Pembroke College in Brown University was the name given to the Women’s College in 1928. The first women students had arrived in October 1891, after some years of negotiations. This brief early history of the founding of the Women’s College was included in the annual report of June 1898 of President Andrews, who was responsible for its founding:
“The first action by the Government of the University on the question of admitting women to the privileges of the University was taken by the Advisory and Executive Committee on April 10, 1874, on the receipt of an application by a young woman to be admitted to College. The Committee reported it inadvisable at that time to recommend the opening of the College to women students. This report was adopted by the Corporation on June 15, same year.Thus it was that on the morning of October 1, 1891, that women students arrived to partake of the courses which President Andrews had arranged to have taught by Brown professors to prepare the women for the examinations to which they had been admitted. Years later Nettie Goodale Murdock wrote her reminiscences of that first day. She took the train to Providence and climbed the hill to the University Grammar School. The Grammar School, formerly connected with the University, was still being conducted privately, but the boys went home at two o’clock, and the women students were allowed to use the classroom on the second floor. There Miss Goodale found another student, Elizabeth Peckham of Bristol, who had been recruited by President Andrews, who had spoken at the high school graduation exercises at which she had delivered the valedictory address. The President arrived with instructor Asa Clinton Crowell, and the first class, which was in French, began. Miss Goodale was surprised that Andrews stayed to observe, and recalled that he was “wearing a little green shade which he sometimes wore over one eye.” He had lost the eye as a result of a Civil War injury and wore a green shade when his artificial eye was too uncomfortable. The next class, under Professor Charles E. Bennett, was in Greek. After that, the two women were joined by Clara Comstock, Maud Bonner, and Mary Emma Woolley for a mathematics class with Professor Henry Parker Manning. The last class of the day was in Latin and was taught by Walter G. Everett. For this class Anne T. Weeden arrived, bringing the total enrollment for the day to six.
“The subject received more or less attention in Corporation meetings and President’s Reports every year, until, in June, 1888, it was referred to the Gammell Committee ... At its annual meeting in September, 1888, the Corporation requested the Faculty to provide a mode in which young women might be admitted to college examinations and receive certificates of proficiency in the same. The Faculty prepared a plan, which was laid before the Corporation on September 3, 1890, and adopted at the annual meeting September 2, 1891.
“On June 21, 1892, the Board of Fellows received from the Faculty and adopted recommendations making women who had passed the required examinations eligible for each college and university degree. By another vote on June 23, 1892, to women already holding Bachelors’ degrees, and to other women of liberal education who might secure special permission, there were opened, on the same terms as to men, all courses of instruction intended for graduate students.
“As a result of this extension to women of University privileges, there arose, in October, 1891, a Women’s College, technically and legally under the University only so far as its examinations were concerned, yet, in effect, a department of the University, because of the close connection inevitably subsisting between examinations and the preparation therefor. ...”
The Grammar School where the classes were held did not have artificial light, and there were times when the women students had to move to the president’s office for their last class of the afternoon. In the second term they moved to the State Normal School, which was located on Benefit Street. At the end of the academic year, in the spring of 1892, the Corporation voted to open all degrees of the University to women. At this time President Andrews accosted a young elocution instructor, Louis Franklin Snow, who had graduated from Brown in 1887, and asked him to be dean of the Women’s College. When the reluctant Snow said he had no experience, Andrews replied, “Well, you can learn, can’t you?” The next year there were nine sophomores, fourteen freshmen and 22 special students, and the classes were moved into the building at 235 Benefit Street, which had been built as a private school for young ladies, and operated at various times by John Kingsbury 1826, John Larkin Lincoln 1836, and John C. Stockbridge 1838. When a sign was placed over the doorway, with the name “Women’s College of Brown University,” the Corporation, which had not paid much attention to the women students, took notice. The sign was removed during the night and was quietly replaced by a more acceptable one which read, “Women’s College Adjunct to Brown University.” The reputation of Brown University was being kept at a safe distance from the this new experiment in education.
