonville, Massachusetts, a Tufts graduate of the Class of 1870 and later a member of the Board of Trustees, contributed to the discussion by arguing that "he would go as far as any one. He would give his sister just as good an opportunity as he had enjoyed himself." But he was not prepared at that time to say he believed in coeducation. Equality of of the sexes did not necessarily call for that. As yet, experience with coeducation was insufficient. It was too early for a mature judgment; it was "the part of prudence to wait."

With the stage thus set, the previously tabled resolutions bearing on coeducation at Tufts were brought up for discussion. According to the reporter at this session, "there were many speakers." They fell into three classifications: those in favor of coeducation, those opposed to coeducation, and those in doubt. The upshot of the discussion was that the preamble and first three resolutions were stricken out and the last resolution, expressing the hope that "suitable provision" for coeducation at Tufts would be made eventually, was indefinitely postponed. The vote was by no means unanimous, but the size of the majority was unquestioned. Dr. Miner completed the lowering of the boom on the


possibility of coeducation, at least for the immediate future, by objecting to the assumptions made in the preamble about the willingness of the College to embark on the experiment. He argued that they were unwarranted and had been based merely "upon sportive remarks which he had made at a commencement dinner" and not upon any official pronouncement.

Until the fall of 1874 the students in the all-male institution on Walnut Hill had not expressed any opinions on coeducation of which there is any record. But a vehicle for the dissemination of student opinion on all kinds of subjects was created with the Tufts Collegian, the first all-campus student publication. The first student magazine had been the Tuftonian, which appeared in 1864 and was published at irregular intervals until 1872. It was sponsored jointly by Zeta Psi and Theta Delta Chi, the first national fraternities to have chapters on the Tufts campus. In 1874 the Tufts Collegian appeared, under the auspices of the Tufts College Publishing Association, and four years later appropriated the name of the Tuftonian. Until the turn of the twentieth century the Tuftonian was a combination campus newssheet, literary magazine, and alumni reporting agency. Some of its coverage was transferred to the Tufts Weekly in 1895 and to an alumni magazine in 1903.

The very first issue of the Tufts Collegian carried an article entitled "The Co-Education Question." The editors did not, however, fling caution to the winds and take up the cudgels for coeducation then and there. Instead, they took a cautious approach and in two successive issues presented summary reviews of current literature on the subject, with a view to educating rather than converting the student body. Judgment would be reserved, it was emphasized, until more of the returns were in. The editors, in fact, deplored a situation that apparently existed regarding the whole subject of coeducation, in which "the formation of opinion has preceded the collection of evidence." The Collegian first reviewed the work of the Harvard physician Dr. Edward H. Clarke, Sex in Education; or, A Fair Chance for the Girls, published in 1873. The burden of his argument against coeducation was that, from a biological viewpoint, the system would jeopardize the health of the delicate young ladies who would be seeking to acquire higher education. Mrs. Julia Ward Howe rejoined in 1874 with a bundle of


essays which she had collected, entitled Sex and Education. In the same year Anna C. Brackett's selection of essays from various sources, The Education of American Girls, tended likewise to defend coeducation and to criticize Dr. Clarke. Rev. Giles Bailey, a Universalist clergyman and staunch supporter of Tufts, added his voice to the proponents of coeducation in an early issue of the Tufts Collegian. As an outsider looking in, he had come to the conclusion that the College was "a little too conservative" in its exclusion of young women and had expressed the wish that the experiment with coeducation be tried.

Simultaneously, another interested Universalist clergyman, Rev. James Eastwood, offered in a prominently displayed article in one of the denominational papers not only an eloquent plea for coeducation but the first practical plan for financing such a program. He doubted that the College would be flooded with female applicants, but the principle was more important - the opportunity for them should be available. No less than $1,000,000 would be needed, he thought, to build and endow a separate college for women. Yet no more than $100,000 would be required to make Tufts coeducational, and that amount was within the realm of reason. He had no doubt, furthermore, that most young women likely to apply for admission had the ability to master the curriculum. Bringing the sexes together in the classroom would create a competitive situation in which both men and women would do their best, and academic achievement would permit standards to rise rather than force them down. He ruled out as completely fallacious the often-heard argument about the physical disadvantages under which women allegedly operated in a collegiate situation. After all, he pointed out, the young women at Vassar seemed to be surviving the academic ordeal, and statistical evidence could be produced that the percentage of prolonged absenteeism for reasons of health was no higher at Vassar than at Amherst, an all-men's college.

As to problems of morality and discipline which might arise if coeducation were introduced, Eastwood saw no reason to believe that the virtue of the Tufts student body was any higher without coeds than it would be with women on the campus. "Nobody believes that the average college student altogether eschews female society for four years; and it is obvious how much better it is for a


young man to associate with women whose culture and aims are like his own than with those of an indifferent or bad character." Any dangers allegedly stemming from coeducation on grounds of social relations would be minimized by certain other factors. There would be, he was convinced, a relatively small number of qualified women sufficiently interested in higher education who would apply. Certainly there would not be the danger incipient in a situation where the sexes were numerically equal. It was then that the maximum opportunity would be afforded to "that strong tendency in human nature, 'to pair off.'" Then too, some trust had to be put in the ability of the women to take care of themselves. They would be "of such age and probity as to be a law unto themselves." There was no validity in the argument that because Tufts was established as a men's college women had no right to attend. Women had been just as active as men in supporting the institution and raising money for it and had just as much vested interest in Tufts as the men. Why, he asked, should Tufts stand by and watch other coeducational schools like Wesleyan and Boston University forge ahead? Why make a virtue out of the status quo and continue to live on and in the past?

After 1875 the movement to make Tufts coeducational began to accelerate. When Capen became president, following Miner's resignation, his stand on the question was much less equivocal. It was Capen who made the first official recommendation in 1883. By that time, if public opinion had ever been "backward" on the subject of education of both sexes, it had progressed significantly. Further, there was tangible evidence that higher education for women was here to stay. Such institutions as Mount Holyoke, Vassar, Smith, and Wellesley had long since vindicated their right to exist as women's colleges. Both private and state-supported institutions, ranging from Oberlin and Antioch to the State University of Iowa and the Universities of Michigan and Wisconsin, had survived the coeducational struggle. The experiment in coordinate colleges for women, attached in some degree to existing all-male campuses, had even been tried when the "Annex," later to be known as Radcliffe, was born just outside the Harvard Yard in 1879. The steadily growing impact of feminine influence outside college walls was being felt simultaneously. In that same year (1879) women in Boston, under the leadership of such champions as


Mrs. Julia Ward Howe of the New England Suffrage Association, obtained the privilege of voting for school board members and 989 women registered.

