Prehistory of Coeduction

From Joshua Chamberlain’s 1871 inaugural address to the 1969 arrival of women via the 12 College Exchange, women have a shared history with Bowdoin. Learn more from our documents, images, and interviews.

AG37.1 - Masque and Gown Photo (1920 Merchant of Venice)

AG37.1 - Masque and Gown Photo (1920 Merchant of Venice)

What we call the “prehistory” of women at Bowdoin College 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. It also includes initial discussions of coeducation and the variety of ways in which women’s presence on campus was anticipated.

Women themselves have been claiming a space on the Bowdoin campus for a century, although official coeducation is only forty years in the past. Can you imagine a Bowdoin Wives Club today? In 1949 they published a newsletter that offered recipes (“Porcupine Meatballs”) and invited women to bring their “hubbies” to film screenings and barn dances in Moulton Union. Another group of women, the Society of Bowdoin Women, founded in 1922, literally claimed a space on campus so that visiting alums would no longer find it easier “to park their cars than park their families” on campus.

There are many stories to tell about the long prehistory of coeducation at Bowdoin College. Take the time to explore our related archival documents, images, and interviews, and learn about some of what we have uncovered.

Bowdoin College

Bowdoin College web site:

Search | A - Z Index | Directory