A History of Women at Lehigh: 1921-1971

1921
First three women receive M.A. degrees from Lehigh.
Bessie Edna Kast, Mary Alice Schwaninger and Edna Grace Tatnal become the first women to receive M.A. degrees from Lehigh. Schwaninger later became the first woman to join the Alumni Association.
1923

Edith A. Seifert

Edith A. Seifert joins new bursar’s office.
Edith A. Seifert joins the new bursar’s office as a secretary, and is eventually promoted to bursar, becoming the first woman named to the administrative staff.
1937
Lehigh accidentally enrolls first woman undergraduate.
Lehigh enrolls its first woman as an undergraduate engineer due to a misunderstanding of names. The student was a French woman named Jean; the registrar believed that it was simply a male named with the French version of John. Jean attends two to three months before accepting President Clement Williams offer to transfer her to a coed engineering school.
1939
Lehigh Review conducts survey regarding women undergraduates.
In a survey by the Lehigh Review, 31% of undergraduates favor admitting women as undergraduates, while 69% are opposed.
1943

Margaret Lams

Margaret Lams is first woman to receive industrial fellowship.
Margaret Lams, a graduate research assistant in chemical engineering, becomes one of the first women ever to receive an industrial fellowship at Lehigh. Lams is the first of what is expected to be a growing number of women graduate researchers at Lehigh due to a shortage of men serving in WWII.
1944
The Brown and White argues for coeducation.
The Brown and White makes an argument for coeducation saying it would create more well-rounded graduates and that wholesome contact with women better prepares men for marriage.
1946
Lehigh Dames Club is organized.
The Lehigh Dames Club, composed of wives of Lehigh students, organizes with 186 members. With a flood of married veterans returning to campus after WWII, membership soon exceeds 500. The club sponsors social events and other similar programs.
1947
Mrs. H. Barrett Davis is first woman to hold full time position.
Mrs. H. Barrett Davis is appointed as an instructor of journalism, becoming the first woman to hold a full time position as a regular member of the faculty.
1962

Catherine Drinker Bowen

Catherine Drinker Bowen receives honorary degree.
Catherine Drinker Bowen becomes the first woman to receive an honorary degree from Lehigh University. An author, Bowen speaks of growing up at Lehigh as the daughter of Henry Drinker, the University’s 6th president.
1964
Ralph N. van Arnam reflects on the changing culture at Lehigh.
During a faculty meeting, Ralph N. van Arnam, secretary of the faculty, reflects on the changing culture at Lehigh by commenting that Lehigh’s all male status will not last very much longer.
1964
Anne S. Flannery becomes first woman professor.
Associate librarian Anne S. Flannery is promoted to the rank of assistant professor becoming the first woman professor.
1965
Edna DeAngeli becomes first woman associate professor.
Edna DeAngeli, a language professor in the classics department becomes the first woman on the teaching faculty to be promoted to the rank of an associate professor.
1969
Alumni are surveyed on the issue of coeducation.
As part of the Joynt study, Alumni are surveyed on the issue of coeducation. Of the 39.1% of alumni that responded, 50.6% were in favor and 42.6% were opposed. When graduates’ responses were broken down by decade (1930 to 1968) there was a trend showing that the younger graduates were more likely to favor coeducation.
1969
Joynt Subcommittee recommends undergraduate coeducation.
The Joynt Subcommittee concludes and presents its study of Desirability and Feasibility for the JCUL; they recommend undergraduate coeducation by a vote of 12-1.
1970

Anna Pirscenok Herz

Anna Pirscenok Herz is the first woman promoted to full professor, department chair.
Anna Pirscenok Herz of the department of modern foreign languages and literature becomes the first woman promoted to full professor. In 1972, she becomes the first woman named a department chairperson at Lehigh.
1970
Final decision is made by the Trustees to admit women.
With Board of Trustee Chairman Rathbone and President Lewis both in agreement, the final decision is made by the Trustees to admit 800 women over the next 4 years, starting in the fall of 1971.
1971
Ruth Hurley is hired to plan coeducation transition.
Ruth Hurley Vihon is hired as associate dean of students to help plan the transition to coeducation.
1971
Patti Ota becomes first woman engineering faculty member.
Patti Ota becomes the first woman faculty member in the college of Engineering. Ota later became vice provost for the academic administration.
1971
169 women become first coed undergraduates.
169 women, well above the agreed upon maximum of 150, become the first coeducational undergraduates in Lehigh’s history.
1971
Marching 97 votes not to allow women to join.
The Marching 97 votes not to allow women to join the group. Women do not join the band until fall of 1973, when during the Lehigh – Delaware game, seven coeds doff their hats as the band plays “There is Nothing Like a Dame” to reveal that the gender barrier had been broken.
1971
Powder Puff Football becomes the first women’s sport.
Powder Puff Football becomes the first women’s sport. Players use the men’s locker rooms and some even borrow the men’s spiked shoes.