This letter (Document 17, SB), from the Director of Admissions, Richard [Dick] Moll, to Elissa [Liddy] Berry, marks receipt of the first formal application from a female in Bowdoin’s history. Bowdoin matriculated its first class of women in the fall of 1971. There had been female students at Bowdoin as early as 1969 as part of the Twelve-College Exchange, but they stayed at most one year. Elissa Berry was one of the first women to spend four years as a Bowdoin student, graduating in 1975.
Berry came from a long line of Bowdoin grads: from a young age, she had set her sights on Bowdoin. There was only one problem; Bowdoin was an all-male institution. This did not deter Berry who planned to study at Bowdoin by any means necessary, and who considered applying to a Twelve-College Exchange institution so she could apply for a semester at Bowdoin. During the fall of 1970, Bowdoin announced that it would go coed the following academic year. Once Berry heard the news, she had her application completed and submitted within the week.
This letter reveals the excitement surrounding coeducation at Bowdoin. Berry was one of 147 women on Bowdoin’s campus during the 1971-1972 academic year. These courageous women served as the trailblazers for future Bowdoin women. Their enthusiasm overshadowed the potential risks of being in a significant minority. Like the applicants, Bowdoin staff members were also excited about coeducation. Richard Moll’s words in this letter affirm this as he describes the “appreciation and excitement” felt on campus.