Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College


Investigating Coeducation

While the idea of coeducation had been broached in the late-19th century, the idea was given its first serious look in the mid-1940s.

During the war, women had enrolled in evening and summer courses, but could not earn a degree. Prompted by falling enrollments and fears of an uncertain post-war economy, President Theodore Distler recommended examining the idea of either limited coeducation, wherein women could attend as “day time” nonresidential students and earn a degree, or full coeducation. After considerable debate, the idea was shelved, having been decided that limited coeducation was not ideal, and that full coeducation (requiring additional facilities) was too expensive to implement.

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Despite the rejection of coeducation, female College employees and wives of faculty were allowed to take day classes and starting in the fall of 1967, wives of current students could enroll in courses as non-degree students.

F&M Goes Coed in 1969

During the 1960s, social change had begun diminishing the desirability of single-gender schools, resulting in declining applications at many colleges including Franklin & Marshall.

Recognizing the social and educational advantages of coeducation, President Keith Spalding appointed a task force to study the issue.

After extensive study, along with a petition from more than 800 students and the recommendation of the Board of Overseers, the Board of Trustees voted for coeducation in January 1969.

In the fall, approximately 125 women, including 82 matriculating "freshwomen," joined the 1,850 enrolled male students.

Women’s Studies Program Established

Founded in 1989, the program was designed to offer students an interdisciplinary selection of courses relating to women and gender studies. Professor Nancy McDowell served as the program’s first chair from 1989 to 1991.

Women’s Center – Steinman College Center

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The Franklin & Marshall Women's Center was established in 1992 to encourage dialogue on women's and gender issues, to advocate for women, and to promote equality and mutual respect on campus. In 2008, the Center was rededicated as the Alice Drum Women's Center, named for the former vice president and chair of the Women & Gender Studies program, who was instrumental in the founding of the Center.
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  • Helen Stahr Hartman (Educator)
  • Helen Stahr Hartman (1873-1957) was the daughter of John Summers Stahr, fourth president of Franklin & Marshall College. After graduating from Wellesley College in 1894, she taught for three years at Lancaster High School. In 1897 she began Miss Stahr's School for Girls (later renamed the Shippen School, and now Lancaster Country Day School). After marrying Edwin Hartman in 1905, she assisted with running the Franklin and Marshall Academy (FMA) for almost 40 years. FMA was a boys' preparatory school affiliated with Franklin & Marshall College from 1872-1943.

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  • Women’s Auxiliary of the College Infirmary
  • Led by Alice Distler (wife of the College president), the Women’s Auxiliary was organized in 1943 by a group of faculty, trustee and alumni wives to provide additional support to the recently created College Infirmary. Initially located in the rented Phi Kappa Tau house near campus, the infirmary got its own space in 1959 with the opening of Appel Infirmary.