June 12, 2017

Mini University Presentation: Making the Invisible Visible

Indiana Memorial Union

Monday, June 12, 2017

Mini University Presentation: Making the Invisible Visible

Claire Repsholdt and I are here to introduce you to a number of hidden figures in Indiana University's history, individuals who have done as much as anyone else in IU’s storied history to build departments and disciplines, inspire students, train the next generation of academic leaders, and serve the state, the nation and the world.

Women have been part of IU since Sarah Parke Morrison walked into her first class at IU, almost exactly 150 years ago. It was May of 1867 when Ms. Morrison took her seat among her otherwise all male classmates, and changed IU forever. Women are now the majority of students across IU and the majority of our 700,000 living alums worldwide.

Yet, when we look at how we memorialize individuals at IU, we see mostly men's names. In fact, of all the nameable things on a university campus — buildings, classrooms, professorships, labs, department chairs, etc. — only about 25% are named for women.

This is really not surprising — for most of the last 150 years, it wasn’t common practice for women to put their names on things, or for others to name things for women. Even today, as we know from the research into gender difference in giving, it’s still the case that naming something is not as big a motivator for women as it is for men.

But we also know that as a society we have not erred on the side of recognizing women’s professional and scholarly contributions at the same level we have men’s contributions.

We arrive at this moment in IU's evolution and in the history of our country with a greater understanding of how progress happens, or doesn't, and how important it is to have diversity of voices in our decision-making processes and our institutions.

So as we look ahead to the university's bicentennial in less than three years, we have an unparalleled opportunity to reflect on the past as we plan for the future, and to ensure that those who have gotten us to this point are visibly with us as we enter IU's third century.

As some of you will recall, I have been interested in women's history for a very long time, have presented at Mini U on the history of IU's First Ladies.

This interest led me to learning a lot more about IU, as well as about the women who partnered with their husbands in serving the university. One in particular stood out for me, not only for the significance of what she did but for the nature of the recognition. And in fact, her story is the catalyst for why we’re here today.


Frances Morgan Swain

in recognition of her pre-eminent

part in the movement for the

erection of


this tablet is dedicated


The plaque is very nice, but we felt we should go a step further, and in September of 2016, with Provost Lauren Robel as my co-sponsor, we renamed the building for Frances Morgan Swain. This renaming was important in its own right, and it was also the launch of our Visibility Gap project, to make the invisible visible at IU.

Standing on either side of the sign are two student leaders, last year’s student body president and the president of Delta Gamma, the second women’s sorority at IU, which FMS was instrumental in getting started.

Before we get to the heart of our presentation today, I want to set some context. IU was almost 50 years old before women were admitted, but that didn't mean women in Bloomington weren't educated, or that IU wasn't thinking about women's education.

It's worth a brief look at what life was like for women in Bloomington and elsewhere in Indiana as their numbers increased on campus.

Frontier life was demanding — farms to manage, homes to maintain, children to rear, and a growing community of about 300 people to help nurture. Women were fully occupied with mainly domestic tasks, but education was always a priority.

Not long after the State Seminary was created in 1820, and around the same time that IU began offering classes in 1825, a group of faculty wives worked to open a “young ladies institute.”Their efforts paid off less than a decade later, with the opening of the Monroe County Female Seminary, supported by a county assessment. The MCFS remained in existence for over 30 years and educated over 600 women.

Many of the women who attended the MCFS started their own literary society, the Edgeworthalean Society, named for English poet Maria Edgeworth. It appears to be one of the first female literary societies in the country. 

The society debated many of the great issues of the day, including slavery, suffrage, women’s education, as well as a few purely academic topics, such as whether Columbus was more important than Washington in American history. They were determined to expand their minds; as their third president said in her inaugural address, “Be among the pioneers into woman’s future sphere. The real philanthropist is looking to such women and such institutions to prove to the world that woman will become what he has asserted she can be — the reasoning counterpart of man.”  “Sex,” she concluded, “is no demarkation [sic] of capacity.”

In 1851, the Indiana legislature amended the state constitution, and the changes included provisions for women to be educated at IU alongside men. But feet were dragged, shall we say, and in the intervening years members of the Methodist Church became concerned that the county and state funds being used to support the Monroe County Female Seminary would be reallocated to IU before any classes were available to women. So they founded the Bloomington Female College, which existed until the Civil War broke out.

Both the Seminary and the College provided a first rate education for young women at the high school and college levels, and the former produced the state’s first female superintendent of schools, Margaret Hemphill McCalla. You’ll recall the McCalla School on Indiana and 10th

Sarah Parke Morrison graduated from IU in 1869 and shortly thereafter because its first female professor. 

Women made up over a quarter of IU’s students by 1890, and they were joined in 1898 by IU’s first African-American female student, Carrie Parker Taylor. We just unveiled a portrait of Carrie in April, which is in the women’s portrait gallery in the East Lounge.

By the end of the 19th century, women were finding their way into, and founding, thousands of organizations across the country, and taking part in social movements, like temperance and suffrage. The extent of women’s activities was so great throughout the 19th century and especially in the last decades that historians have dubbed this time period as “the woman’s century.”

In Bloomington, IU women were involved in all of these activities. Louisa Ryors, wife of IU’s second president, was the first leader of the local WCTU in 1874. 

Susan B. Anthony visited Bloomington three times, drawing large crowds of women and men. Numerous other local organizations that still exist today were founded at this time — FMS was involved in many of these, as was Charlotte Lowe Bryan, wives of faculty members and women students.

By 1906, women made up about 1/3 of the student body, and these numbers continued to grow rapidly. By 1908 IU had awarded the first PhD to a woman, and up in Indianapolis, awarded the first MD degree to a woman in 1909. Not long after that, Frances Marshall graduated, the first African-American woman to do so. Her portrait is also in the East Lounge.

In 1925, amid national efforts to improve housing conditions for women at American colleges and universities, Memorial Hall was opened as IU’s first female dormitory. 

In 1944, the IU School of Medicine admitted its first two African-American women.

And it was 1952 that women were finally admitted into the IMU, which had been opened in 1935 for men only. 

By the 1960s, women’s degree attainment was surging at IU. The 1960s saw a huge increase in the number of PhDs awarded, and not surprisingly, there was a corresponding surge in hiring of female faculty in the 1970s and 80s. 

In 1972, IUB opened the Office of Women’s Affairs, the same year that Title IX passed, thanks to Indiana Senator Birch Bayh. A Women’s Studies program began a year later. 

By the 1982-83 school year, women outnumbered men for the first time, and have remained in the majority ever since across all 8 campuses. Bloomington is closest to parity, with higher ratios in Indy and on the regional campuses.

And in 1987, women rode in the Little 500 for the first time. 

Today, women have achieved parity in many disciplines and departments at IU, including the professional schools, and we’re making progress in closing the gender gap in IU’s leadership (although much more to do there.). 

As is true across the country, women have emerged as a major force in philanthropy at IU. We formed the WPLC in 2010, which has raised nearly $3 million in new funding for projects across all eight campuses, in addition to inspiring increased giving by alumnae. 

As one example, last fall Fred Glass announced that 75% of the leadership gifts made to Athletics, or $68 million, were given by women.

So that’s the overall context for why we believe the time is right for IU to bring the history of Hoosier women into the light, and make more of the distinguished female faculty, students, and leaders known to generations of students coming to IU. 

And here to tell you more about some of the amazing women of IU is Claire Repsholdt.