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Seniors Women have been turning heads at Penn for 125 years—from their startling appearance as students in 1876 to catcalls on Locust Walk to an SAS alumna who now sits behind the president’s desk in College Hall.

Among its peers, the University of Pennsylvania is a leader in throwing open the doors of higher education to women. “One of the things that really makes Penn extraordinary,” notes SAS associate dean Rebecca Bushnell, “is that there’s this tradition of women here.” She remembers hearing about Princeton and Yale going co-ed as she prepared for undergraduate study at Swarthmore College in the late 60s. “That we were the first Ivy to have a female president, I don’t think that’s a historical accident.”

Over the 125 years of women at Penn, dramatic, sometimes painful, changes have taken place. Judith Roth Berkowitz, CW’64, a university trustee and committee chair for this fall’s 125-year celebration, watched some of the changes unfold as the pace quickened when she was an undergraduate in the College for Women. “When I first came to Penn in 1960, there were no women allowed on the Daily Pennsylvanian. When I left, a woman was an editor.”

She recalls that women were permitted to enroll in any course the men could. In a biology class she took, Berkowitz was one of a handful of women in the lab. “I loved it,” she says. “I never felt as if that was a problem. The only problem I had was when we dissected the fetal pig.” The chemical preservative made her eyes water, and her contact lens dropped into the pigs stomach. “That was a problem.”

Today Arts and Sciences alumnae work in every area of business, academe, government, science, and the arts. “I think women have different expectations about their place at the university and their place in the universe,” Berkowitz remarks. “They are equal partners at the table now. There’s nothing to stop them.”

In this issue of PENN Arts & Sciences, we mount our own celebration of some extraordinary SAS women. As for the catcaller, that’s not a problem. An old DP article reports that several College women took care of him with a plate of potato salad some 30 years ago.

Modern Times: Just Not Done
Just Not Done
In 1876, Gertrude Klein Peirce Easby (left) and Anna Lockhart Flanigen (center) became the first women to enroll at Penn. Their admission to the university came at a time when the provost, along with much of the rest of the country, deemed coeducation “inadmissible.” Along with Mary Thorn Lewis Gannett (right), they would eventually earn a certificate of proficiency in chemistry. The women worked seven to eight hours a day in the same labs as the men, but they never said a word to their male counterparts. Nor did the men speak with them. “You see,” Easby explained in 1941, “it was outrageous enough that we should be allowed to attend a man’s class. But to talk to any of the [male] students—well, that wouldn’t have done at all.”

Postmodern Times: Girls Rule
Girls Rule
“Women have become leaders in every arena at Penn,” declares Anne Hankey (left), next year’s chair of the Nominations and Elections Committee. Fellow seniors Lindsey Mathews (center), who will chair the Student Committee on Undergraduate Education, and chairwoman Dana Hork (right) of the Undergraduate Assembly, will join her next year in a triumvirate of women leading three of the most influential bodies of student government. “I feel there is no one specific place for women,” Hankey says. Mathews puts it this way: “I do not feel my experiences at Penn have been shaped by being a woman. Rather, they have been shaped by what I, as a person, have been willing to put into them.”

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