It was not until 1896 that the Corporation finally passed its “Legislation Founding the Women’s College in Brown University.” which recognized the women’s college as a department, and provided that the dean so informally appointed by Andrews would report directly to the president, and furthermore, that the women’s tuition payments would cover the cost of their instruction plus a ten per cent payment to Brown University. The first women graduates in 1894 were Mary Emma Woolley and Anne Tillinghast Weeden. On the commencement program their names appeared at the end of the list of graduates – but probably not because they were women, but because both names began with “W.” The next year eleven graduated, seven with a bachelor of arts degree and four with a bachelor of philosophy, and their names were listed below a dividing line after the male graduates.
The earliest Women’s College students studied English with Professor Henry T. Hildreth and John F. Greene, Latin with Professor Albert G. Harkness and Walter G. Everett, French with Professor Courtney Langdon, German with Professor James R. Jewett, rhetoric with Professor Lorenzo Sears, botany with Professor William Whitman Bailey, and mathematics with Dr. Henry P. Manning, all of them members of the Brown University faculty, and elocution with Rev. Clark M. Brink. The courses and examinations taken by the women were the same as those prescribed for the men, and the performance of the women students was often proclaimed to be superior to that of the men. The Brown students were not especially gracious in accepting the women students, and called them “Pembrokers” after the name of the first building erected for the use of women students. In 1898 a poem, “Hymn to Pembroke,” by a woman students was parodied in the Liber Brunensis with the title, “Hymn to Deadbroke,” which President Andrews found so offensive that he ordered the page containing the poem removed from the yearbook.
In 1898 Andrews appointed an Advisory Council for the Women’s College to advise with the president and dean on matters relating to the college and to make recommendations to the Advisory and Executive Committee of the Corporation. Members of the committee were Sarah Doyle, chairman, Amelia Knight, Mrs. William Ames, Mrs. E. Benjamin Andrews and Mrs. Gustave Radeke. The earliest members of the Alumnae Council were drawn from the Society for the Collegiate Education of Women, but in 1906 for the first time almunae members were added to the Council, the first being Charlotte Tillinghast 1896 and Nettie Goodale Murdock 1895, the first and second presidents of the Andrews Association. An Executive Committee of the Women’s College, created by the Corporation in 1903 and consisting of the president, the dean of the Women’s College and three Corporation members, placed the College under the protection of the Corporation. In 1928 one alumna, Nettie Goodale Murdock, was added to the Executive Committee. The Advisory Council was abolished in 1932. The Executive Committee was abolished in 1941 and replaced by the Advisory Committee of Pembroke College, composed of the President of the University and the Dean of Pembroke College, who were the chairman and secretary of the Committee, both ex officio, in addition to two members of the Corporation, two members of the Faculty, and four alumnae members. The President of the Brown Alumnae Association was added to the Committee in 1942.
In 1903 the Women’s College was given its own faculty, composed of all department heads in the University and the faculty members who taught courses for women, to supervise all academic matters except admission and graduation. A registrar for the Women’s College, Emma Bradford Stanton 1896, was appointed in 1897. Miss Stanton continued in that position until her retirement in 1932. One of the first acts of President William H. P. Faunce was to discharge the male Dean of the College in favor of a woman dean. Louis F. Snow was asked to stay on as bursar, but declined. He had collected fees, paid bills, managed the College, and cleared enough for his salary, and it was obvious to him that the support of two administrators of the Women’s College was impossible. The new dean, Anne Crosby Emery, came in 1900 with experience in the higher education of women, from Bryn Mawr, the women’s college where she had been educated, and from the University of Wisconsin, the coeducational college where she had been the first dean of women. When Miss Emery resigned to marry Professor Allinson in 1905, she was succeeded by Lida Shaw King, a Vassar graduate in 1890 and former director of the Department of Latin and Greek of Packer Collegiate Institute. Miss King set about studying the College before recommending any changes. At her suggestion the Student Government Association appointed a committee to investigate the apathy of the student body. Dean King appointed a committee in 1913 to study the problems of working students. This committee became the Self-Support Committee and continued to assist students in finding suitable employment and to monitor their working conditions. A Student Interest Committee consisting of three faculty members was formed to work with the Student Government Association to enrich social and intellectual life. Orientation lectures for freshmen were introduced. A group called the College Forum sponsored serious discussions and speakers. By 1910 forty percent of the women students came from outside the state. Separate classes for women continued, although a few upperclassmen attended Brown classes, and two scientifically-inclined twin sisters, Janet and Lucy Bourn ’15 were allowed to attend a Brown chemistry class.