President Capen was very much aware of these developments about the country when he composed his annual report to the Trustees for 1882-83. As to the principle of coeducation, he noted, there was admittedly a diversity of opinion not only among the Trustees and faculty but among the patrons and constituents of the College as well. "Nevertheless, the trend of public opinion appears to be, for the present at least, unmistakably towards co-education." It might, he admitted, be years before "the most conservative institutions of the country" swung about to some type of coeducation, but the trend seemed inevitable. He took pains to point out to the Trustees that "in a movement of such vast importance, there are those who think Tufts should lead rather than follow." He also emphasized, and reaffirmed many times later, the difficulties inherent in financing such an endeavor as coeducation. He stated the problem quite bluntly. "In the present condition of the College, before any step could be taken toward opening its doors to the other sex, it would be necessary that ample provision should be made for their separate lodging and oversight."

The Trustees were impressed by the president's recommendations, for in the spring of 1883 a special five-man committee was appointed "to consider the expediency of opening the College to women." Quite logically, President Capen was made chairman. The Committee on the Admission of Women made its first report in September and regretfully came to the conclusion that, regardless of the merits of coeducation, the material increase in expenditures for dormitory and other facilities made the move impracticable at that time. It was recommended, however, that the special committee be continued, in the hope that someone might be found to finance such a project. Almost a year went by before the committee was prepared to report again. In his annual report for 1883-84 the president again alluded to the subject of coeducation, noting that "a portion of our constituency is insisting that it is the duty of the Trustees to afford the same facilities for education to young women as to young men." Capen repeated the point made a decade before by one of the denominational journals: mere zealousness of purpose and high idealism were inadequate of themselves. Money


was needed to underwrite the proposed change of policy, and it was fruitless to exhort and to give gratuitous advice without providing the necessary financial support. Rev. Mr. Eastwood had used the same argument in 1874. President Capen believed that the often-mentioned sum of $100,000 was "certainly needed to do this work with dignity and decency." He made it very clear that "the friends of co-education, therefore, ought not to complain that doors of the College are closed against women, until they are prepared to tender the requisite sum for this purpose." He repeated his strong belief that, no matter what the objections to coeducation, they would be eventually overcome "by the spirit of the age," which inexorably demanded the admission of both sexes to institutions of learning.

The next step was taken as a direct result of these comments by the president and came from outside the College. In June 1885 the Trusteees received a letter from Mrs. Lena C. Start. She represented a committee of women and interested alumni who were prepared to launch a drive to raise the requisite $100,000, provided the Trustees made it clear by official action beforehand that they were favorable to the admission of women. The letter was duly referred to the Trustee Committee on the Admission of Women for report at the next annual meeting. The secretary of the Trustees was, in the meantime, to obtain "the individual opinions of the General Faculty of the College upon the question of co-education of the sexes in Tufts College" and to circularize the alumni for their views. Mrs. Start's letter was printed and distributed among the alumni, and ninety-three replies were received. Although the majority (fifty-one) were in favor, thirty-three were "strongly opposed," and the remaining nine were "doubtful in regard to the policy." Most of those who approved did so only on condition that sufficient funds could be raised so that coeducation could be introduced "without detriment to the work of the College as at present carried on."

Meanwhile, some of the Trustees had done a bit of research into the status of coeducation in New England. They compiled statistics for the six institutions which admitted women (Bates, Boston University, Colby, the University of Vermont, Wesleyan, and Middlebury) and found that Middlebury, which had just opened its doors to women in 1882-83, was the only New England college since 1874 to adopt coeducation - "a period of eleven years." This


presumably proved that the movement to make existing institutions coeducational was noticeably declining. It was also noted that most of the women attending coeducational colleges resided in the vicinty of the institution and very few came from a distance.

Although the matter of the admission of women was placed on the agenda of the regular October meeting of the Trustees, the committee requested further time, and its report was heard at a special meeting in December 1885. President Capen presented the majority report. The consensus was that it was inexpedient to open the College to women at that time. The committee's vote had not been unanimous, for a lengthy and vigorous dissent was filed with the Trustees by Wilmot L. Warren, who as a busy newspaperman associated with the influential Springfield Republican had been unable to attend the committee meetings. He was most indignant and considered the failure of the committee to recommend coeducation a breach of trust and a blow to the cause of human enlightenment.

Neither the determination of Mrs. Start and her supporters nor the eloquence of Mr. Warren prevailed. On former President Miner's motion, the Trustees, while appreciating the importance of collegiate education for women in general, deemed it "inexpedient, all things considered, at the present time to open the College to them." The vote was a decisive twelve to two; President Capen voted in favor of the motion. The Trustee Committee on the Admission of Women had taken its responsibility seriously and had explored the problem conscientiously and deliberately before making its negative recommendation to the Trustees. As President Capen pointed out repeatedly in subsequent months, the decision not to admit women had been made reluctantly but realistically. The crux of the matter was the financial inability of the College to provide the facilities for coeducation. The committee assumed that if women were admitted they had to be placed "on an absolute equality with young men." Nothing less would do. It would not be fair or just to deprive either sex of the privilege of scholarships, gratuities, and prizes. Aside from the additional housing and other arrangements necessary, augmented instruction would have to be provided in at least four departments (Ancient Languages, Modern Languages, Psychology, and English). The committee also feared that such a shock would be produced among the male


undergraduates by the admission of women that "some young men would doubtless leave. Others would be deterred in their purpose to come and for a time at least there would be a diminution in the attendance of young men." This would naturally shrink income from tuition and would require more time and patience than could be afforded "to recover from the shock and adjust to the altered circumstances." Finally, the committee was "decidedly of the opinion" that $100,000 was completely inadequate to finance "so important and radical a change in the policy of the College"; no less than double that amount would be necessary.

No further formal action on coeducation was taken by the College until the spring of 1892. This did not mean, however, that interest in coeducation had appreciably diminished. The undergraduate editors of the Tuftonian devoted considerable space to the topic, faithfully presented pros and cons, and reported the official decisions of the Trustees as the years went by. In the spring of 1882 the subject was reviewed in the Tuftonian in some detail, and it appeared that the "time-honored prejudice that young men and women should not be educated together" was crumbling away. Sufficient experience had by then been accumulated from other institutions to allow some tentative judgments to be made. It appeared to the editors, at least, that it had been convincingly demonstrated not only that women were entitled to greater educational advantages than they were then enjoying but that they were fully as intelligent and capable as men and would add tone and gentility to any campus. During 1883-84 both sides of the coeducation question were aired at some length, and it is difficult to determine which set of arguments had the upper hand. The following year the opponents of coeducation seemed, at least temporarily, to have come off with the better of the debate.

The burden of the opposition to coeducation appeared to rest on the twofold fear that the admission of women would lower the "literary standard" of the College and would turn the Hill into a playboy's paradise. Somewhat contradictorily, it was simultaneously argued that stringent rules for conduct would be necessary to prevent the deterioration of morality, and the rules would in turn make Tufts like a prison. A six-point rejoinder a month later ended the student skirmishing, at least in print. The defenders of the principle of coeducation took particular umbrage at the implication


that Tufts men found it difficult to be gentlemen except under duress.

