Students march in parade holding banner that reads "UW Women at 150"

Illustration: Barry Carlsen MFA’83

Read the special women’s issue

“The University, in all its departments and colleges, shall be open alike to male and female students.” In Wisconsin’s reorganization act of 1866, the state legislature declared that the UW should serve all of its citizens, not merely the half who wore neckties. The UW, however, was not entirely keen to obey, particularly because the person it hoped would be its next president, Paul Chadbourne, felt that coeducation would “cause a great deal of trouble.” But after some wrangling, women were added to campus in 1867, and so was Chadbourne.

There had, in fact, been women at the UW prior to this. The Normal Department, which taught teachers, had female students since 1863. But this was not the same as full access to the university. In 1869 — 150 years ago — the UW graduated its first baccalaureate alumnae: Clara Bewick Colby, Anna Headen Erskine, Elizabeth Spencer Haseltine, Jane Nagle Henderson, Helen Noble Peck, and Ellen Turner Pierce. The next year, Chadbourne left, but women stayed.

This year, the UW is celebrating that 150th anniversary. In this special women’s issue, you’ll read about just a few of the amazing women (and one who’s less-than-admirable) who have passed through campus in the last century and a half. We know we’ve missed a lot of influential Badger women. Is there someone we should know about? Write to us.

On, alumnae!


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