Interesting Facts 40 Women Colleges in the U.S Today
These are colleges and universities in the United States where women make up all or almost all of the student bodies. Most of the time, they are liberal arts colleges. In the U.S., there are about sixty colleges for women that are still in operation.
Many colleges for women are liberal arts colleges that teach things like creative arts, sociology, and literature.
Georgia’s Wesleyan College was the first college for women. It opened its doors in 1836. By 1960, 230 women’s colleges across the country gave women the chance to go to college. Since then, a lot of women’s colleges have shut down. Today, there are less than 50 women’s colleges still open.
Over time, some women’s colleges had to change what they taught because fewer people wanted to go to schools just for women. Others have changed their admissions policies to let men and people who don’t fit the gender binary in. All of the places on this list, as well as many others, have made it clear that transgender women are welcome.
In the last few decades, some women’s colleges had steady or growing enrollment, but most lost money because of low enrollment. The Me Too movement and other political actions have led to more women applying to colleges for women. This has given many schools a much-needed boost.
Many women find that going to a college for women is helpful for them academically, socially, and financially. This guide ranks some of the best colleges for women in the U.S. based on different factors. It can help you figure out which college you might like best.
They weren’t made to keep women’s education separate from men’s, but to give women a place to go when there wasn’t one. Before the Civil War, women could only go to three private colleges, all of which were in Ohio. These were Antioch College, Oberlin College, and Hillside College, which is now in Michigan.
The first women’s colleges were started by people who fought for women’s rights. They thought that women are just as smart as men and should be allowed to take part in society. They also liked the idea of giving women job training. All of this happened at a time when such ideas were thought to be radical or even crazy.
Private schools or “seminaries” for girls were popular for much of the 19th century. These gave secondary education and focused more on practical skills than on academics. One of their guiding ideas was that women who were trained to be teachers, which was one of the only jobs they could get with this kind of education, would be better mothers. It was clear right away that the kind of education women got at academies and seminaries was very different from what men got at colleges.
There was also doubt about how stable these institutions were. They didn’t have the safety of college endowments, so they couldn’t afford permanent buildings or libraries. It’s hard to say which was the first women’s college, but Georgia Female College, which is now called Wesleyan College, was the first U.S. school with a charter to give women “all the honors degrees and licenses that colleges and universities usually give.” Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, was the first college for women to have a proper endowment. This meant that it could offer the same level of education as colleges for men.
It took the establishment of the Seven Sisters for women’s postsecondary education to finally catch up to the standards of men’s colleges, even though the first women’s colleges offered better education than seminaries and academies.
The environment that led to the founding of women’s colleges was influenced by a number of factors. Women had been liberated from Victorian domesticity by the Civil War. Others joined the war effort through volunteer brigades and ladies’ aid societies, baking, doing laundry, sewing, and knitting for the Union or the Confederacy. Some had served as army nurses.
Following the war, the expansion of publicly funded schools had increased the need for teachers while also inspiring many schoolgirls to pursue higher education. Due to the Industrial Revolution and innovations like the cookstove and sewing machine, women were relieved of many household chores. Social mores had started to view education as a worthwhile endeavor for women, and women of a certain socioeconomic status suddenly had a lot more time for and interest in getting educated.
Better teacher preparation was one of the main goals of the first women’s colleges. For women, teaching remained one of the few high-status professions, whereas for men with college degrees, teaching was seen as a low-status occupation. Priority was also given to religious and health education, and a small number of institutions, primarily the Seven Sisters colleges, concentrated on the more esoteric objective of “developing the intellect.”
The Seven Sisters colleges all began as private liberal arts colleges in the Northeast United States between 1837 and 1889.
These colleges were:
The Pleiades, the seven daughters of the Titan Atlas who holds up the sky in Greek mythology, are the inspiration behind their moniker. Today, the women’s colleges Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Holyoke, Smith, and Wellesley still exist. In contrast to Radcliffe, which merged with Harvard in 1999, Vassar became a coed institution in 1969.
The Seven Sisters were created with the intention of serving as a counterpoint to the Ivy League colleges, which did not admit women until the late 1960s. The Seven Sisters employed many female faculty members and administrators, making them some of the first entry points for women into academia. The trustees of Columbia University established Barnard as a compromise in the fight for women’s education. In fact, Columbia became the last Ivy League school to allow coed admission in 1983.
