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.

Zeniada’s "Ten Years of Women at Hopkins," Spring 1981. 

Sheridan Libraries Special Collections

"Girls? What Girls?" by Elizabeth D. Large from The Johns Hopkins Magazine, Fall 1971. 

Sheridan Libraries Special Collections

“The addition of women to the undergraduate body was an important step in improving undergraduate life.” 

These were the words articulated by President Milton S. Eisenhower in his Fall 1970 orientation speech. Although the University emphasized the importance of women on the undergraduate campus, they only later realized how they needed to make larger leaps to facilitate this significant transition. 

Due to the spontaneity of coeducation, the University had insufficient time and resources to prepare for the incoming class of women. According to Dean George Benton of the then Faculty of Arts and Sciences (now Krieger School of Arts and Sciences), “We [the University] did a lot of things on a shoestring,” he reflected. “But the necessary things were done. The women students as a group were reasonable well-satisfied—at least they were less critical than the male students.” 

When the female students arrived on campus in Fall 1970, they faced technical, academic, and social challenges. They did not have new dormitories, special orientation (especially coming from an unprecedented situation), a dean of women, female upperclassmen friends, nor specialists at the Health Service. Rather, the University adopted a “wait-and-see approach” to assess the needs of the coeds. While some students enjoyed the academic and social independence at Hopkins, others wished for more preparation and support. 




A sample survey response from a Hopkins alumna Spring 1981 Zeniada issue, February 1981. 


The female students often recall while how men would choose seats far from the women. As Rebecca Love (A&S ’73) famous reflected, “You feel like a cross between Gypsy Rose Lee and Typhoid Mary.” However, the mixed genders were often socially compatible as friends and couples. According to Cynthia Young (A&S ‘74), the coed group allowed her to find “15 or 18 brothers.” Meanwhile, Linda Pickle (A&S ‘74) remembered how she felt invisible in lecture since several professors would never call on her. However, as she moved on in her higher education as she obtained her Ph.D. in biostatistics the public health school, professors became more accustomed to a coed classroom and treated their students equally. 

While Hopkins was implementing the coeducation decision, the University was also going through another transition: President Lincoln Gordon suddenly resigned in March 1971 and President Milton S. Eisenhower returned to act as an interim until President Steven Muller began his tenure in 1972. Under Muller’s administration, students from organizations like the Women’s Liberation group and coed task force advocated for missing amenities and resources that were gradually met by the University. Hopkins communicated a commitment to hiring more female faculty and renovating housing. 

Throughout the 1970s, the women at Hopkins advocated and saw opportunities for social, academic, and technical reform on the Homewood campus. Although change was often gradual, it was instrumental for further development for years to come.