Johns Hopkins Magazine
Johns Hopkins Magazine Current Issue Past Issues Search Get In Touch
A Timeline of Women at Hopkins

Photos courtesy of Special Collections and Archives
The Milton S. Eisenhower Library

1876 — In his February inaugural address, President Daniel Coit Gilman says that, though he is committed to the idea of educating women and hopes Baltimore will have a women's college, he finds co-education inappropriate because it would expose women "to the rougher influences which I am sorry to confess are still to be found in colleges and universities where young men resort."

1876 — In November, James Carey Thomas, member of the Board of Trustees and a supporter of admitting women to Hopkins, calls a meeting to discuss the matter. The board is unable to commit and leaves the issue in the hands of the president.

1877 — In September, Carey Thomas' daughter Martha applies to study Greek as an undergraduate. One month later, Emily Nunn, who had been taking a special Saturday teacher's course in physiology, applies for admission to regular biology lectures. Both are denied. The trustees adopt a policy that women could attend public and special lectures, and that the university would examine and "certify to the attainments of such women as may offer themselves as candidates for a degree" but would not "for the present . . . receive young ladies as students in the usual classes, and as attendants upon lectures not specially excepted."

Ladd-Franklin 1882 — Christine Ladd-Franklin meets the requirements for her PhD in mathematics (the first woman to do so in any subject at Hopkins), though the trustees deny her the degree and refuse to change the policy about admitting women. Ladd-Franklin is a lecturer in the Hopkins Faculty of Philosophy for five years before leaving for Columbia. Her degree is awarded to her in 1926, 44 years later.

1889 — The Johns Hopkins School of Nursing opens, accepting women and men as students.

1890 — Five Baltimore women, four of them daughters of Hopkins trustees, organize the Women's Fund Committee. Martha Carey Thomas, Mary Elizabeth Garrett, Mary Gwinn, Elizabeth King, and Julia Rogers intend to raise money needed to establish the School of Medicine — with the condition that the school accept women.

1890s — Yale, Brown, Columbia, and Harvard admit women graduate students.

1893 — Geologist Florence Bascomb becomes JHU's first female PhD. Bascomb will become the first woman elected a fellow, councilor, and vice president of the Geological Association of America and the first woman to serve on the U.S. Geological Survey.

1893 — The School of Medicine opens; three of the 18 students in the first class are women.

1894 — May Garrettson Evans, a Peabody alumna, establishes the Peabody Preparatory Department.

1897-1902 — Gertrude Stein studies at the School of Medicine but does not receive a degree.

1907 — Women are accepted into the graduate programs at Johns Hopkins. President Ira Remsen explains, "It was simply a matter of justice — I should say of justice and common sense."

1917 — Florence R. Sabin is appointed the first woman professor in the School of Medicine. 1918 — The School of Hygiene and Public Health opens; within a year, women make up one-third of the school's faculty.

Bamberger 1923 — Undergraduate students vote 232 to 37 against what the News-Letter calls "female intrusion into the undergraduate body," responding to a request by some women students in the College for Teachers for equal status and the same degrees as male undergraduates. 1924 — Florence Bamberger, professor of education, is the first woman appointed full professor. Two months later, Buford Jeannette Johnson becomes professor of psychology.

1930 — Physicist Maria Goeppert Mayer comes to Hopkins when her husband, Joseph Mayer, takes an appointment in the Chemistry Department. Because nepotism rules forbid the employment of both spouses, she is only able to get an assistantship. The two eventually move to Columbia and the University of Chicago and go on to be awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1963. She is the first woman residing in America to win a Nobel in physics.

Carson 1932 — Environmentalist Rachel Carson receives a master's degree in zoology at Hopkins.

1944 — The School of Advanced International Studies opens. Because many men in the United States are part of the war effort, more than half of its 23 students are women.

1960s — Harvard, Yale, and Princeton admit women as undergraduates.

1969 — The Committee on Coeducation assembled by President Lincoln Gordon recommends that "coeducation at the undergraduate level be instituted without delay," suggesting that it will improve the university's intellectual and social environment. The Academic Council recommends that women be admitted as undergraduates by September, and the trustees make the policy official.

Female undergraduates,
circa 1972

1970 — In September, 90 women break a 94-year tradition and enter Hopkins as undergraduates. "You feel like a cross between Gypsy Rose Lee and Typhoid Mary," student Rebecca Love told the News-Letter.

1984 — An obscene story is published in a fraternity newsletter, prompting outrage on campus and spurring the administration to set up an Ad Hoc Committee on the Status of Women. The group concludes that Hopkins "remains a male institution with an atmosphere that is at best indifferent and at worst hostile to the concerns of women."

1987 — The Johns Hopkins Women's Forum (later renamed the Johns Hopkins Women's Network) is created to bring together women from all of the university's divisions. It first offers events, and later educational and cultural programming addressing women's issues.

1988 — The Women's Forum launches the Committee to Write an Annual Report on the Status of Women at the Johns Hopkins University, the first university-wide committee to explore a wide range of issues relating to women. Provost John Lombardi assumes responsibility for the project, which will form the nucleus of the Provost's Committee on the Status of Women.

1988 — The Women's Studies program in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences is founded with a $300,000 grant from the Ford Foundation. The program is now called the Program for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality.

1989 — The First Annual Report of the Provost's Committee on the Status of Women suggests recruiting and promoting more female leaders and tenured faculty; providing equal salaries for women and men; and establishing university day care.

Fishbein 1991 — Estelle Fishbein, the university's general counsel since 1975, becomes Hopkins' first female vice president.

1994 — At 53 percent, women in the incoming class of the School of Medicine outnumber men for the first time in the school's 101-year history.

1998 — Illene Busch-Vishniac is appointed dean of the Whiting School of Engineering. She is the first woman dean of a Hopkins division other than the School of Nursing. 1999 — Women's lacrosse, a varsity sport at Hopkins since 1976, moves to Division 1 from Division 3.

2002 — Jessica Einhorn is appointed dean of SAIS.

2003 — Oncologist Judith Karp becomes the 100th female faculty member at the School of Medicine to be named full professor.

November 2006 — The University's Committee on the Status of Women releases Vision 2020.

Spring 2007 — Lisa Cooper of the division of General Internal Medicine becomes the first woman of African descent to be named full professor in the School of Medicine. Cooper goes on to win a MacArthur Foundation $500,000 "genius grant" in September.

June 2007 — Pamela P. Flaherty is elected the 15th chair of the university's board of trustees. Flaherty is the first woman and the first SAIS graduate to hold the position.

Johnson July 2007 — Kristina M. Johnson is named JHU's first female provost.

Sources: "Women at the Johns Hopkins University: A History," by Julia B. Morgan and Johns Hopkins: Knowledge for the World, by Mame Warren (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000)

Return to Necessary Steps
Return to November 2007 Table of Contents

  The Johns Hopkins Magazine | 901 S. Bond St. | Suite 540 | Baltimore, MD 21231
Phone 443-287-9900 | Fax 443-287-9898 | E-mail