On October 20, 1917, the Women’s College celebrated its 25th anniversary, which had been postponed from the previous spring because of the threat of war. The procession of students and nearly four hundred alumnae, with representatives from other colleges, city and state officials, and representatives of the Rhode Island Society for the Collegiate Education of Women and the Rhode Island Federation of Women’s Clubs, marched through the Van Wickle Gates to the First Baptist Church, passing by the original home of the College on Benefit Street.
In his report for 1911 President Faunce stated, “A real hindrance to the growth of the College is that it has as yet received no name.” He suggested that, as the college was familiarly called “Pembroke College” for the name of its principal building, that the generic name, “Women’s College in Brown University” be replaced by “Pembroke College in Brown University,” a title which would still identify the college as an integral part of the University. In 1928 the name was changed to Pembroke College in Brown University. Some of the earlier graduates of the Women’s College favored Andrews College as an appropriate name. Mary Emma Woolley 1894, in her speech in 1941 at the fiftieth anniversary of the College, expressed her opinion:
“With due deference to Roger Williams and his brief stay at Pembroke College in the University of Cambridge and with due respect for the widow of the Earl of Pembroke who founded that College, – to the early students of this College, it will always be: ‘The Elisha Benjamin Andrews College in Brown University.’”
Margaret Shove Morriss became Dean of the Women’s College in 1923, taking over 350 students, a majority of them from the Providence area, with a staff consisting of a registrar, a physical education teacher, and a secretary. Pembroke College celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 1941. President Wriston, who had announced that “we will celebrate Pembroke’s Fiftieth Anniversary if there are five wars going on,” made the anniversary the subject of the opening convocation of the academic year 1941-42. A larger celebration was held at the next Commencement, when a panel discussion on “Education for Women in the Next Fifty Years” was held, and honorary degrees were conferred upon five women, Nadia Boulanger, Katharine Burr Blodgett, Katharine McBride, Katherine Everett Gilbert ’08, and Margaret B. Stillwell ’09. Miss Morriss continued as dean until 1950, with a leave of absence to travel in 1949-50. During her administration Alumnae Hall and Andrews Hall were built. Miss Morriss herself considered the most significant achievement of her administration the College’s “shift to a college at least two-thirds national from a college more than one-half local in scope,” and observed that “Brown and Pembroke have reached a sensible relationship which is good for both. The important things are shared together, the close social relations and the same academic work. But our administrative and organizational lives are separate, giving both institutions experience they could not get together.” Nancy Duke Lewis was dean from 1950 to 1961, and Rosemary Pierrel from 1961 to 1971. In 1966 the 75th anniversary of the College featured a three-day arts festival, including the first public showing of the art collection of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Rothschild, a recital by the Paul Taylor dancers, poetry readings by professors of English, and a 75th anniversary emblem designed by Professor Walter Feldman.
Over the years Brown and Pembroke students merged their student organizations, attended coeducational classes, and in 1969 began living in coed dormitories. On November 12, 1970 a motion adopted by the Advisory and Executive Council of the Corporation announced, “It is the sense of this meeting that it would be in the best interests of the University that appropriate steps be taken to consolidate the administrative functions at Pembroke College with corresponding functions at The College.” On July 1, 1971, the offices of the two colleges for admission, financial aid, placement, housing, and counseling were merged in the final act of making Brown a truly coeducational university. The celebration of the one hundredth anniverary of women at Brown began with an Opening Convocation address by Smith College College President Jill Ker Conway on September 3, 1991, and culminated in a four-day symposium in October, at which Mary Robinson, President of Ireland, delivered the principal address.