UIHistories Project: A History of the University of Illinois by Kalev Leetaru
        M I L E S T O N E S

Women at the University

At a farmers convention in Champaign, a Mrs. Tracey Cutler first introduced the idea of allowing women students to be educated alongside male students at the new Illinois Industrial University; however Regent Gregory spoke against the idea. The eloquence which Mrs. Cutler employed in her speech caused many in the audience to agree that women students should be permitted, and the Regent admitted that it was a movement which required more thought and judgment than he thought had been given to it. Regent Gregory eventually reversed himself and wholeheartedly embraced the notion, even going so far as to board the lady students on his own hook. [1]

At their November 18, 1868 meeting, Mr. Johnson of the Board of Trustees submitted a resolution that female students be admitted to the benefits of this University upon the same terms and requirements as male students, except the requisitions for military student and drill, to which Mr. Flagg offered an alternative of That from and after the commencement of Fall of 1869, female students shall be admitted to the lecture and recitation rooms of the University. The Board voted to refer the mater to its annual meeting when all members were present. [2]

At their March 9, 1869 meeting, the Board continued their discussion on female students, with Mr. Johnson offering That as Trustees of the Illinois Industrial University, we believe that the girls of the State of Illinois are equally entitled to an Industrial education with the boys ; therefore, be it ordered, that they be admitted to all the classes of the University, and subject to all regulations, except military drill. Mr. Brown suggested it be amended by removing the words except military drill, however this was rejected and Mr. Wright suggested the alternative: [3]

WHEREAS, The law of Congress declares the end of this University to be the liberal education of the industrial classes, with no limitations to one sex more than another ; therefore, [it is suggested] That the Committee on Faculty and Courses of Study, be instructed to consider the practicability of extending the advantages of the University to young women, and to report to this Board at its next meeting.

The alternative was lost to a tied ten to ten vote of yeas and nays. However, when Mr. Edwards suggested amending the wording as soon as means are at our command to furnish proper buildings for the purpose after the phrase male students, the substitute was accepted by the Board. [4]

The contentious issue was once again brought out at the August 26, 1870 Board meeting, with Judge J. O. Cunningham offering: [5]

WHEREAS the Trustees have already recognized the right of females to admission to this University; and, whereas, the public sentiment of the State seems to require an early fulfillment of the promise made by the resolution of the Trustees; and, whereas, the other leading Universities of this country have provided for the instruction of females; and, whereas, a number of young ladies have already made application for admission here; and, whereas, though our buildings are inadequate to the demand that will thus be made upon them, and though we have no rooms to offer for the special convenience of female students, and no special courses organized for them, we confidently look to the wisdom and generosity of the State, to assist us in our efforts to meet the public demand, made so imperative upon us; therefore, be it Resolved, That the Regent and faculty be authorized to admit to the classes of this institution for instruction, such female students of proper qualifications, as may apply; provided they be first satisfied that the parents and guardians have provided for them proper homes.

The resulting vote was 5 ayes and 4 noes, and the Board recessed. [6]

Finally, in the fall of 1870, the Trustees adopted a resolution to admit female students and in the Autumn Term of 1870, female students were first admitted to the University, with 15 signing up that term, with their ranks swelling to 22 by Spring Term. [7]

By July 1871, the Board considered the housing and needs of female students and Regent Gregory stated having decided to attempt the education of young women at the University, it is due that every practicable provision shall be made to afford them the highest facilities for such education as they may need and provision [was] made for the greater convenience of female students. The Regent had also visited the School of Design at the Cooper Institute in New York city to ascertain how far its plans are adapted to the University to guide the selection of a new drawing instructor, with special emphasis on the wants of the female students. [8]

In the fall of 1872, the Universitys School of Domestic Science formally opened its doors. It joined the ranks of the Colleges of Agriculture, Engineering, Natural Science, and Literature and Science. A flyer for the University from that year advertises it as follows: [9]

The University will offer, henceforth, unusual advantages for the education of young women. They will have, as formerly, access to all of the Classes in Sciences, Arts and Languages. Besides this, provision is making [sic] for special instruction in Domestic Sciences, in Telegraphy, Phonography, [sic] Drawing and Designing, etc., and in Music. Miss. L. E. Patchen, a graduate of the Musical Institute at Geneseo, N. Y., and of Oberlin College, has been appointed Instructress in Instrumental music.