“It is shocking that many of the best colleges in America turned away female applicants as late as the 1960s. When colleges like Yale, Princeton, and Dartmouth finally opened their doors to women, it wasn’t out of concern for equity but rather as a means of retaining their ability to draw in the best men who were no longer interested in attending all-male institutions. We can still see the effects of this long history of exclusion in the persistent inequality of women in tenured professor positions and college presidency, as well as in the pervasive problem of sexual harassment. The 2020 Connecticut Book Award for nonfiction went to Anne Gardiner Perkins, author of Yale Needs Women: How the First Group of Women Rewrote the Rules of an Ivy League Giant.
It took the establishment of the Seven Sisters for women’s postsecondary education to finally catch up to the standards of men’s colleges, even though the first women’s colleges offered better education than seminaries and academies. This was largely because of benefactors’ financial support and the colleges’ capacity to attract and hold talented male and female academics.
Even though it seems ridiculous in modern times, early 19th-century opposition to women’s colleges was widespread. Popular myths included the ideas that women are too weak to go to college, that they are less intelligent than men, and that college might harm their reproductive organs. Professor Charles Davis at the U.S. Military Academy claimed that allowing women to pursue higher education would “introduce a vast social evil…a monster of social deformity.”
Many states had passed laws granting women the right to vote, and notable men were also openly speaking out against gender inequality.
Numerous of these concepts were supported by eminent figures, including Charles W. Eliot, who served as president of Harvard College from 1869 to 1909, giving them academic and scientific credibility. Beginning in the middle of the 19th century, the struggle for women’s rights became more organized, with the suffrage movement gaining strength and the first significant conventions being organized in New York and Massachusetts. The tide had changed by the turn of the 20th century. Many states had passed laws granting women the right to vote, and notable men were also openly speaking out against gender inequality. 33% of all students pursuing baccalaureates in 1880 were female. Women who were working increased from 2.6 million to 7.8 million between 1880 and 1910.
The 260 women’s colleges that existed in 1960 have drastically decreased to around 40 today. This transition appears logical in many ways. Over the past 150 years, women’s rights have seen unprecedented advancements; by the 1980s, almost all colleges that had previously been exclusively for men had become coed. Most coed colleges now have more women than men. Given these developments, it might even come as a surprise to learn that there are still women’s colleges. What function do women’s colleges serve today?
Despite a long-term decline in enrollment at women’s colleges, there was a sharp increase in 2016. The cause of this increase has been theorized by a variety of stakeholders and journalists. Most people concur that the main causes have been the emergence of the #MeToo movement, the shifting political landscape, and changing perceptions of feminism. Furthermore, despite the fact that women are no longer legally prohibited from pursuing educational and professional aspirations, many traces of inequality still exist. This is especially true in fields where women are disproportionately underrepresented, such as business, politics, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
Women’s colleges were attended by Madeleine Albright, Nancy Pelosi, Geraldine Ferraro, and Hillary Clinton. The same is true for 30% of a Businessweek list of rising women in corporate America and 20% of women in congress. As a result, and largely because of networking opportunities, women’s colleges are a crucial pipeline for those seeking leadership positions in business and politics.
According to reports, the gender gap in STEM is primarily caused by gender stereotypes, male-dominated work environments, a lack of female role models, and “math anxiety” that is transmitted from female teachers to students. Women’s colleges work to close this gap.
Numerous organizations provide scholarships in support of women’s education as more and more women enroll in college and enter the workforce. These are provided in a variety of fields, including technology and fisheries.
Women’s colleges can help reduce a number of inequalities, not the least of which is by putting more women in positions of leadership across various industries.
One of the most statistically significant differences between coed and women’s colleges is how well-prepared students feel they were for their first job after college: Compared to 65% at coed institutions, 81% of women’s college graduates say they feel “extremely” or “very prepared” for a career.
In comparison to women attending coed colleges, students at women’s colleges have a twice as high likelihood of earning a graduate degree. American women continue to earn 80 cents on every dollar earned by men, and they are much less likely to be promoted to managerial positions. These facts have numerous intricate causes, so there must be numerous successful solutions as well. Women’s colleges can help reduce a number of inequalities, not the least of which is by putting more women in positions of leadership across various industries.
