Women at Centre College


Women at Centre College


As Centre College was founded in an era when women did not attend college, the framers of the charter did not think it necessary to include language that specifically excluded women. It was simply taken for granted that the school would be for men only. It was not until the 1920's that Centre faced the issue of coeducation. In 1926, Centre absorbed Kentucky College for Women, also located in Danville, and created the Women's Department of Centre College, and with it, a system of coordinate education that maintained separate campuses for men and women. By the late 1950's, however, this setup made less and less sense. In 1962 the two campuses were consolidated, with women students taking up residence in new dormitories on the Centre campus. The Women's campus was closed, and the property sold to the Danville Board of Education.

Nineteenth Century

The minutes of the Board of Trustees for June 26, 1850, note that "A letter was received from Mr. Nichols, on behalf of Mr. Forsythe in relation to the prospect of procuring a diploma for his daughter. The letter, after some consideration, was laid upon the table." Since there is no further mention of the letter, the answer was undoubtedly no. However, six women - all daughters of College officials - did graduate from the college and receive degrees.

Mary and Caroline Josephine Young, daughters of President John C. Young, were members of the Class of 1849.
Jane Elizabeth and Frances Breckinridge Young, also daughters of President Young, were members of the Class of 1851.
Although Young's daughters completed all the course requirements, they were not awarded a diploma along with their male classmates. It was not until 1891, after their step-brother William C. Young became President of Centre College, that the Board of Trustees would officially award the three surviving daughters a B.A. degree.

Leila McKee, daughter of the Vice President of Centre College graduated in 1883; in 1892 she would be awarded an honorary Ph.D., the first women to be so honored.
Margaret E. Randolph, graduated in 1883.
In 1887 the Centre faculty petitioned the Trustees to consider admitting women, noting that at the beginning of that academic year ".. several applications for admission to the college classes were made by young ladies of this vicinity." The faculty's opinion was "... admit all girls who come prepared. ..." The Trustees failed to act on the proposal.


“Women at Centre College,” Centre College Digital Archives, accessed September 27, 2022, https://centre.omeka.net/items/show/1346.

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