Dean Winifred J. Robinson

Dean Robinson in 1914

Dean Robinson in 1914.
Courtesy of Special Collections, Morris Library.

1910s scrapbook - Dean Robinson - When She Dreamed of Coming to Delaware

A page from Mrs. Warner’s Scrapbook showing her deep regard for Dean Robinson from the very start. Courtesy of the University Archives.

A flower pressing, transatlantic letters to students abroad in Paris, educational slides of Yellow Park, and baseball paraphernalia are a few of the artifacts from Dean Robinson, stored in a box in special collections.[1] Who is she? Winifred J. Robinson (1867–1962) was the first Dean of the Women’s College of Delaware, founded in 1914. The suffragists of Delaware found the right person. She had a small liberal arts education, PHD in botany-received after much hard work cataloging ferns in Hawaii,[2] a strong personality, and they saw in her a strong role model for their girls. Dr. Robinson was not only an administrator, but an educator and the live-in Resident Dean for the 7 faculty and 48 female students of the first-year class, and for many years to come.  The initial faculty consisted of 3 female professors, of Home Economics, Education, and Chemistry/Athletics.[3] In addition, there was a secretary, a dorm matron and a security guard. In the early 1920’s she accompanied a co-ed study abroad trip to France, of which she writes of playing knitting games and “floor ball.” She was the only woman with a vote in the Colleges’ administrative committee of 5 in the early days of the Women’s College. Dean Robinson retired in 1938[4] after paving the way for the Women’s College, the women of Delaware and in turn Delawareans into the 20th century. (Also see blog by Lisa Gensel)

In 1940 Science Hall was renamed in her honor, which now houses the administration for the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. The Men’s and Women’s Colleges merged in 1945. Today there are 7 colleges within the University of Delaware, and 3 are headed by female deans, including Dean Nancy Targett of Earth, Ocean and Environment; Dean Lynn Okagaki, of Education and Human Development; and Dean Kathleen Matt of Health Sciences.[5] 42.5% of the teaching faculty is female,[6] which after doing the math is the same percentage of female to male deans. Collusion? We think not!  The University of Delaware has come a long way since the turn of the last century and many of the programs that we all benefit from are a result of women leaders in education.

By Jared Goldstein (Freshman Anthropology Major) and Alex Tewnion (Freshman Art Conservation Major).

Dean Robinson from the 1930s.  Image  Courtesy of the Delaware Historical Society Archives, Image #83.13.2266NB

Dean Robinson from the 1930s. Image
Courtesy of the Delaware Historical Society Archives, Image #83.13.2266NB

[1] Winifred J. Robinson papers, Manuscript collection number 413, Special collection.University of Delaware Library, Newark, Del

[2] Robinson Winifred J. Taxanomic Study of the Pteridophyta of the Hawaiian Islands. Lancaster, PA. Press of New era Print. Co 1912.

[3] Robinson, Winifred J.  History of the Women’s College of the University of Delaware, 1914-1938.  Newark, Del. University of Del. 1947.

[4] University of Delaware Website. Men and Women of the Green.

[5] UD Website. Administration.

[6] UD Website.. Office of Institutional Research & Effectiveness, Facts and Figures.

Dean Robinson. Image Courtesy of Special Collections, Morris Library.

Dean Robinson. Image Courtesy of Special Collections, Morris Library.