University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The University of Wisconsin Collection

Page View

Swoboda, Marian J.; Roberts, Audrey J. / They came to learn, they came to teach, they came to stay
(1980)

Droste, Jean
Chapter 1: Co-education 1849-1909: they came to stay,   pp. 1-9 ff.


Page 7


stimulates a healthy rivalry and gives young men a broader view on the
ability of women to care for themselves." He concluded that "co-education
has passed the experimental stage and women have demonstrated their right
to share in the benefits of higher education as well as in other pursuits."45
The next controversy regarding coeducation occurred in 1907 and 1908
when President Charles Van Hise suggested that certain courses should be
offered to women only. Dr. Richard Ely, professor of economics, had raised
the issue with Van Hise. In women's colleges the subject of political economy
was popular, said Ely, and he felt that if he introduced a course in political
economy for women only, perhaps it would encourage more women to enroll.
Van Hise reported that two history professors, Dana C. Munro and Alfred L.
P. Dennis, had said that women preferred segregated quiz sections and that
they were afraid to take classes which were known as "men's courses."46
Defenders of coeducation, notably Helen Remington Olin, class of 1875
and wife of a Madison lawyer, viewed Van Hise's proposed action as a blow
to coeducation and carried the matter to the press. She published a pamphlet
called "Shall Wisconsin Remain a Co-educational Institution?" and
chaired a
committee of Madison alumni whose purpose was to fight Van Hise's action.
The committee sent a petition to Wisconsin alumni and to the Regents which
read: "Resolved, by the undersigned graduates of the Wisconsin University
that we consider such a movement prejudicial to the best interest of the
University in general, and its women students in particular, and that we
think
it would tend to discredit education everywhere, and most seriously limit
the
opportunities of women in all public educational institutions."47
Van Hise was not prepared for the turmoil that his proposal created. He
felt his view had been misrepresented by Helen Olin and stated again and
again that his purpose had not been to reintroduce segregation of the sexes
at
the university. He said that "the public has been informed that the
principle
of co-education is at stake. Apparently this principle is regarded as so
sacred
as to preclude the discussion of any practical co-educational problem in
the
University." The faculty committee appointed to study the problem agreed
that Van Hise's proposal did not involve the general subject of coeducation
which had been a policy of the university for years.48 Yet the issue became
so
publicized as a coeducational question that the governor of Wisconsin, Robert
LaFollette, and his wife, Belle LaFollette, wrote a letter to the Board of
Regents stating that they "should regret to see the University of Wisconsin
take any step that might directly or indirectly be construed as a recognition
for the principle of segregation."49
With such formidable adversaries, the Regents dismissed Van Hise's sug-
gestion for the separation of the sexes and in June 1908 stated that they
were
opposed to any type of sex segregation. They said that they favored co-
education without modification and that they would not tolerate any dis-
crimination on account of sex in the granting of scholarships, fellowships
or
any other position in any of the colleges or departments of the university.50
The last attempt at even a partial segregation of the sexes had received
a
resounding defeat. In 1909 the provision that the "university shall
be open to
female as well as male students under such regulations and restrictions as
the
Board of Regents may deem proper" was deleted and the Regents added
the
following section: "all schools and colleges of the University shall,
in their re-
spective departments and class exercises, be open without distinction to
stu-
7


Go up to Top of Page