Susan Jacobson: Bowdoin’s First Woman Graduate
The article “Bowdoin Graduates Its First Woman Student” in Bowdoin’s student newspaper, the Orient, from June 4, 1971 (Document EN, 21), highlights an important milestone in Bowdoin’s history. Susan Jacobson studied at Bowdoin as an exchange student from Connecticut College through the Twelve College Exchange Program during her junior year. She was able to return for a third semester in the fall of 1970, which happened to be the same semester that Bowdoin decided to become coeducational. Although women were not expected to graduate until the spring of 1972, Jacobson made a strong case for herself and, after conversations between Bowdoin’s Dean of the College, Professor A. LeRoy Greason, Jr., and officials at Connecticut College, it was decided that she would be allowed to transfer and then graduate from Bowdoin in 1971.
The interview with Jacobson reveals some of the intricacies of life for Bowdoin’s first women students. Jacobson recalls that in her first year at Bowdoin, men seemed unable to find the women’s house a few blocks away from campus, but that, having moved closer to campus her second year, the women had many more visitors. She stated that “‘Bowdoin men have gone out of their way to be nice,’” but also that some of the men “‘don’t know how to treat girls and often put them on a different plane.’” Jacobson’s experiences parallel those of other women from the first and early classes at Bowdoin, as the oral histories for this project reveal.
Sadly, Susan Jacobson passed away in the fall of 2010, so we could not interview her as part of this project.