147 Years of the “Dangerous Experiment”

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Black and white photo of a group of people in 1907, posed in front of large house and front porch with a Michigan banner.
35th reunion of class of 1872. The woman in center is Madelon Stockwell. Courtesy of the Bentley Library
Black and white photo of a group of people in 1907, posed in front of large house and front porch with a Michigan banner.
35th reunion of class of 1872. The woman in center is Madelon Stockwell. Courtesy of the Bentley Library

While the University celebrates its 200th anniversary in 2017, the history of women at Michigan has not quite reached the sesquicentennial mark. It was in the winter of 1870 that Madelon Stockwell became the first female student at U-M, following a 15 year campaign in which the admission of female students was called, by the Regents, “a dangerous experiment... certain to be ruinous to the young ladies who should avail themselves of it if it were introduced into the University, and disastrous to the Institution which should attempt to carry it out.”

During the ensuing decades, women at Michigan faced many challenges, and made many contributions to the University. However, these histories are largely unknown.

This semester, Professor Gayle Rubin (Anthropology, Women’s Studies) is teaching a special undergraduate course for the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, titled “Women at Michigan: 147 Years of the ‘Dangerous Experiment.’” This class will explore the history of women at Michigan in multiple contexts: as students, faculty, and staff, as well as those whose connections to the university were less formalized. Among the topics will be the debate over admitting women as students, the gendered aspects of campus life, and the continuing barriers to full participation in sports, the professional schools, graduate studies, and as faculty.

IRWG is pleased to provide support for two public talks related to Professor Rubin’s class and LGBTQ history at U-M.  The talks will be free and open to the public. 

Maize, Blue, and Lavender: Revisiting U-M's LGBTQ Past
Timothy Retzloff, History, Michigan State University
Tuesday, October 24 at 4 p.m.
3222 Angell Hall (more)

The Lavender Scare: Federal Anti-Gay Purges during the Cold War
David K. Johnson, History, University of South Florida
Thursday, October 26 at 4 p.m.
1014 Tisch Hall (more)

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