While the members of the Tufts Club of Boston discussed the merits and demerits of coeducation at their Alma Mater in the fall of 1885 and heard President Capen speak in favor, the undergraduates conducted their own opinion poll. The sentiment of the student body was strongly against the admission of women; in fact, many of the men refused to take even the possibility seriously. Of the ninety-six students who voted, seventy-three expressed their opposition and only two were undecided. Under these circumstances, it seemed that the Springfield Republican, in urging at the time that Tufts could not "in justice refuse to admit women," was a voice crying in the wilderness. As one member of the Class of 1889 explained, he did not want to be driven to the desperate expedient of washing his face and putting on a clean collar every day.

President Capen returned to the subject in his annual report for 1885-86. He made much of the fact that the negative Trustee action of 1885 was not intended as an expression of opposition on principle, or even on grounds of practicability if the circumstances changed. And he thought the circumstances were rapidly changing. Since the Trustees had voted, Columbia had joined the ranks of coeducational colleges and Brown was actively considering undergraduate instruction for women, although in separate classes. He was convinced that it would not be long "before Tufts College will of its own motion take the place in the ranks of progress to which the logic of events has assigned it."

President Capen was right. At the December meeting of the Trustees in 1891 the matter of education of women was again placed on the agenda, although action was temporarily postponed in order to give the Executive Committee opportunity to review the matter. On April 26, 1892, the Executive Committee voted unanimously to recommend "that provision be made for the education of women at Tufts College." The recommendation was adopted, and the Executive Committee was charged with preparing and presenting a plan to carry it into effect. Final action was taken on July 15, 1892. It was voted "that the College be opened to women in the undergraduate departments on the same terms and conditions as to men."

This meeting of the Trustees was an important one for the


College. Not only was coeducation approved, but the main College building, which had remained unnamed for almost half a century, was christened Ballou Hall. At the same meeting, the new dormitory for the divinity school became Paige Hall. When former President Miner gave $40,000 to build a separate headquarters for the school (Miner Hall), it was with the understanding that the College would raise at least $12,000 to build "an accompanying dormitory for the students of such school." The dormitory, completed in 1892 with funds raised in part by friends of the divinity school, was named for Lucius R. Paige, Universalist clergyman and a Trustee from 1859 until his death in 1896. He served as secretary to that body for nearly fourteen years. Of equal moment was the Trustees' decision that day to create a graduate school faculty and to offer the Ph.D. degree in biology and chemistry. In a sense, the vote to admit women to Tufts came by way of the graduate school. After the vote to grant the doctorate and to adopt a revised program for the M.A. degree, the Trustees agreed "that graduate courses at the College be opened to candidates of either sex." It was then voted to open the College to women at the undergraduate level as well.

A newspaper reporter stood outside the door of the building in downtown Boston when the Trustees filed out. "President Capen's face," he wrote, "wore a smile.... 'At last,' he said, 'the die has been cast.' " If women presented themselves for admission to the regular classes, they would "'be welcomed, and be allowed to do the same work as the men.' " The president reminisced for a moment. When Tufts was founded, he told the reporter, "there was a strong movement in favor of coeducation, but for some reason it failed to accomplish anything." But he knew it was inevitable. "For ten years I have felt that this must come. The whole growth of the College has been toward a broader field." Tufts had now joined its neighboring institutions in providing the opportunity for women which had been so long denied.

The Boston Globe prominently displayed the news in an extended article. "Tufts College," it reported, "is going to admit women. . . . When [the Trustees] took their seats the college was a place to nurture men only. When they arose to depart it was a full-fledged co-educational institution. Its doors had been thrown open to women, and a step had been taken that all present felt was of great moment to the future of the College." Denominational


papers reported the news triumphantly, and one pointed out (somewhat inaccurately) that women's rights to higher education had never been disputed; it was only the means that were debatable. Coeducation had now won the day at Tufts. It was confidently asserted that "before another decade passes the matter will no longer be in controversy."

The agitation that had started some forty years before had served its purpose. Women had come into their own. But a multitude of practical problems now confronted the College. If one took the long view, Tufts had come a great way since the Trustees had first discussed coeducation in 1882 and 1883. Its resources had been much strengthened. From a physical plant of four buildings and sixteen instructors it had grown to ten buildings and twenty-seven instructors. Exclusive of certain earmarked special funds, the College had approximately $1,250,000 of income-bearing property and fifty-two free scholarships at its disposal. But there were numerous pressing problems to face and to solve. In view of the lateness of the date in 1892 on which the decision to admit women was made, how many would apply for the opening term in 1892? And where would they be housed and fed? How would their education be financed? How would Tufts men react? How would the faculty react? A partial answer to the latter question was given by the poll of faculty opinion taken by the secretary of the Trustees when coeducation had been discussed in 1885. The results did not augur well for the future. Of the thirteen faculty members of whose views a record was made, only three were favorable to the admission of women (Professors Marshall, Dearborn, and Moses True Brown); six were "unqualifiedly in opposition" (Professors Schneider, Shipman, Leonard, Fay, Amos Dolbear, and Harmon); Professor Tousey expressed opposition "qualifiedly"; and three (Professors Benjamin G. Brown, Bray, and Knight), while "not specially favoring such a change in the policy of the College . . . would not object to it, provided the young women could be lodged and cared for in some manner different from the present dormitory system." Faculty reaction was mixed, to say the least. In fairness to the faculty, it should be stated that many of them who had originally opposed coeducation at Tufts, like Professor Fay, not only changed their minds after the young ladies began to arrive but in several instances became their staunch defenders.

Despite the short time elapsing between the announcement of the Trustees' decision and the opening of the fall term in 1892, nine young ladies took their places in Tufts classrooms on the Hill. The medical school, which was to become a part of Tufts in 1893, was made up in large part of students who had come from the College of Physicians and Surgeons, which was already coeducational. So the students in downtown Boston undoubtedly failed to appreciate the excitement generated on the Medford campus. In fact, President Capen commented that women had shown "excellent capacity" for medical training. Moreover, the teachers in the medical school neither observed nor themselves experienced embarrassment because of the presence of women in lecture room or laboratory.

Of the nine young women who entered the Hill schools, one was a transfer from Boston University at the end of her junior year and could claim many distinctions. In 1893 Henrietta Noble Brown received the first baccalaureate degree conferred on a woman by Tufts College. Her father, Benjamin G. Brown, was Walker Professor of Mathematics at Tufts; she was born in the house at 38 Professors Row, which for several years after 1949 served as headquarters for the Tufts Faculty Club. In 1895 she married Frank W. Durkee, of the Class of 1888, who later was to hold the chairmanship of the Tufts Chemistry Department for almost a quarter of a century. In 1895 Mrs. Durkee also received the first Master's degree conferred on a woman at Tufts. Not content with a higher degree in chemistry, she resumed her graduate work a few years later and in 1918 scored another "first." When her daughter received her A.B., Mrs. Durkee was awarded an M.A. in history.

Of the eight other feminine pioneers, four were in the college of letters and the remaining four were enrolled in the divinity school. Among the graduates of the Class of 1896 were Miss Ethel M. Hayes, who served on the staff of the Tufts Library for half a century, and Miss Cora Alma Polk, known to a later generation as Mrs. Frank A. Dewick and the first woman to be elected as a Trustee.

