History of Women at W&M

In the fall of 1918, William & Mary became the first public institution of higher learning in Virginia to admit women. Since then, women have been making an extraordinary impact both on and off campus. While it would be impossible to fully articulate all of the incredible accomplishments and milestones of our female students, alumnae, and staff, you can view some of the illustrious highlights of W&M women in the timeline below.

Reflections of Coeducation by Meaghan Morgan '17

Meaghan spent the 2016 school year as a research intern in the Office of Alumnae Initiatives.  During that year she researched the milestones and contributions of W&M women. In a recent blog post, she reflects on the significant contributions of W&M women on the university and in the broader world and how learning about amazing W&M women inspired her. 

Oral Histories

The oral history project is a joint undertaking of University Archives at Swem and the Office of Advancement. Underwritten in part by generous alumnae support, the collection strives to preserve the living memory of W&M alumnae over the first century of coeducation between 1918 and 2018. The video interviews capture diverse experiences of alumnae including their reason for choosing W&M, their experience in and out of the classroom while students and the impact their W&M education has had on their lives since graduation. The oral histories will become part of the University Archives and will be discoverable for scholars worldwide.

Jean Canoles Bruce ‘49

Virginia “Dinny” Wetter ‘40







100 Years of Major Milestones

October, 1896: Minnie G. Braithwaite petitioned the faculty of the university to allow her to attend chemistry lectures. The faculty assembly voted 4 to 3 to deny her request.


March, 1918: The House of Delegates passed the Strode Bill (57 to 33) admitting women to W&M, it was the first four-year public university in Virginia to accept men and women equally. Governor Westmoreland Davis signed the bill into law.


September, 1918: First day of classes for 24 women students, comprising 17 percent of student body (total 131), known to some as Black Thursday.


March, 1920: Mary Cooke Branch Munford is appointed as the first female member of the Board of Visitors, serving until 1925.


June 6, 1921: Martha Barksdale was alphabetically the first woman B.A. recipient. Catherine Teackle Dennis was alphabetically the first woman B.S. recipient. A total of five women received undergraduate degrees that year.


September, 1927: Barrett Hall, a women’s dormitory completed in 1927, was named in honor of Kate Waller Barrett, a prominent civic leader in Virginia and the second woman who served on the BOV. This was the first building at William & Mary named for a woman.


Sept. 13, 1933: Hatsuye Yamasaki was the first female Asian-American to enter William & Mary. She graduated in 1937.

Hatsuye Yamasaki 1937 Colonial Echo photo

June, 1937: Virginia Mister becomes the first woman to receive a graduate law degree from William & Mary and ultimately had a career with the United Nations that spanned almost 30 years.


February, 1943: War Council is established by a group of women on campus in support of the U.S. War effort. As men have left campus to fight WWII, women’s enrollment goes up to 43 percent.


October, 1967: Three women - Karen Ely, Janet Brown, and Lynn Briley became the first African-American undergraduate residential students to be admitted to W&M.


June, 1970: Pamela Pauly Chinnis becomes the first female president of the Alumni Association. She served from 1970 to 1971.


September, 1990: The Women’s Studies Program was established as an interdisciplinary academic unit within the School of Arts & Sciences.


February, 1994: Margaret Thatcher becomes the first female Chancellor of W&M.


September, 2001: The Millie West Tennis Facility is dedicated in honor of Millie West’s 50 years of service to W&M Athletics as a coach, administrator, and fundraiser.


April, 2016: BOV unanimously voted to approve the renaming of one of the Jamestown dorms to Hardy Hall. Hardy Hall is named in honor of Carroll Hardy, a prominent dean of students who was known for promoting student diversity.

Carroll Hardy