Are women's colleges still needed?

Stefanie Botelho's picture

When Chatham University was founded in 1869 under the name Pennsylvania Female College, it was born into a world of furious debate over the role of women’s higher education.

Would it reduce the number of marriages? Were women smart enough? Or even physically capable? One retired Harvard Medical School professor wrote in an 1873 report that women should not participate in higher education if they hoped for a future “secure from neuralgia, uterine disease, hysteria and other derangements of the nervous system.”

As Chatham considers admitting male undergraduates for the first time in its history, the debate over women’s higher education continues. But the issues involved have flipped.

With women now doing so well in higher education — outnumbering men in earning degrees from the associate to doctoral level — is there still a need for single-sex education?

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