For Universalists, the entrance of the four women into the divinity school was a fitting and long-anticipated event. Universalism had produced the first ordained clergywoman in the United States: Mrs. Olympia (Brown) Willis, who was graduated from


Antioch in 1860 and received her theological training at St. Lawrence.[5]  For over twenty years that denomination had been the one religious body to permit, and in fact to encourage, the ordination of women for the ministry. In spite of all dire predictions to the contrary, the collegiate survival rate of the first group of women at Tufts was rather high. Six of the eight coeds who had received their entire instruction at Tufts obtained their A.B. degree in 1896.

As to the problem of housing for the young ladies upon their arrival on campus, the president had worked out on paper a beautiful scheme. Capen was convinced that as much home life and atmosphere as possible should be carried over into college experience. For that reason, he felt it would be unwise to have large dormitories. Instead, one central building should serve as a nucleus for smaller houses grouped about the main structure, no one containing more than sixteen to twenty young women. This plan could not of course be effected in a few weeks. So for almost three years the new arrivals who did not already reside at home were forced to make housing and dining arrangements as best they could. Several lived at the homes of faculty members and other residents in the immediate vicinity of the College who were willing and able to take in boarders.

As soon as coeducation had become a fact, President Capen swung into action. He made it known that some place would be provided for the young ladies to study, but he also made it clear that there were no dormitory facilities because there was no money to provide them. Although the president quite accurately predicted that there would probably be no more than ten women during the first term of coeducation, he warned that provisions for at least twenty-five would have to be made for 1893-94. This naturally raised the problem of dormitory facilities. Now was the golden opportunity "for the people who have been demanding coeducation at Tufts to come forward and furnish the means to put the women on the same footing as the men."

Someone did come forward. In the spring of 1893 Albert Metcalf of Newton made a gift to the College providing for a building "as a home for women students." Construction was begun at once,


and the expectation was that the building would be completed and ready for use by the academic year 1894-95. Facilities for at least thirty were planned. In actuality, Metcalf Hall, as it was officially named in the fall of 1894, provided housing for twenty-four students on the second and third floors, with dining facilities and a suite for the matron on the first floor. Metcalf Hall, which became 56 Professors Row, was built of yellow brick and was surmounted by a tower on the east side. The College took great pride in the new structure. President Capen described it as a building which "in solidity, durability, and fineness of finish" was "unquestionably one of the very best buildings belonging to the college." He reported to the Trustees that no expense had been spared to make it "a beautiful home for young women [and] an ornament to the College grounds." It was made even more ornamental in a verbal sense, for it was soon dubbed the "Bird Cage" by the Tufts men. Although a delay in preparing the new dormitory for occupancy in 1894-95 resulted in the use of only half the rooms that year, Metcalf served its full complement of students thereafter. The study space promised by President Capen was provided temporarily by carving out a room in overcrowded Ballou Hall.

Residential supervision by the College authorities was instituted from the beginning and was made doubly necessary by the high proportion of young ladies who continued to reside in private homes. Metcalf Hall could house only a portion of the coeds. A Women's Advisory Board, consisting largely of faculty and Trustee wives, undertook the general supervision of both College and off-campus women's residences. In 1901 it was given general oversight of all matters not purely academic relating to the health, conduct, and deportment of women students. The printed rules for approved private homes which were listed with the College give some indication of its concern for the welfare of its feminine charges. House-holders renting rooms to students were expected to furnish, in addition to light and heat, a parlor or reception room where students might entertain callers. All instances of "indiscreet behavior" were to be reported directly to the president. These rules were enforced, for householders more than once were notified that their rooms had not received the necessary sanction; therefore, the young ladies were obliged to seek other quarters. Women students were expected "to observe in their conduct the usages and restrictions of the best home life." More specifically, they were "to attend evening entertainments away from the Hill only when accompanied by a chaperon." In 1901 Tufts acquired its second women's dormitory, a former faculty residence known as Start House. It had been constructed in 1894 and housed women until 1925, when it became the home for the dean of the engineering school. A third building, known as Allen House, was used as a women's dormitory in the late 1890's and again during the First World War. For several years after 1916 it served as an infirmary for Jackson students.

The fear expressed by many that the policy of coeducation would place an excessive financial burden on the College was not at first borne out. The generosity of Albert Metcalf had provided for the most pressing need requiring a major outlay. The feminine enrollment in the college of letters went up steadily. In 1893-94 there were twenty-two; in the following year there were thirty-nine; in the spring of 1896 there were fifty-six; by the turn of the century, there were ninety-nine. An attempt was made to provide sufficient funds to assure that the women received an equitable share of scholarship and other financial assistance. Much of this was made possible by the supporters of coeducation among Universalist


women. Individually, their contributions were small, but the sincerity of spirit in which the gifts were made testified to their devotion to the institution and to the principle of coeducation. The Women's Universalist Missionary Society of Massachusetts had been delighted when Tufts was opened to women, and immediately set about soliciting funds. Mrs. Cornelia B. Skinner, grandmother of Clarence R. Skinner, a well-known dean of the theological school, led the way. In 1886 she had bequeathed her diamond ring and camel's-hair shawl to be converted into money for the cause. When President Capen reported this first contribution specifically for the higher education of women to be $250, he expressed the hope that, modest as it might be, it would attract other and larger donations. In 1893 the Missionary Society invited President Capen to a mass meeting to discuss various ways in which help would be given. The decision was to establish a loan fund for women. It was created on the spot with a contribution of $5.00 presented by a young child on behalf of her widowed grandmother who was present at the meeting. The following day another lady, who had lost not only her husband but three children as well, donated $25 in their memory, and the loan fund was on its way. Some scholarship funds for women were also created in the 1890's. Typical was the John and Lucy H. Stow Scholarship Fund of $5,000 established in 1894; the income was to be paid to two or three girls each year who were deemed both worthy and needy.

The first of the "larger donations" which President Capen hoped for could not be accepted by the College. In 1890 Sarah P. Blake left her farm in Wrentham, Massachusetts, to Tufts, upon the condition that within three years after her death the Trustees would agree "to use said property for erecting and maintaining thereon buildings for educational purposes in connection with said College or for establishing and maintaining thereon a College for the higher education of women only." The Trustees declined to accept the bequest under the conditions attached, even though the will was probated after Tufts had become coeducational. The next donation on behalf of the education of women also had strings attached, but the Trustees saw fit to accept it.

The benefactor who left the largest single amount to further feminine education at Tufts was a relatively obscure person, but little known outside her home city of Providence, Rhode Island.


