Women have always lived, worked and learned at the University of Virginia, but over the last century women have fundamentally transformed what once was known as a “Gentleman’s University.” The increase in access and opportunity for women has raised UVA’s academic profile and enriched the educational and social experiences of all students.
Despite Thomas Jefferson’s progressive vision of education in a newly formed nation, his plans for the University did not include women. Like many of his era, he believed that women’s education should be oriented toward the domestic, and the higher education he believed was the bedrock of democracy and civilized public life was not extended to them.
Nonetheless, women found ways to learn at the University. Before 1970, more than 15,000 women earned professional, graduate and undergraduate degrees, and a comparable number received degrees or certificates from the Nursing School. In 1970, 450 undergraduate women enrolled in the College of Arts & Sciences, transforming the University into a fully coeducational institution. Today, women constitute more than half of the student population. Women excel in the classroom, win prestigious awards and scholarships, compete in athletics and lead student organizations. The University’s alumnae are leaders and pioneers in every aspect of American life, and their contributions have reshaped a rapidly changing world.
The diverse stories of individual female students at the University trace a movement toward integration and empowerment on Grounds.
- The Early Years
- Constance Page Daniel studies at the University during the Depression
- Margaret Sutherland Coleman and the post-World War II years
- Janet Blakeman’s experience as a law student in the ’50s
- Sixties nursing students, Ann Kiessling and Mavis Claytor
- The transition to full coeducation in 1970
- A history of female professors at UVA
- Holly Smith’s and Valerie Smith Kirkman’s: Early full coeducation
- Sandra Lewis, the first African American female day student, and her daughter, Tanya Lewis
- Jill Haworth Jones and women’s athletics at UVA
- Glynn Key’s and Nancy Andrews’s student experience in the ’80s
- 2011 Alumna of the Year, Alexandra Arriaga
- Sportscaster Melissa Stark Lilley’s student experience in the ’90s
- Mary Elizabeth Bruce created her own major, poverty studies, in the ’00s
- Current student Irene Kan is the managing editor of the Cavalier Daily