Co-Education at Hopkins

A guide that examines the history of co-education on the Homewood Campus under the Freshman Fellows 2022-2023 program. Curated by Amy Li (A&S '26) under the mentorship of Katie Carey.

When the University was raising funds to build the medical school, women in Baltimore, led by Mary Elizabeth Garrett, established the Women’s Fund Committee to contribute to the funding process. This committee was founded by the “Friday Evening” group, who used their wealth and social position to advocate for women’s rights. The funding was necessary due to the economic downturn in the late 1880s. Johns Hopkins left his financial holdings and university funding in Baltimore and Ohio railroad stock, which stopped paying dividends and brought a shrinkage in the University’s fiscal underpinnings. Consequently, there was insufficient funding to build the school. 

The Friday Evening Group, late 1870s.  

Bryn Mawr College Archives

With collaboration and publicity, the Women’s Fund Committee expanded to a well-organized, nation-wide campaign. They founded committees in major areas of the United States and included the membership of intellectually and socially influential women, primarily women physicians. These women included the wives of the American Presidents (Benjamin Harrison and John Quincy Adams), Alice Longfellow, and Marian Hovey. The committee ultimately raised majority of the funds and requested for the medical school to be coed since the beginning, which was made true. 

Alan Chesney, dean of the Johns Hopkins Medical School and author of volumes about the history of Hopkins, illustrated Garett’s importance: “For to this lady, more than any other single person, save only Johns Hopkins himself, does the School of Medicine owe its being.” Indeed, these strong words reflect the truth and impact of her legacy.  

Mary Elizabeth Garrett, portrait by John Singer Sargent.

University Archives Photograph Collection

While this is not directly to the undergraduate campus, it demonstrates women’s perseverance in being seen and heard in terms of education during the 19th century. It also created a precedent for women’s education for future generations, especially for other medical schools and for Hopkins’ own undergraduate institution.