Should Colleges be Open to Women as Well as to Men, Archival Document

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Full Title:

Should Colleges be Open to Women as Well as to Men? Paper Presented to the Twentieth Annual Convocation of the University of the State of New York, at Albany.


If I were not well aware of the power of prescriptive usage in controlling opinion, and of the almost unconquerable tendency in the human mind to cling to the conviction that the thing which long has been is the thing which ought to be, I should be inclined to express astonishment that the question here proposed could be presumed to admit of more than one reply. For what is a college? Is there any thing in the nature of the functions it is instituted to fulfill, which should limit the possibilities of its usefulness to any particular class, or to a single sex? As to social classes we are apt to pride ourselves that this with us is not the case. It is matter of boasting that our colleges and our universities are open equally to young men in any condition in life; and that their highest honors have been often carried oft by those who have been compelled, while enjoying their advantages, to labor with their own hands for their daily bread. The youth who resort to our educational institutions are admitted indiscriminately to a perfect equality of privileges. No presumption of superior rank or of superior wealth is recognized as entitling any one to precedence above another. And this is as it should be. For the proper function of a college is to deal with those capacities of men which the accidental conditions of human society have no power to control or influence. Its business is to develop and cultivate those intellectual faculties of the race which give to it its distinctive position as race in organic nature. These faculties belong to the two sexes equally; it is equally important that they should be cultivated in both; and both sexes are therefore equally fit subjects for the culture which colleges are designed to give. Why then should women be excluded from the advantages which these institutions so freely extend to men?

Source Citation:

Barnard, Frederick. 1882. Should Colleges be Open to Women as Well as to Men? Archival Document. Boston University.

Cite this page:

Barnard, Frederick. 1882. "Should Colleges be Open to Women as Well as to Men, Archival Document." History of Higher Education.