In the fall of 1867, five women enrolled at Indiana Asbury University for the first time. Four years later, four of these women would become the first female graduates of Indiana Asbury, now known as DePauw University.
Throughout their time at DePauw, these women faced hostility from male students. However, with the help of faculty, the board of trustees, and their own will power, they eventually were accepted by their male peers. Since then, women have and continue to influence DePauw.
According to Wesley Wilson, coordinator of archives and special collections, “Right away, [the first female students] started to look for ways to fit in. That was how Kappa Alpha Theta started - for necessity.” This began a trend of establishing Greek organizations for women, including the founding chapter of Alpha Chi Omega just 15 years later.
Wilson also stated that athletically inclined women held field days to compete with each other. Although just intramural, it was a big event attended by most of the University. “Some of these students were record setters of their time, including one who won a silver medal in the 1928 Olympics,” Wilson said.
Following the acceptance of female enrollment, more milestones were set on campus: the establishment of the Women’s Athletic Association in 1915, the first female editor-in-chief of The DePauw in 1939, and the first female senior class president in 1943.
Despite these successes, Sarah Ryan, director of the Women’s Center, said, “A study on the status of women that happened around 15 years ago concluded that a women’s center on campus was needed.”
Ryan said women are still victimized at a much higher rate than men in terms of interpersonal and dating violence, and still feel marginalized in and out of the classroom. “The issues that women were facing 150 years ago when they were first admitted are quite similar to the issues women on campus experience today,” Ryan said.
Thus, the Women’s Center was formed in 2004 and since then it has hosted films, discussions, speakers, conducted outreach to clubs and sports organizations, and acted as a temporary residence for students who have experienced trauma in their living space. The Women’s Center also hosts the Sexual Assault Survivor Advocates (SASA) program, which acts as a 24/7 hotline that can be called to reach health and counseling services, Title IX, Public Safety, and other resources survivors of sexual violence or interpersonal violence can connect to.
Last week, the Women’s Center celebrated its annual “Women’s Week” that highlighted 150 years of women on campus. It included post card campaigns about Title IX and a “Start By Believing” campaign about sexual assault and harassment. Other events included yoga and talks about the metabolic effects of alcohol on men and women.
According to senior Emily Fox, Women’s Center student intern, “It’s mostly people coming to hangout. There are couches, a TV, snacks and tea. I think it’s a great place to do homework and relax.” Although it focuses mostly on women, the Women’s Center is open to all genders who wish to use its services.
Currently, DePauw enrolls more women (53 percent) than men (47 percent), which would not have been possible without the foundation laid by the brave women who enrolled in this University 150 years ago.