She was Cornelia Maria Jackson, and her lifelong conviction was that women were entitled to rights and privileges equal to those of men. By the logic of the situation, she was a champion of women's suffrage and an enthusiastic advocate of higher education for women. She had been born in Wrentham, Massachusetts, on December 15, 1822, and died in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1895. She received an unusually large amount of formal education for her day, having attended Attleboro Academy and Bridgewater State Normal School, from which she graduated in 1847. Continuing her residence in southern Massachusetts, she taught school in Wrentham, Mansfield, and Attleboro for several years. In 1862 she married Sylvester R. Jackson, a Providence businessman, and lived thereafter in Providence. Her interest in Tufts can be traced to the influence of her pastor, Rev. Dr. Henry W. Rugg, who was secretary of the Tufts Trustees and a member of the committee that had voted to open Tufts to women in 1892. Albert Metcalf, the donor of the first women's dormitory, had been a student under Mrs. Jackson.

The provisions of Mrs. Jackson's will, dated February 1, 1893, were formally accepted by the Trustees in 1895. In order to help "remove the disabilities of women" she bequeathed $70,000 and half of the residue of her estate to Tufts.[6]  Like so many bequests before and since, there were various conditions attached which necessitated the carrying out of the spirit rather than the letter of the will. To make matters more complex in this particular instance, the executor of Mrs. Jackson's estate died before the will could be probated. Resulting legal entanglements and delays made the final settlement a lengthy one, and for several years Tufts could only guess what the final amount of her bequest to the College would be. Estimates, as late as 1910, ran as high as half a million dollars. The actual bequest was considerably less than this; by the spring of 1910 less than $60,000 of the original bequest had been received.

The two special conditions of Mrs. Jackson's bequest were quite natural under the circumstances. First, Tufts was to erect a building to be designated "The Cornelia M. Jackson College for Women." Second, in addition to the regular courses prescribed for the students of the College, women were to receive special


instruction "in the duties and privileges of American citizenship, and in the theory and working of the United States government." In compliance with this provision, the Trustees established, effective in 1898-99, the Cornelia M. Jackson Professorship of Political Science. Dr. Henry C. Metcalf was the first holder of this chair.

When the time came in 1896 to graduate the first group of women who had entered as underclassmen, President Capen took stock of the preceding four years. All seemed to be going well. The enrollment of both men and women had been encouraging. The problem of living quarters for the women had somehow been solved. The College was still surviving financially. Dear to the president's heart was confirmation of the feeling he had expressed shortly after coeducation had been introduced. He had informed the Trustees that the women had "come quietly and unobtrusively into their places, and, so far as their presence in the classes is concerned, have not caused the slightest friction." He could be even more specific in his report for 1896.

The presence of women ... has not diminished the interest inthe activities or sports which are supposed to belong peculiarly tomen's colleges. There has been no friction arising from their presence in the class-rooms, and they have not increased materially thedifficulties of administration ... their work has been as well done asthe work of the men. The general testimony of the teachers is thatthey have raised the tone of the class-room and quickened the serious efforts of student life. Their presence also has brought an element into the social atmosphere of the College, which is very agreeable and very wholesome.

The Commencement festivities of 1893 were especially significant for the College. A woman for the first time in the history of Tufts had an official place in the proceedings. Miss Henrietta Noble Brown delivered the first Commencement Oration by a Tufts woman.[7]  At the 1896 Commencement, when the first four-year group of women was graduated, two of the six speakers were women. One, an M.D. candidate, discussed "Antisepsis," and Miss Ethel Munroe Hayes, representing the women on the Hill, discoursed on "The Geographical Situation in Venezuela." The 1896


Commencement was a landmark in Tufts' history in another respect. The well-known Universalist Mrs. Mary A. Livermore, writer, feminist leader, and humanitarian, who had done relief work in the Civil War, received the first honorary degree awarded by Tufts to a woman. In acknowledgment of this recognition, she composed a poem entitled "Tufts College" which was widely printed. It was Mrs. Livermore who had been suggested for the presidency of Tufts by the speaker at the Boston club in 1873.

In the meantime, making a place for women among the Tufts undergraduates was more difficult than either the president admitted or the general public probably realized. The female invasion of a previously all-male bailiwick, although only on a small scale, was received far from enthusiastically. Most of the men chose to ignore their new classmates or to treat them with distant respect. But they could not be ignored. Even though 1896 was a red-letter year in the history of the College, when the Commencement proceedings were reported in the new undergraduate newspaper that had been launched the previous year, the Tufts Weekly merely listed the names of the women graduates, without editorial comment. The Class History for 1896 did include a clipping from a Boston paper describing "how '96 first meandered over College Hill hand in hand with the co-eds," but that effusion was apparently reproduced with a shrug of the shoulders. For many years it was the custom during Class Day festivities for the students to gather on the Hill and to cheer the Trustees, the president, the faculty, and the buildings in general. At Class Day in 1894 the all-male class of 1895 celebrated "its womanless condition" with these words:

We thank the Lord we've lived alone Without a girl upon the throne: The only class that's now alive, The glorious class of '95.

Among the cheers on Class Day in 1896 was one grudgingly dedicated merely to "the girls." It was unthinkable that a woman should hold a class office, and feminine participation in such activities as class banquets was considered little less than a horror.

The decade after 1900 brought unsettling developments on the Hill and bade fair to extinguish the flame of coeducation. A reaction set in against the policy. The reasons were many, and


possibly not always clear either to the present generation or to earlier ones. Whether myth or reality, they all played their part in the inauguration of a new policy. It was known as "segregation," and it centered about the issue of "separate but equal treatment of the sexes." For more than three years these were the burning issues for Tufts - among the Trustees, administration, faculty, and students alike. Even the outside world put in its bid to be heard.

The first serious questioning of the merits of coeducation came from Eaton, the financial agent of the College in the 1890's. Tours about New England had convinced him that "the fact that girls are admitted to Tufts College is being used to prejudice young men against the College." Members of the graduating class at Goddard Seminary had told him that "not a single young man" from that school would enter Tufts in the fall of 1897 because it was believed that the College was "becoming a girl's school, and that the best and strongest young men would not go there." The subcommittee on education of the Trustee Executive Committee, when asked in 1898 to recommend economies that might be effected in College operations, put part of the blame for financial stress on "the friends of women's education who clamored so loudly for the opening of the College to women" and then failed to support the cause.

In terms of the number of women students, Tufts was "a great success," but in terms of the number of men, it was "a painful fact" that since 1891 the College had made no substantial gains in the number of male students commensurate with the growth of course offerings or improvements in instruction. There were fifty-eight full-time students enrolled in the regular classical or scientific courses in 1891-92, the year before Tufts admitted women. In 1895-96 there were 224 men and 43 women in the regular undergraduate programs; in the year in which the Trustees' investigation was made (1898), there were 259 men and the number of women had jumped to 97. The Trustee committee felt sure that neither the alumni nor the student body had ever really favored coeducation. The situation would become even worse if the rate of increase in feminine enrollment continued; it might very well be that eventually the College would "practically become a school for women." The alternatives, if Tufts was to remain "as much a man's College as a woman's College," were not very happy. It was too late to abolish coeducation; that would be a step backward. There was the


possibility of separating the men's and women's educational facilities, but that would necessitate the employment of additional faculty and the erection of at least one building. This alternative seemed to be "an experiment too costly to be prudent" considering the financial situation of the institution. An intermediate course of action seemed the only other possibility. It would require the arbitrary limiting of the number of women to the capacity of Metcalf Hall. Following this path would likewise be unfortunate, for Tufts had already established an excellent reputation as a school that admitted women, and there was a tremendous reservoir of competent female students in the Boston area alone which had not been sufficiently tapped.

