Women at Santa Clara
"Tradition Shattered" read the headline of the student newspaper, The Santa Clara, on March 22, 1961. The day before, Father Donohoe had surprised the entire campus by announcing that women would be accepted in all departments of Santa Clara starting in the Fall. With this statement, SCU became the first Catholic coeducational institution of higher learning in California. This announcement was another step in a series of steps the Administration had taken to fold women into campus life at Santa Clara.
At its founding in 1851, Santa Clara College was a single-sex boys school, where the presence of women was negligible at best. While the students of Santa Clara had something to say about women and their role in society in the early years and into the 20th Century, it wasn't until the 1940's when women began to have a significant presence on campus. Our first documented women students attended evening classes during World War II on a government program. After the War, we see GI's and their wives on campus, living in the Quonset huts of Veteran's Village. Hereafter, little by little, a trickle of women appeared on campus, as faculty, staff or students attending classes in various programs including the Nursing Program and graduate programs. The watershed came in 1961 with Fr. Donohoe's announcement that women would be accepted as students in all departments.
Other "firsts" for women continued into the following decades of the 20th Century — the establishment of the Women's Studies Program, the first woman editor of The Santa Clara, Roberta Furger, and the first woman Provost, Denise Carmody. The 21st Century will surely bring more "firsts" for women on campus — the persistence of Santa Clara women of both the past and present will make it so.
For a historical perspective of women at Santa Clara, we encourage you to read the article, Mixed Company: Women at Santa Clara by Gerald McKevitt, S.J., in explore. This article was one of several in the Winter 2001 issue that focused on the impact of women on Jesuit higher education in general and Santa Clara in particular. explore is published by the Bannan Center for Jesuit Education.