Albion Commemorates 150 Years of Co-Education

Joint portrait of the faculty of the Wesleyan Seminary at Albion and the Albion Female College, 1860.

 

Joint portrait of the faculty of the Wesleyan Seminary at Albion and the Albion Female College, 1860.

Albion College faculty, 1861. Courses of study offered included mental and moral science, natural science, mathematics, modern languages, belles lettres, English literature, fine arts and ancient languages.

 

Albion College faculty, 1861. Courses of study offered included mental and moral science, natural science, mathematics, modern languages, belles lettres, English literature, fine arts and ancient languages.

Madelon Stockwell Turner ca.1870

 

Albion native Madelon Stockwell Turner was one of the first women admitted to the University of Michigan in 1870. Read more

The Rev. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, circa 1873

 

The Rev. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw (circa 1873) attended the College from 1873-1875 and is the namesake of Albion's women's center. Read more

The 1893-94 Pleiad editorial staff

 

The 1893-94 Pleiad editorial staff

Students studying Greek, 1899

 

Students studying Greek, 1899

The Clionian Literary Society, 1913

 

The Clionian Literary Society, 1913

Alpha Chi Omega, 1918

 

Alpha Chi Omega, 1918

Alpha Xi Delta, 1935

 

Alpha Xi Delta, 1935

Members of the marching band, 1941

 

Members of the marching band, 1941

The Women's Athletic Association, 1950

 

The Women's Athletic Association, 1950

Emerita faculty Robina Quale-Leach (history) and Betty Beese (physical education), circa 1960

 

Emerita faculty Robina Quale-Leach (history) and Betty Beese (physical education), circa 1960. Read more

Three AZDs

 

Three Alpha Xi Deltas

Members of the marching band, 1984

 

Members of the marching band, 1984


If you recognize any faces, please leave a note in the comments section at bottom.

By Jake Weber and Nicole Garrett, Albion College archivist

On the heels of its 175th birthday in 2010, Albion marks the 150th anniversary of providing a college education to female students. On February 25, 1861, Michigan's state legislature authorized the 26-year-old school to grant four-year degrees to women, making Albion one of the Midwest's first co-educational institutions.

Chartered in 1835 as the Spring Arbor Seminary, Albion became the Wesleyan Seminary at Albion in 1839. From the beginning, women were admitted alongside men, and in 1843, enrollment consisted of “81 gentlemen and 36 ladies." In 1849, a resolution was passed for the establishment of the Female Collegiate Institute at the Seminary. The Institute changed names to the Albion Female College in 1857 and the Seminary and Female College merged to form Albion College in 1861.

"In a certain sense, Albion went co-ed backwards; we offered degrees to women first," said women and gender studies professor Trisha Franzen, noting that the Wesleyan Seminary didn't issue college degrees.

Franzen explained that "the business for seminaries was falling off, but the University of Michigan was only offering degrees to men. I think Albion College thought there was some need to offer degrees to women," spurring the College's appeal for a charter.

"The Midwest was definitely in the leadership of co-ed schools," Franzen concluded. "I think they didn't have the same rigid ideas about the roles of women and men as were common back east."

Even within the progressive Midwest, Albion's 1861 charter puts it ahead of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University (both admitted women in 1870) and Northwestern University (admitting women in 1869).

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