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Quotations from Women at Penn:
1750 - 1900

Dedicated to the memory of Ruth Branning Molloy, B.S. in Ed. 1930

Many of these quotations were used in Jenny Holzer's Hill Square sculpture commemorating 125 Years of Women at Penn


Detail of painting of Hannah Sergeant Ewing (1739-1806) wife of Provost John Ewing. Sergeant Hall, the first women's dormitory at Penn, was named in her honorDetail of 1892 photograph of College Hall facade, with two towers and circular driveDetail of 1878 photo, taken in a chemistry lab, of Gertrude Pierce Klein Easby, Anna Flanigan, and Mary Thorn Lewis Gannett--the first three women to matriculate at Penn

As the Scheme formed by the Gentlemen of Philadelphia, for the regular Education of their Sons, has been happily carried into execution; the Ladies excited by the laudable example, are solicitous that their Daughters too might be instructed in some Parts of Learning, as they are taught in the Academy.

Advertisement, Pennsylvania Gazette, 1751

I am convinced that the spirit of the times tends towards equipping women, by education and training, to undertake some of the important duties of life which are now being performed by men, and especially during the present war emergency when there is such a demand for well trained men and women. I therefore think that it would be a grave mistake to deny women the right of equal education with men.

If the University of Pennsylvania is to keep abreast of the times and fulfill its full mission to the Nation, it must be awake in this respect and realize that it cannot live upon past traditions, but must be the foremost college in aiding to make all our people efficient.

George Smedley Webster, 1875 Cert. Prof.; 1875 B.S. as of 1909; 1910 Sc.D. (honorary)

I want to urge women to go in for original work in research - no longer to be merely hands for another brain.

Gertrude Klein Peirce Easby, 1878 Cert. Prof.

I can have no shadow of doubt that extraordinary precautions often suggest, or increase, the violence they are intended to prevent. Freedom of action is a wonderful tranquilizer.

Mary Alice Bennett, 1880 Ph.D.

Detail of Mary Alice Bennett, portrait photograph, in cap and gown; Ph.D., Dept. of Auxiliary Medicine, 1880

Try to persuade any man that he will have more weight, more influence, if he gives up his vote, allies himself with no party, and relies on influence to achieve his ends! … By all means let us use to its utmost whatever influence we have, but in all justice do not ask us to be content with this.

Mary Thorn Lewis Gannett, 1880 Cert. Prof.

Women, in my judgment, should be given equal chances with men…I am naturally a conservative and am a follower of traditions whenever I may do so. I personally dislike co-education, and I believe there are good arguments against its application in most of the undergraduate departments. But I also feel that if we do not give the women the rights they are entitled to by the creation of such an institution here as Barnard or Radcliffe, we should in all fairness open the doors of the University to them; not, I repeat, as a financial necessity, but as a mere matter of justice.

Henry Houston Bonnell, 1880 B.A.

When I had graduated and was finally admitted to the Bar, it was familiarly said to be 'the greatest victory since the Civil War' …It is impossible for you, or indeed any of the University people, not then connected with the University, to appreciate the intense opposition to my admission to the University, and the work required to open the way for and to women. Now people wonder that there was opposition to it, and it seems, also, wonder if there really was opposition to it.

Carrie Burnham Kilgore, 1883 LL.B.

Detail of portrait photograph of Carrie Burnham Kilgore, first woman law school graduate in the United States, graduating from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1883

The University has done its part, it has given disciplined minds, trained judgment, keen perception. . . Out of the abounding counsel that age has always been ready to bestow on the younger generation, I select three admonitions: Do not scrap the old ethical standards in any specious belief that they hamper a free expression of one's individuality;. . . Take with you into life a fine sporting sense of the rights of the other fellow; respect your own rights but respect equally his rights. . . . Do not be too good natured;. . . Do not supinely accept that which may be improved because it seems ungracious to protest or too much trouble to endeavour to amend.

Ida Wood, 1884 Cert. Prof.

We have not yet found out exactly where the man belongs, and where the woman, in an ideal state. It is in our day that this strange combat is, so far, at its height. I sometimes wonder if our age will go down in history as the age in which the race of woman was at war with the race of man.

Anna Robertson Brown, 1892 Ph.D.

The days of useless martyrdom are over, also those of heroic sacrifice where it is not needed. What we need to do today is not to slaughter men and parties who do not happen to think as we do … but to educate them, teach them to see, to know, to love, to feel, to grow.

Sara Yorke Stevenson, 1894 D. Sc. (honorary); first curator of the Egyptian and Mediterranean section of the University Museum

Detail of 1917 portrait painting of Sara Yorke Stevenson

It would be difficult to make the present generation of women students realize all the intangible, as well as concrete, obstacles that hampered the path of their predecessors. Today, intellectual women face the world danger of the 'standardized mind.' No wonder that complaints arise about the lack of great leaders.

Louise Hortense Snowden, 1898 B.S. in Biology; advisor to women (at Penn), 1919-1925

Photograph of Louise Hortense Snowden

We had the joy of the pioneer-the gladness of all beginnings.

Margaret Center Klingelsmith, 1898 LL.B.; 1919 LL.M. (honorary)

Detail of portrait photograph of Margaret Klingelsmith

I further give, bequeath and direct unto the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania all of the real estate known as the Chestnut Street Opera House. . . My object in making the aforesaid donation to the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania is most especially to encourage and enable them to carry out the scheme of coeducation of women or girls, as has commenced in the buildings heretofore donated by me at southeast corner of 34th and Walnut Streets, in a more thorough, extended, practical and liberal manner, and for the purpose of erecting new buildings, and do everything in relation thereto which will be most creditable to me as the donor and to the University.

Col. Joseph M. Bennett, 1898

Dean Penniman, of Pennsylvania, has excused from chapel attendance the co-eds of the University. This is the result of the indignation manifested by senior men because about twenty-five of the young women, for whom no place has been reserved in the chapel, have presumed to take seats in the senior section.

Phi Delta Theta, Scroll, 1900

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