Not very long before Franklin & Marshall went coeducational in 1969, American culture and mores limited professional opportunities for women. The adage of "nurse, teacher, or airline stewardess" was still common. But as women colonized Franklin & Marshall in the early 1970s, the College amply prepared them to be leaders in fields like law, academia, social work, medicine, business, science, college administration, and many others. The College now boasts some of its first nationally known female alumni. But is a Franklin & Marshall education about preparation for a career only?
Elizabeth Mackey '75, an investment banker, knows that her experience as a pioneer at Franklin & Marshall gave her other indispensable training, such as: "how to deal with being the only woman in a room, how to get people to pay attention to you and what you have to say, as opposed to the fact that you're female." These early lessons stuck with her. Mackey went on to be the first woman alumna on the College's Board of Trustees, and she credits it greatly to her time at Franklin & Marshall. "On a residential campus, you learn to deal with the people next to you as the people next to you, not as male or female..."But it didn't happen automatically. "I think I grew up a lot in the four years we first came in as women," she says. "You learned how to step up and have a voice."
Fast forward forty years, and Nicole DeAugustine '09 shares a similar sentiment: "I really grew as a person since that 17 year-old girl that came here freshman year and didn't really know what her purpose was." Living in a coed dorm, she was exceptionally glad for one thing. "We had the girl's bathroom on our hall, thank god," though "there were the male invasions sometimes..." she adds. Male invasions, she says, were welcome at the Women's Center, however. Here, DeAugustine spends much of her energy outside of class. "Our discussions, they extend beyond just women's issues..." There are guys who come every week, she says. "And they're engaged. They don't just sit there." As she heads off to graduate school, she'll look back on these experiences and the bonds she made, and she'll keep in mind that it's good to get both sides of an argument and to forge a place where "anybody can bring their opinion and anyone can talk."
It was the early pioneers, Nicole Teillon-Riegl '90 believes, who paved the way for such latitude. "They made it possible for us to be able to make that choice about what we wanted to do." Ann Marie Griffith '83 agrees: "The students today, they take real ownership of the college." Remembering her own experience, she says, "...It was scary going out there on your own and trying to make something of yourself, but I never doubted I could do it..." And that's a true legacy.