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.

Initially, the University intended on only admitting transfer students in the sophomore and junior classes due to the lack of dormitory space for freshman women. These students lived in McCoy Hall but had no other amenities like gym privileges and adequate health care. However, they later expanded the decision to include freshman who could commute from their homes. 

Due to the pressure from students and the coed task force to create a more inclusive student life, the administration listened: their reasoning being “to work up a more natural population of kids.” The University first fixed the bathrooms in Adams and Bakers, installed emergency phones, and renovated the dorms for accommodate women. In 1972, they built Lazear as the first coed dorm and guaranteed all female students housing. 

Inside of a dormitory inside of Clark Hall, undated. 

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Another issue on campus was the lack of female role models at the faculty and administrative level. While the female undergraduates generally enjoyed the independence that Hopkins offered, they expressed the desire for support. According to Esta Baker (A&S ’73), who was also 1971 Student Council vice-president, “There is a ‘you’re here, take care of yourself’ attitude. And it’s still a boy’s school. I’m glad we’re treated like they treat male students, but I wish there had been a woman to talk to. I had a woman faculty adviser, but we talked about academic things.” Students advocated for a Dean of Women, but the administration rejected this Office on the basis that the role was too restrictive and would likely further isolate the female students. 

Outside of Levering Hall, undated. 

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While female professors existed, they were scarce at Hopkins. The University appointed their first female Arts and Science professor, Dr. Florence Bamberger, in 1916, but there were not significant changes in numbers. When students and faculty noted the issue in 1971, the University claimed that there were insufficient female faculty in science and engineering to recruit. This may have been valid in the hard sciences, but there were many influential and qualified women who specialized in the humanities, which the University did not hire. There were likely other reasons: being a small school in Baltimore. But with more pressure from the student body and the public (such as national statistics that Hopkins was behind in its hiring of minorities and women), Hopkins started an Affirmative Action office in 1973, and the percentage of full-time female professors rose from 3.3% to 6.0% that year. Thus, six percent of full professors were female, and two percent were tenured at Hopkins. Meanwhile, from 1972 to 1979, at Yale, the percentage of female professors rose from 7.3% to 13% and tenured from 0.7% to 4.5%. 

Portrait of Florence Bamberger, 1930. 

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Even after ten years of coeducation, female students still voice concerns about role models, male attitudes, and female friendships. However, as an alumna asserted, “I think word is getting out there are opportunities for women at Hopkins. Women can thrive at Hopkins and become leaders.” Despite these barriers, more women started to apply to Hopkins, demonstrating how coeducation was allowing for more opportunities for women.