Greater course offerings, improved academic facilities, and more female faculty were just some of the ways women’s admission to Bowdoin changed the nature of its curriculum. Learn more from our documents and interviews.
Since Bowdoin opened its doors in 1794, the College has been dedicated to providing its students with an excellent liberal arts education. Clearly the subject matters that were available and/or emphasized in the later 18th century differ dramatically from those offered today. Yet even with the many modifications the curriculum at Bowdoin has undergone, its constant and stressed purpose has always been to afford Bowdoin students with exposure to and knowledge about a variety of topics and courses aimed at fostering and promoting learning for learning sake.
The Bowdoin curriculum underwent a major change in 1969 when the College decided to drop its distribution requirements. As a result of this decision, and in light of the transition to coeducation that would occur only two years later, Bowdoin’s curriculum experienced a heightened amount of scrutiny. While some felt that the curriculum was losing its liberal arts basis in failing to encourage students to take classes in a variety of subjects, others advocated that the College offer more vocational classes to prepare for life after Bowdoin. In addition, some felt the approaching admission of women necessitated little change to the curriculum while others asserted their concern that Bowdoin’s curricular offerings were inadequate or lacking in the potentially new academic interests women would bring. Ultimately, several notable changes occurred with regard to the curriculum, namely, the return of distribution requirements, the expansion of many course offerings and academic facilities, especially those in the fine arts and an increase in the number of faculty, particularly female faculty, hired to the College.
There are many forms in which the influence of women’s admission to Bowdoin took shape within the curriculum. Use this section as an opportunity to add to your own education by perusing and reviewing the related archival documents, images, and interviews that address Bowdoin’s curriculum.