To house the expected increase in female students, a new Ladies Boarding House was constructed just for them, to keep them separate from the male students in the main building. The building was to furnish a pleasant home for young ladies and to secure them cheap boardwhich, under the care of an intelligent Matron and Instructress, the pupils will keep house and be instructed in Domestic Science. The rate was 65c to 85c (depending on the size of the room) per week for rent, 75c to $1.25 for table expense for provisions, 20c to 40c for fuel and lights, and 50c for services of Steward and Matron, for a total of around $2.10 to $3.00 a week, or $75.00 to $108 a year. [10]

By 1875, the Catalogue and Circular had the following to say about the new School, which by that point had been renamed to the School of Domestic Science and Art: [11]

This school was put into practical operation two years ago, under the chief instruction of Miss Lou C. Allen, late preceptress of the Peoria County Normal School. Classes have been taught through these years, and a full course of studies has been arranged.

This school proceeds upon the assumption that the house-keeper needs education as much as the house-builder, the nurse as well as the physician, the leaders of society as surely as the leaders of senates, the mother as much as the father, the woman as well as the man. We discard the old and absurd notion that education is a necessity to man, but only an ornament to woman. If ignorance is a weakness and a disaster in the places of business where the income is won, it is equally so in the places of living, where the income is expended. If science can aid agriculture and the mechanic arts to use more successfully natures forces and to increase the amount and value of their products, it can equally aid the house-keeper in the finer and more complicated use of those forces and agencies, in the home where winter is to be changed into genial summer by artificial fires, and darkness into day by costly illumination ; where the raw products of the fields are to be transformed into sweet and wholesome food by a chemistry finer than that of soils, and the products of a hundred manufactories are to be put to their final uses for the health and happiness of life.

It is the aim of the School to give to earnest and capable young women an education, not lacking in refinement, but which shall fit them for their great duties and trusts, making them the equals of their educated husbands and associates, and enabling them to bring the aids of science and culture to the all important labors and vocations of womanhood.

The purpose is to provide a full course of instruction in the arts of the household, and the sciences relating thereto. No industry is more important to human happiness and well-being than that which makes the home. And this industry involves principles of science, as many and as profound as those which control any other human employment. It includes the architecture of the dwelling house, with the laws of heating and ventilation; the principles of physiology and hygiene, as applied to the sick and the well; the nature, uses, preservation and preparation of animal and vegetable food, for the healthful and for invalids; the chemistry of cooking; the uses, construction, material and hygiene, of dress; the principles of taste as applied to ornamentation, furniture, clothing and landscapes; horticulture and culture of both house and garden plants; the laws of markets; the usages of society and the laws of etiquette and social life.

Drawing is taught by a skilled instructor; Music can be had as an extra. Vacation Journals will be required as in other schools.

Female students were also required to attend regular gym classes and the University assured parents that great pains will be taken to secure, to the utmost possible extent, physical vigor, robust health, and a graceful carriage, and to prepare young women to take enlightened care of their own health and of the health of others under their care. [12]

The intended course schedule for students in the School was also quite rigorous: [13]


1. Chemistry; Advanced Botany; British Authors.

2. Chemistry; Advanced Botany; American Authors.

3. Free-hand Drawing; Entomology; Rhetoric.


1. Chemistry of Foods; Physiology; German.

2. Principles of Cooking; Zoology; German.

3. Domestic Hygiene; Architectura; [sic] Drawing; German.


1. Projection Drawing; Ancient History; German or French.

2. Physics; Medieval History; German or French.

3. Physics; Modern History; German or French


1. Household Esthetics; Mental Science; Constitutional History.

2. Household Science; History of Civilization; Home Architecture.

3. Domestic Economy; Usages of Society, &c.; [sic] Political Economy; Landscape Gardening.

[1] News article Female Education in the Agricultural Schools, RS 2/1/5, listed in Finding Aid as circa 1872
[2] Board of Trustees Proceedings, November 18, 1868
[3] Board of Trustees Proceedings, March 9, 1869
[4] Board of Trustees Proceedings, March 9, 1869
[5] Board of Trustees Proceedings, August 26, 1870
[6] Board of Trustees Proceedings, August 26, 1870
[7] Board of Trustees Proceedings, March 7, 1871
[8] Board of Trustees Proceedings, July 14, 1871
[9] Promotional flyer to County Superintendents enclosing Course Catalogue, June 18, 1872, RS 2/1/5
[10] Promotional flyer to County Superintendents enclosing Course Catalogue, June 18, 1872, RS 2/1/5
[11] Catalogue and Circular 1875-1876
[12] Catalogue and Circular 1875-1876
[13] Catalogue and Circular 1875-1876
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