The majority of elite men’s colleges, such as Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Dartmouth, and Johns Hopkins, did not even allow women to apply at one point in time, so women’s colleges historically provided essential access to a top-notch education. These schools actually caused a significant financial hit to women’s colleges by driving away their students when they finally went coed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. For instance, the first group of women at Yale included 100 transfer students from just Smith and Wellesley. Today’s women’s colleges play a different but equally important role, and I for one would consider their disappearance from the higher education landscape in the United States to be a real loss. John Gardiner Perkins
Compared to coed liberal arts colleges, women’s colleges have demographics that are much more similar to those of public universities. Compared to 38.5% of students at other private liberal arts colleges, more than half of all students at women’s colleges identify as women of color. In addition, women’s colleges enroll more first-generation students and have lower median student incomes than coed liberal arts colleges, Catholic universities, public universities, and private colleges.
Women’s colleges have taken the lead in recent years when it comes to gender equality. In 2014, Mills College in California made history by becoming the first women’s college in the nation to explicitly permit the admission of nonbinary and gender-fluid students. At least some trans-inclusive policies are in place at 20 historically female colleges today.
Today’s high school students have a wide variety of college options to choose from, ranging from small liberal arts colleges to big research universities. Attending a women’s college is another choice for female students who plan to go to college. Women’s colleges offer their students a variety of advantages, such as small, close-knit campuses, active alumni networks, and a dedication to the advancement and well-being of women. Additionally, students at women’s colleges are more than 1.5 times as likely to major in a STEM field as students at co-educational institutions.
Another excellent reason to enroll in a women’s college is the fact that many of them are flourishing and rank among the top universities in the nation.
Looking for a top women’s university? Here are the top ten women’s colleges in the United States right now:
Location: Wellesley, MA
Acceptance Rate: 20%
Middle 50% SAT Score Range: 1410-1530
Although Wellesley College is a small institution, it offers its students a wealth of opportunities. More than 50 majors, including everything from astrophysics to theatre, a network of former students dubbed the “most powerful women’s network in the world,” and an abundance of research and internship opportunities are all available at Wellesley College. Additionally, Wellesley provides a combined BA/MA program in International Economics and Finance over five years with Brandeis University and selective double-degree programs with MIT.
Location: New York, New York
Acceptance Rate: 14%
Middle 50% SAT Score Range: 1145-1530
Colombia’s refusal to admit women led to the founding of Barnard in 1889 (Columbia didn’t do so until nearly a century later, in 1983). Barnard is a stand-alone organization with independent trustees, endowment, and policies. However, because Barnard is a part of Columbia University and is one of the university’s four undergraduate colleges, its students can use the libraries, amenities, and extracurricular programs offered on both campuses. Because of Barnard’s distinctive organizational design, students can benefit from attending a larger university while also experiencing life at a small college.
Location: Northampton, MA
Acceptance Rate: 37%
Middle 50% SAT Score Range: 1390-1510
With only 14 students in its inaugural class, Smith College, which was founded in 1871, went on to become one of the biggest women’s colleges in the nation. At Smith, there are 11 varsity sports, more than 140 student clubs and organizations, and 50 academic departments, ranging from astronomy to world literature. Instead of living in dorms or participating in Greek life, students at Smith College live in 41 autonomous community houses that can house between ten and 100 people.
Location: Claremont, CA
Acceptance Rate: 35%
Middle 50% SAT Score Range: 1400-1510
The college’s core curriculum, an integrated sequence of three courses that explore how institutions, socially constructed categories like race and gender, and other cultural frameworks influence how we see the world, serves as the cornerstone of a Scripps education. With four other undergraduate institutions (Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Pitzer, and Pomona Colleges) and two graduate institutions (Claremont Graduate University and Keck Graduate Institute), Scripps College is a part of the Claremont Colleges consortium. Each institution in the consortium is a stand-alone organization with a distinct purpose and identity, but the consortium enables students to attend a small, narrowly focused college while taking advantage of the advantages provided by bigger institutions.