The solution decided upon at the time by the Trustees was not to curb coeducation but to make the College more attractive to men. In the last analysis, coeducation was probably not basically to blame for the increasing disproportion in the student body. The fault lay in the twin lack of advertising and insufficient financial inducement. The Trustee committee repeated the oft-made assertion that Tufts had "always been a poor man's College. Many, if not most of our students are of the class that works for an education." If the College could be made more attractive to prospective students by a combination of increased extracurricular activities and augmented financial aid, a partial solution to the problem seemed assured. The Glee Club might be enlarged and improved; a College choir could be established to enliven the chapel services; opportunity in athletics might be increased. Athletics was one of the best ways to make a college known to the outside world, yet Tufts had been doing less in this area than any other New England institution, in the opinion of the Trustees. If athletics were to be encouraged, however, certain safeguards would have to be established. "To hire men to come to our College to play ball would be contemptible, would be condemned by the students, and in the end would injure the institution. To recognize merit in athletic ability, and to encourage it when found with scholarly attainment, is a very different proposition." The committee made such a convincing case for their point of view that in 1899 the Trustees established twenty annual gratuities worth up to $100 each, to be awarded by the president in consultation with the chairman of the Executive Committee. The gratuities were not to be cash awards but would take the


form of free room rent, reduced tuition, and the like. The suggestion was made that these gratuities not be considered purely as "athletic scholarships"; in fact, six of the twenty were to be for the benefit of the Glee Club, and the remaining ones for "general athletics."

Creating gratuities for undergraduate men was only a partial remedy for the problems brought by coeducation. The limitations of the physical plant were becoming acute. It seemed in 1902 that President Capen was himself beginning to have doubts about the success of coeducation. He devoted a portion of his annual report for 1901-2 to a plea for a building to be used by women students exclusively, for recitations and assembly, located possibly next to Metcalf Hall on Professors Row. He reminded the Trustees of the provisions of Mrs. Jackson's bequest in 1893. He deplored the fact that "the whole of that portion of her estate" left to Tufts had not been "devoted to the objects specified by her." As Tufts approached its fiftieth anniversary in 1902, he devoted a proportion of his annual report to endowment needs and again urged the provision of "a woman's building to serve at once for assembly, physical training and recitations," which would cost an estimated $75,000.

The individual who precipitated the debate over coeducation at Tufts and who offered the most detailed arguments in favor of segregation of the sexes was Rev. Dr. Frederick W. Hamilton, an alumnus (Class of 1880) and the last Universalist clergyman to serve as a president of Tufts. He assumed his duties at the beginning of the academic year 1905-6 and within two years had roused a storm of controversy and created much opposition both within the College and outside. Two things should be made clear at the outset: he was by no means alone in his opposition to coeducation; and he was sincere and realistic in his approach, for he was the chief executive of a college with limited resources which had to make its way in an increasingly competitive educational world. On June 19, 1906, he delivered an Inaugural Address which contained nothing new or revolutionary. But at the end of the first year, when he made his annual report to the Trustees in 1907, he had reached an unhappy conclusion. With the exception of the theological school, the college of letters was sharing the least in the growth of the College. The Engineering Department, and the medical and dental schools, which had been created in 1893 and 1899 respectively,


were filled to capacity and in some cases students were being turned away. But in 1906-07 there was an accelerated decline in liberal arts enrollment. Various factors could explain part of this - an increase in tuition fees from $100 to $125 per year, effective in 1907-8, and a change in financial arrangements which required payment of term bills (tuition and room rent) at the beginning of each half-year rather than at the middle and end of the academic year. But these did not satisfactorily explain the general pattern. Even the increasing demand for technical education accounted only in part for the trend away from liberal arts. After all, the president pointed out, Dartmouth, Brown, and Bowdoin were all experiencing record enrollments at the time.

After an analysis of the situation, President Hamilton came to the conclusion that the cause for Tufts' failure to share in the growth of the liberal arts area could "be found in our system of coeducation." Unlike the state-supported universities of the Middle West, which had a virtual monopoly over education in that area and were not seriously affected by coeducation, the privately endowed New England schools had to compete for patronage, and within substantially the same territory. Hence they could not afford the luxury of coeducation. Why? Because "the average young man will not go to a coeducational institution if other things are anywhere near equal." The Tufts engineering student had, so far as association with women in Tufts classrooms was concerned, a great advantage over the liberal arts student; he could keep such contact at a minimum because he had no reason to associate with women "excepting in a few electives which he takes in the College of Letters. He, therefore, is not disturbed by the presence of women." The corresponding disadvantage for the male liberal arts candidate was the necessity of attending the same classes as women. "He is not comfortable with the women in the class room. In some things he feels that he is at a disadvantage, and I have known some of the best students to say that they often hesitate to recite or to enter into discussion in the mixed classes for fear of making themselves ridiculous before the women." In science courses, the situation was often reversed. Furthermore, "the differences between the feminine mind and the masculine mind, and also between the feminine and masculine avocations of the college student, usually lead to the capturing of a large proportion of the scholastic honors by the women."


Then there was the whole area of sentiment, or even prejudice against women, irrational as it might be. Unreasonable or not, it existed and had to be reckoned with. "It is not possible for Tufts College to conquer it or to reason the masculine youth of New England out of it. If the present state of affairs continued to exist, the College of Letters, which we older graduates know and love as Tufts College, will become a girls' school, and that sooner than most of us realize."

President Hamilton kept hammering away at his theme in newspaper and magazine articles. In 1908 he heartily seconded the sentiments expressed in an article by the prominent psychologist G. Stanley Hall, entitled "The Feminization of Boys." They agreed that there were not enough men in the teaching profession, particularly at the high school level. Hamilton was "strong in the opinion that after graduating from grammar schools, boys and girls should be educated separately."

Coeducation kept away capable women as well as men. The feeling against coeducational institutions was not so strong among women, said the president, but it still existed, and sent many an excellent student whose general prepossessions would be in favor of Tufts to Radcliffe, Smith, or Wellesley. The issue involved no abstract discussion about the rights or capacities of women. It was the very practical problem of the future of an institution which depended largely upon the public for its patronage. "The future of the academic department of Tufts College as a man's college depends upon the immediate segregation of the women into a separate department or college."

This did not mean that Tufts should cease to educate women. For one thing, the gifts already made by Albert Metcalf and Mrs. Cornelia Jackson for the purpose would preclude that. Further, his recommendations regarding segregation were not to be interpreted, he said, as an attempt "to discourage the women in any way" or "to relegate them to any inferior position." On the contrary, the plan would, he felt, "do more by far for the education of women than was done by opening the doors of Tufts to women students." But they should be educated separately, with their own dormitories, lecture rooms, chapel, and dean. Instruction should be given by the Tufts faculty, and the library and laboratory facilties, at least temporarily, could be shared by men and women. Such association as


would come to the students from separated departments in the laboratories or in the library would not be harmful. Aside from financial savings in using the same faculty, there was "no doubt" in the president's mind that "the training which women can receive in a college taught by men who are at the same time instructors in a man's college, whose educational views and methods are fixed by the point of view obtained in being educated among men and teaching men, is far superior in depth, in breadth, and in vitality to that which can be obtained by women who are taught by women, who themselves have been taught by women and are working only with women."

