Johns Hopkins Gazette: November 7, 1994

Hopkins Women Celebrate 25 Years at Homewood
By Chris Rowett

When Helen Blumberg arrived at Hopkins, some of her male
classmates did not exactly welcome her.
     "They felt we were there to marry them or beat them out of
medical school," said Blumberg, who entered Hopkins as a
sophomore in 1970. "Having us as their equals in the classrooms
and the labs was something they couldn't handle."
     This week marks the 25th anniversary of the trustees'
decision to admit women to undergraduate classes at Homewood. It
was a decision made only after years of debate. All of the other
divisions admitted women since they were founded, but Arts and
Sciences and Engineering were a different story. 
     In Women at the Johns Hopkins University, A History, Julia
B. Morgan cites several of the first females to attend Hopkins,
including M. Carey Thomas, who was informally admitted to the
graduate program in 1877 but later quit. Dr. Thomas went on to
become president of Bryn Mawr College. 
     In 1882, just six years after Hopkins was founded, Christine
Ladd-Franklin earned her graduate degree. She did not receive
that degree until 1926, years after she had taught logic and
psychology for five years in the Philosophy Department at
     Mary Elizabeth Garrett offered the university $35,000 a year
in 1887, provided the school be opened to both sexes. The offer
was refused.
     By 1908, women were formally admitted to graduate classes. 
     "But there was an escape clause," said Morgan, a 1976
graduate and executive assistant to the vice president and
secretary of the university. "Professors didn't have to have
women in their classes if they didn't want them."
     It took 61 more years before the barrier was broken for
undergraduates. And when the group of 90 women arrived on campus
in the fall of 1970, they were faced with a new set of struggles. 
     "I think a lot of us who came did have some second
thoughts," Blumberg said of her decision to transfer from the
then-female Skidmore College. "I think in many ways the school
wasn't ready for us."
     There were no campus mailboxes for female students, Blumberg
said, so coeds often went uninformed.  
     A larger issue, Blumberg said, was the reluctance and
resentment male students and faculty felt toward a permanent
female presence, creating an initially hostile environment.
     "Some were very conservative and did not view us as serious
students," said Blumberg, now manager of the Govans branch of the
Enoch Pratt Free Library.
     The hostility, she said, took two forms: female students
were either ignored or singled out. She remembers attending
lectures and watching male students stand rather than take a seat
next to a woman.
     "Some felt that the standards had been lowered to let us
in," Blumberg said. "Like any minority, we just had to work
     A headline in the Baltimore News-American magazine section
claimed, "Lovely Girls, Colorfully Dressed Bloom Like Flowers at
Homewood." The story was accompanied by a photo of the backside
of a female student, with a caption that read, "The presence of
coeds on the Hopkins campus has brightened the scenery, but the
ratio is still 10 men for every woman."  
     Carla Janson said living and working on a "male-dominated"
campus was an adjustment, but she did not experience anger from
her male counterparts or faculty.
     "There was none of that," she said. "That was actually a
pleasant surprise."
     Still, the former student who graduated in three years
added, "Maybe I was just oblivious to it."
     Dr. Janson, who attended Hopkins Medical School and is an
emergency room physician at Sinai Hospital, said the most
negative aspect of Hopkins at the time was the lack of certain
     "It was hard to find a bathroom," she said, laughing.
     Though current students shouldn't have that problem, females
at Hopkins are aware of their minority status. There are 2,143
male undergraduates at Homewood this fall, and only 1,278 women.  
     "We're kind of working in someone else's framework," said
junior Emily Baillieul, 20. "Feminist issues are not addressed on
this campus."
     She believes the university--not the students--should make
changes in its agenda. 
     "We do have a responsibility but primarily we are here to
get an education," she said.
     Baillieul, an English major, said being in a minority at
this point in her life may help her later.
     "I think this is actually realistic," she said. "It's
upsetting, but it is an indication of real life."
     Twenty-one-year-old Laura Christie, a 1994 biophysics
graduate, said her classmates--male and female--supported and
studied with each other.
     "It wasn't a matter of someone being intimidated by having
to ask a girl for help," she said. She has friends in engineering
departments, she said, who are the only females in their class.
And there are few female members of the faculty, she said.
     "I think my biggest complaint is that I had very few female
teachers," Christie said. "I don't know that it would have
changed much for me, but you never know."
     Helen Blumberg said she and her pioneering classmates--many
of whom she keeps in touch with--gained valuable lessons in life
by being among the first female undergraduates.
     "It helped us learn how to function in an environment where
we were just not going to be accepted," she said. "We really
worked hard at it."

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