Location: Bryn Mawr, PA
Acceptance Rate: 38%
Middle 50% SAT Score Range: 1290-1460
Since its establishment in 1885, Bryn Mawr College has offered both undergraduate and graduate degrees. It was also the first women’s college to offer a PhD. One of the “Seven Sisters,” a group of elite women’s colleges in the Northeast established in the 1920s to compete with the male-dominated Ivy League, is Bryn Mawr. Through collaborations with the nearby schools of Haverford, Swathmore, and the University of Pennsylvania, Bryn Mawr balances its single-sex education with a range of co-educational opportunities.
Location: South Hadley, MA
Acceptance Rate: 52%
Middle 50% SAT Score Range: 1340-1470
Mount Holyoke was the first of the “Seven Sister” colleges to open its doors in 1837. Along with Amherst College, Hampshire College, Smith College, and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Mount Holyoke is a part of the Five College Consortium in western Massachusetts. The Five College Consortium runs a free bus system that connects the five campuses and allows students to cross-register for courses. It also provides a wide variety of shared clubs and projects. According to the website Niche, Mount Holyoke is the seventh-most liberal university in the nation.
Location: Atlanta, GA
Acceptance Rate: 53%
Middle 50% SAT Score Range: 1070-1240
Spelman College is the oldest historically Black college for women in the United States as well as one of the best women’s colleges in the country and a top HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) in the nation. After graduation, one-third of Spelman students enroll in graduate or professional school, and the school is known for producing many Black female doctors and STEM doctoral candidates.
Location: Boston, MA
Acceptance Rate: 83%
Middle 50% SAT Score Range: 1080-1250
The undergraduate curriculum at Simmons University is focused on women, while the graduate curriculum is co-ed. The majority of Simmons’ full-time faculty members—72%—are female. Simmons gives students the chance to experience both life at a bustling big city university and life at a small, welcoming college. There are numerous opportunities for research, internships, and careers at Simmons, which is situated in Boston, one of the nation’s major centers for higher education. In the greater Boston area alone, there are over 70 colleges and universities.
Location: Notre Dame, IN
Acceptance Rate: 82%
Middle 50% SAT Score Range: 1065-1250
There is a convent on the campus of Saint Mary’s College, a small Catholic university supported by the Sisters of the Holy Cross. A significant part of the Saint Mary’s experience is community service; about three-quarters of seniors participate in volunteer work or community service. The University of Notre Dame (located across the street) and Saint Mary’s College are closely affiliated; Saint Mary’s students can attend events like football games, take classes there, and participate in extracurricular activities like writing for the marching band or The Observer (Notre Dame’s newspaper).
Location: Decatur, GA
Acceptance Rate: 68%
Middle 50% SAT Score Range: 1170-1390
According to the website Niche, Agnes Scott College, a top-ranked women’s college associated with the Presbyterian Church, is ranked as the 54th best Christian college in the nation. The SUMMIT core curriculum, which emphasizes global learning, leadership development, professional success, and digital literacy to ensure students are ready for life after graduation, is a distinctive feature of Agnes Scott College. Every undergraduate admitted for Fall 2022 received the Agnes Assurance Scholarship from Agnes Scott, a merit-based scholarship worth $22,000 that is renewable.
On the basis of factors like graduation and retention rates, the most prestigious women’s colleges are highly ranked institutions. Some of the best women’s colleges in the nation include Scripps College, Barnard College, and Wellesley College. Of all women’s colleges, Wellesley has the highest retention and graduation rates.
High graduation rates and a wide range of academic courses are provided to students by Barnard College in collaboration with Columbia University. Another college with a high graduation rate is Scripps.
When women were still not allowed in most institutions, women’s colleges were established to give them access to higher education.
Numerous educational opportunities for women were made possible by the opening of hundreds of women’s colleges in the 19th century. Women’s colleges still provide a distinctive educational experience today, frequently with a focus on the liberal arts.
The first college to admit women was Oberlin College, which is located in Ohio. From the time it was founded in 1833, the school was a coed institution. Additionally, Oberlin was the first university to accept Black students into its programs. Wesleyan College was the first women’s college to open and was founded in 1836 with the express purpose of educating women.
Women’s colleges, which are predominantly or exclusively attended by women, are typically private institutions of higher learning. These colleges for undergraduates frequently emphasize liberal arts education.
To increase their student offerings, many private women’s colleges work in conjunction with institutions for men and women.
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