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 Hopkins. 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 harder." 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 facilities. "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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