In order to bring about segregation, "a considerable expenditure of money" would of course be necessary. A lecture hall would be required as well as a gymnasium with facilities for non-resident students, and additional dormitories would have to be provided. The total outlay for buildings and extra salaries to begin operations would not exceed $250,000. The president considered the matter of segregation of the sexes "the most pressing educational problem" then before the institution. He had no fear that failure to solve the problem would be catastrophic for the College as a whole, but he had no doubt that failure to solve it involved "imminent disaster to the College of Liberal Arts."[8]  This may have been an exaggeration, but there is no denying the fact that it was considered a serious problem in the minds of many in the Tufts community, and that statistics seemed to bear out many of President Hamilton's assertions.

In the fifteen years after coeducation had been introduced, the percentage of women in liberal arts had steadily risen. By the fall of 1907, when matters came to a head, women comprised almost 70 per cent of the entering class. For better or worse, it was also an undisputed fact that the enrollment of men in liberal arts was correspondingly decreasing. A writer in the New Haven Courant asked the natural question: Why was it that "only a year or two ago the same boys who are so unwilling to have the girls study with them at Wesleyan or Tufts were delighted to have them as fellow-students at the high school?" Rev. John Coleman Adams, a Tufts


Trustee, undertook to supply the answer. For one thing, he wrote, the numerical balance of the sexes was being destroyed at Tufts. If the trend of increased enrollment of women at the expense of the men continued, the liberal arts department would become "wholly feminized." Criticism of coeducation had nothing to do with the failure of women to justify their presence academically. In fact, they had "done their work too well, if anything." The women had become the scapegoat for the unhappy conditions alleged to prevail in other areas of the College, namely, "an unhealthy craze for athletics, the drift away from the broader courses of study, and the conversion of the college into a "social rather than a pedagogical institution."

The Boston Transcript reviewed President Hamilton's warning about Tufts and suggested that it was a problem facing most eastern colleges that admitted women. The newspaper's diagnosis of the ailment was economically oriented:

The difficulty is simply the tendency of the women to drive outthe men. A principle similar to Gresham's Law in the economicsphere - that cheap money drives dear money out of circulationappears to operate in the college world. The weaker sex drives outthe stronger. And, as the economists have come to recognize that themaintenance of a bimetallic standard of gold and silver requires aninternational monetary agreement, so educators seem to be working toward the conclusion that isolated experiments with thedouble educational standard in the face of the general practice ofseparate college education are destined to fail.

Again, the cold facts of the case tended to support President Hamilton's arguments. The coeds simply walked off with more than the lion's share of available academic honors. In 1906 the women chalked up another unchallenged victory. For the first time in the history of Tufts all of the seniors (five in number) elected to membership in Phi Beta Kappa were women. Two years later four of the six recipients of that coveted honor were coeds. The tables had been turned; now the men were on the defensive, and their quality was being challenged.

President Hamilton's experience and observations in 1908 and 1909 reinforced his conviction that the need for separation of the sexes was urgent, and he was quite willing to have his opinions


known. Every Boston paper reported every scrap of information about the subject. Typical was the coverage of the Boston Transcript, in which the following series of headlines appeared in the issue of January 28, 1909, over an article concerning the College:SYSTEM AT TUFTS WRONGHamilton Inveighs Against Co-EducationSexes Should Be Segregated, His Firm ConvictionFuture of College of Letters at StakeTells Trustees That They Have Grave Problem on HandLack of funds continued to be the major stumbling block. However, Hamilton offered a partial solution which would also alleviate the chronic problem of inadequate faculty salaries. In many cases the separate instruction required by segregation could be conducted by the existing staff, who, by repeating their work, would add to their hours of classroom commitment but would not add materially to the time given to their own study and preparation. The work in Radcliffe was provided for in this way. The Harvard instructors, while still doing full work and receiving full pay from Harvard, repeated their courses at Radcliffe, receiving therefore a compensation adequate for the work done but much less than the amount received from Harvard. In this way "a considerable number" of instructors would have the opportunity to earn larger incomes, at least in the college of letters.

At the October meeting of the Trustees in 1909, President Hamilton sought concrete action by that body. He recommended that a special committee be appointed "to consider and report upon the advisability of immediate action in the matter of segregation of the sexes." Forthwith, a five-man Committee on Segregation was created.[9]  The seriousness with which the Trustees tackled this problem is driven home by the fact that the president, the vice-president, and the treasurer of the Corporation all served. The committee made a progress report in December. Although not all the faculty were solicited for their opinions, there was among the eleven senior members who were consulted "an absolute unanimity of sentiment and opinion as to the desirability of the segregation


of women, not only for the sake of the men, but for the women also." At a special meeting on April 12, 1910, the Committee on Segregation was ready with its report and recommendations, which had been circulated among the Trustees in advance. The report was long, elaborate, and impressively documented with statistical tables and the results of consultation with faculty, alumni, and students.

The consensus appeared to be inescapable. Coeducation had not worked well at Tufts. The faculty seemed to be unanimous in feeling that the interests of all would best be served by separating the sexes for instructional purposes. Some faculty admitted that they had reversed their earlier opinions and judgments. As befitted a college faculty, the reasons given in support of segregation varied considerably. Some found that "the delicacy of treating freely a subject where both men and women were present in the same class" was a consideration, although not a major one. Others noted "the invariably different view point (due to the difference in sex) from which men and women approached nearly all the subjects." Still others noted "a natural diffidence on the part of both sexes to enter, during a recitation, into any argument with the other sex over any subject under consideration." Many of the faculty were quick to point out what they felt to be the nub of the problem: "The tendency of women to select courses in which from the nature of the subject and their natural aptitude and ability they will secure high marks, coupled with the general desire of women for high marks." The end product was a measurable weakening of the incentive for the men to work for honors and awards. The men were already convinced of "the approximate certainty of non-success" in the face of feminine competition. The faculty were substantially agreed on one point: The presence of women on the Hill "had served to help the tone of the community - had exercised a sort of refining influence on the men." But there seemed to be "a feeling of sentiment pervading the whole student body . . . that each sex would be better off in their work were the other absent." The Trustee Committee on Segregation reported confirmation of this faculty feeling from other sources, including the president, the remarks of "sundry students," and alumni. This, in turn, did not mean that any hostility existed between the sexes. It had "always


been the custom of each sex to treat the other with respect and consideration" although it was recognized that, in view of the long male dominance of the College, women were still considered "an alien element." Justified or not, this feeling was a contributing factor to increasing sentiment against coeducation.

