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Why Women's Colleges?


My friend Mt. Holyoke College President Joanne V. Creighton wrote a great op-ed piece entitled “Why We Need Women’s Colleges” in yesterday’s Boston Globe on the value of women’s colleges. You can read it by clicking here. President Creighton eloquently expresses the reasons why nearly 60 colleges and universities (including Trinity!) persist in our primary mission focus on the education and advancement of women.

When I turned to the online comments that now accompany so many newspaper articles on the Internet, I found numerous negative postings. Some are simply downright sexist (“women….should stay home and serve their husbands, on the dinner table and in bed…”), and some are outright hostile (“women’s colleges…are huge havens for left-wing nut jobs groups…”). Some of the comments reveal the chronic old stereotype of women’s colleges as shelters against the “real world” (“…having woman-only colleges is as silly as having your kid wear a helmet every single day while walking…”). As I read the more misogynist comments, I found myself wishing that the bloggers had been here at Trinity last Sunday when our powerful women from the College of Arts and Sciences in the Class of 2007 proudly claimed their diplomas.

Fortunately, many of the other comments came from women who attended women’s colleges and could attest to the value of their experience while also debunking the myths that too many people still have about these institutions (“…going to a women’s college does not mean never associating with men,” and “the small and intimate atmosphere of a women’s college is so much more satisfying….you get one-on-one time with your professors who learn your name after 1 class, who want to help you and watch you succeed…). True!

This August, we will celebrate the 110th anniversary of Trinity’s founding. The powerful vision of the Sisters of Notre Dame continues to improve the lives of thousands of women, and yes, many men as well in our graduate and professional programs. Our mission is an animating force for equality in education and justice for the students we serve, and the communities they will serve with the power of Trinity’s education in their lives.

The discussion prompted by President Creighton’s article reminds all of us in the women’s college world that we must continue to be strong public advocates for our mission in a world where millions of women, millions of women and men of color, millions of children continue to lack equal educational opportunities. Far from being bastions of elite privilege removed from the “real world” — a long-refuted stereotype — today’s women’s colleges like Trinity lead the way in making a higher education accessible to individuals who were once excluded. The value these institutions bring to our society is clear in the remarkable achievements of our graduates.

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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: