In the fall of 1971, the first full class of women students arrived on the Bowdoin College campus, ushering in official coeducation. Forty years later, in 2011, when women formed just over 50% of the student body, a group of Bowdoin students took on the task of documenting the history of the College’s move to coeducation.
The information gathered here, based on archival research and oral history interviews and as part of a class project, provides an intriguing, instructive, and in hindsight often humorous glimpse of Bowdoin College before, during, and after coeducation. What we call the “prehistory” begins exactly one hundred years before coeducation, with Bowdoin president Joshua Chamberlain’s 1871 inaugural address, in which he called for the admission of women to the College. It continues through, among other dates and events, Sarah Orne Jewett’s 1901 honorary degree, women faculty teaching on campus during World War II, and the 1969 arrival of women students via the Twelve College Exchange program.
The site includes a timeline as well as documents, photos, and audio and video recollections related to six additional themes: the process of coeducation, the curriculum, extracurricular activities, social life and fraternities, athletics, and the Women’s Resource Center.
Please explore the site and learn about the motivations of college officials who pushed for coeducation; the first female athletes and their struggles for uniforms and for competitors; the challenges of being the first women in spaces as distinct as classrooms, fraternity houses, and student government; the responses of male students to as massive a change as coeducation; and the observations of faculty, male and female, who watched the process unfold. Celebrate and commemorate forty years of women at Bowdoin by sharing in the vital documents and living memories on display here.