The year 1743 is a widely celebrated and cherished date for the University of Delaware community. It was the year this great school was established and became known as a legitimate educational institution. Students attended classes and lived on this small, quaint campus centered in Old College for nearly 130 years before the first female students arrived. Then in 1870, the exclusively male campus and university underwent a revolutionary change, when the first experiment in female enrollment began with co-ed classrooms. William Purnell, president at the time, had college-aged daughters who attended the college.
In the five years following initial female enrollment, an average of fourteen women attended UD. This number stayed relatively constant for 15 years, while male attendance was rising rapidly. In 1885, however, William Purnell left the college, and female admittance ended abruptly.
It was not until 1914 when women began to be admitted once again, and the Women’s College was finally established.
In 1914, these empowered young women, 58 in all, appropriately called themselves “the Pioneers.” Yet, men still dominated the campus in terms of students and staff.
It was not until the late 1960s the administration began to consider gender equality. Pressure from the women’s rights movement caused attendance rates for women to rise in colleges everywhere, including the University of Delaware, where momentum helped to create the near equal ratios of men and women familiar today.
Since the Women’s College’s creation, gender based statistics of students have roughly reversed. The number of female students attending UD has risen above the male population. Between 2009 and 2013, an average of 2401 more female students were admitted than males. And this gender gap is steadily widening. This is in stark contrast to admittance rates of the early 20th century, when twice as many men were admitted than women. In 1915, 29% of the undergraduate population consisted of women, while in 2013 it was 57.5%.
This is an impressive shift to have taken place in just over a century, especially when compared to the startling rejection of female applicants from 1885 to 1913. Researchers suggest the reversal occurred in the 1960s as a result of women’s new aspirations to excel in a career, rather than a job. Additional pressures from excessive student loans have led to a decrease in prospective male students (Francis). There have been significant changes in women’s attendance at UD and these changes will continue to improve the university.
By Nikki Margenson (Freshman Anthropology Major), Chloe Hunter (Freshman Anthropology Major), and Amanda Kasman (Freshman Honors Art Conservation Major)
Francis, David R. “Why Do Women Outnumber Men in College?” RECENT NBER RESEARCH, NEWS, AND PRESS CITATIONS, n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2014. http://www.udel.edu/IR/fnf/21-ugdiversity.pdf