Moreover, both the men and women graduates of the College who opposed coeducation - and there were some - refused to send their sons or daughters to Tufts or failed to recommend the institution to others. Statistics were produced which showed that over the period since 1892 there had been a relative loss of enrollment amounting to 15 per cent for both men and women. It was clear to all that this was an unhealthy sign. While the enrollment of comparable New England men's colleges (Bowdoin, Williams, Amherst) had increased between 43 per cent and 45 per cent in the ten-year period from 1899-1900 to 1909-10, the enrollment of Tufts men had shown a gain of less than 15 per cent. Put another way, if the Tufts gain had been in the same ratio for the same period, the liberal arts male enrollment should have been 198 rather than 116. Stating the matter baldly, the issue of coeducation was in part a simple problem of dollars and cents.

The Committee on Segregation offered four recommendations, which were unanimously adopted by the Trustees on April 12, 19l0. At the same meeting, as many of the recommendations as possible were implemented. First, "the best interests of this institution require a separation of the sexes." Second, "the best way of accomplishing this is by the establishment of an independent College for Women." Third, the importance of the matter was "so great that though the financial resources are not at this moment in hand to meet the extra cost, the action should be taken at the earliest possible moment." Finally, an amendment to the College charter was to be secured for the separate college, "to be known as Jackson College for Women." It was recommended that in the interim "a Woman's Department be established which shall be merged into Jackson College for Women as soon as the legislation therefor shall be secured." There was considerable discussion regarding the necessity for a charter amendment and a separate college. Segregation could have been accomplished merely by creating a Department of Women, comparable to existing departments such as Engineering. But there were two good reasons for what might


have appeared to be a rather cumbersome and unnecessarily complicated procedure. The Trustees voiced one of the reasons, and President Hamilton made public the other. The Trustees wished above all to prevent misinterpretation of their actions. Segregation, if it was to be undertaken, had to be "full and complete." Furthermore, there should be no possibility that the Trustees' action might be interpreted to mean a lowering of standards or any diminution in the opportunities for women. The women should "be able to say that they have equal opportunity with the men." And in order to accomplish this, "a separate institution exclusively for women with a suitable and appropriate name and the right and power to grant its separate degrees should be established. This institution should have its own officers and faculty."

In order to clarify further the status of the new college and to set doubts at rest, sixty questions were prepared for President Hamilton to answer. Although many of the questions and answers were set up in routine fashion in advance at the request of the president by Mrs. Fred D. Lambert, wife of a member of the Biology Department and an active alumna of the Class of 1900, others clearly reflected the fear of those coeds who felt that the College might be planning to relegate the women to an inferior position. The questions (and answers) were published in the Boston Journal, May 5, 1910. When asked why the purposes of segregation could not have been more simply accomplished by the creation of a Department of Women, President Hamilton gave the second reason for the Trustees' action. In order to take advantage of "the only definite promise of endowment for Jackson" which had so far been made, it was necessary to comply with the bequest providing the endowment. According to the president's interpretation, Mrs. Jackson's will had specified that a college for women be separately chartered although operated by the Trustees of Tufts College. A reading of the will, it might be noted, does not completely support the president's public statement. The bequest did not specify segregation of women as a quid pro quo. It should be recalled that Mrs. Jackson's will was made shortly after Tufts became coeducational, and so far as is known, she voiced no objection to the system.

The plan to establish an interim Department of Women (bearing the name Jackson College) pending the approval of charter changes was made unnecessary by the prompt action of the


Massachusetts legislature. The petition prepared by the Trustee Committee on Segregation in April was approved by the General Court on June 15, 1910. A separate college, at least on the drawing board, existed effective the following day. As if to reinforce the idea of separateness, Section 3 of the charter amendment provided that the new college could "adopt and use upon diplomas and other written instruments . . . a seal of a design differing from the common seal of the corporation." Alumnae of Jackson were also given both the right to vote for the ten alumni members of the Trustees which had been provided in 1907 and the right to serve on the Board of the Corporation. Their legal equality with all other graduates of Tufts was thereby assured.[10] 

The alumnae of Tufts had already been heard from before the legislature had even chartered Jackson College. The Executive Board of the Association of Tufts Alumnae were dissatisfied with the name that had been selected. They were quite willing to "give moral and financial support" to the new women's college, but someone discovered that the name "Jackson" had already been appropriated by an institution in the South. So the alumnae requested that the name be reconsidered. The query about possible confusion with the school in Mississippi also appeared in the list of sixty questions which President Hamilton had publicly answered. He saw no grounds for confusion, as the southern school was not listed in the current report of the United States Commissioner of Education. The Trustees dutifully reconsidered the name, as requested, and, after determining that the other school referred to was listed as a secondary school in spite of the name "Jackson College," unanimously voted that Mrs. Cornelia M. Jackson's memory be perpetuated in Tufts' new college.[11] 


[1] The institutions were St. Lawrence University, Lombard University, and Buchtel College.

[2] For biographical sketches of the leading Universalist women of the nineteenth century see Phebe A. Hanaford, Daughters of America; or Women of the Century (Augusta, Maine; True and Company, n.d.); and E. R. Hanson, Our Women Workers: Biographical Sketches of Women Eminent in the Universalist Church for Literary, Philanthropic and Christian Work (Chicago: The Star and Covenant Office, 1881).

[3] Oberlin, opened in 1833, admitted women only four years later and thus became the first coeducational college in the United States. Antioch had opened as a coeducational institution in 1853.

[4] A substantial literature has been accumulating on the subject. Two representative works are Mabel Newcomer, A Century of Higher Education for American Women (New York: Harper, 1959), and Thomas Woody, A History of Women's Education in the United States (2 vols., Lancaster, Pa.: Science Press, 1929).

[5] The centennial of her ordination in 1863 was acknowledged by the Universalist Historical Society, which devoted Volume 4 of its Annual Journal (1963) to articles by and about her.

[6] The other half was willed to the Rhode Island Homeopathic Hospital in Providence.

[7] Her presentation was entitled "Some Aspects of Immigration," erroneously printed on the Commencement program as "Some Aspects of Imagination."

[8] The Boston Globe made this comment a bit more sweeping by reporting that President Hamilton called coeducation a "national disaster."

[9] After Arthur W. Peirce and Austin B. Fletcher, both alumni Trustees, had declined to serve, the committee consisted of Arthur E. Mason (chairman), Thomas H. Armstrong, Hosea W. Parker, Henry W. Rugg, and Edward H. Clement.

[10] The by-laws of the Trustees were also amended to provide for separate accounting of Jackson funds by the treasurer of the Corporation.

[11] There was a Jackson College in the South. It had been founded in 1877 as a school for Negroes, with the name Natchez Seminary. In 1882 its name was changed to Jackson College, although it did not become a degree-granting institution until 1944, when it was renamed Jackson College for Negro Teachers.

  • Light on the Hill, the history of Tufts College, was published to coincide with the centennial of the institution in 1952. A second volume was published in 1986. This edition was created from the 1966 edition of Light on the Hill, Volume I.
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