“Resolved: that the emergence of women from the home is a regrettable feature of modern life.” This was a question from a 1930s debate competition, in which Boston College upheld the affirmative side of the argument against Bates College. An article in The Heights Jan. 21 issue from that year reports that, although no winner was appointed, “at no time” was the BC all-male team “stopped dead” by their female opponents.
BC was not quick to welcome women. According to its website, it wasn’t until the late 1920s that a female was awarded a bachelor’s degree, and 1970 that all academic programs became coeducational. This was actually early compared to some New England schools, with Harvard not becoming coeducational until 1977. Women slowly found their way into campus life, transforming the school from its exclusively male roots to a now female-heavy student body.
In 1952, a female student in the Lynch School of Education, Carol Hines, wrote of the “resentment” she felt by the male students at the beginning of her time at BC, reports the Oct. 24 issue in that year. She was beginning to feel more integrated on campus, however, as a result of the male students in Lynch “allowing” them to sit at their tables and giving them suggestions for their studies, which apparently gave the women “the confidence [they needed] to feel at home at BC.”
It wasn’t until 1973, three years after the school became fully coeducational, that the opportunities for women really started to take off. The Women’s Resource Center opened on March 8th, International Women’s Day. According to an article in the March 6 issue that year, the center was originally run by volunteers and work-study students, and it contained only “a coffee urn, a limited selection of literature and a resource file of people available for career planning.” Allotted a small room in McElroy, the original Women’s Resource Center had no budget. The goal was to give women a place for both education and resources.
In 1975, the Center began hosting more programs for women, including an Introduction to Feminism course. Women’s Studies would not be a minor until 1983, so the Women’s Resource Center became a great place for opportunities in this field. The course was only open to women, according to the Jan. 20, 1975 issue of The Heights.
In this year, the Women’s Center also held the inaugural “Women in the Arts Week.” This was a conglomeration of films, music, and artist exhibitions featuring all female artists, reports Maureen Dezell in the Nov. 18, 1974 issue. In only its second year of operation, the Center began offering programs such as this, providing a much-needed spotlight to women on campus.
The Women’s Center was revolutionary in offering opportunities to women, and only women. In 1978, the center spoke to BC’s male population in response to stereotypes and alienation the Center had been receiving since it’s opening, according to the Nov. 20 issue in that year. An address to the University’s male population sought to open the Center to male feedback and integration, as the Center aimed to become a resource to the entire BC population.
In 2014, the Women’s Resource Center continued to have an important role on campus, offering services and programs to men and women alike. In 1993, SANet was founded, which is now housed in the Women’s Center. Its resources continue to provide important help and comfort to both male and female students at BC. Along with SANet, Bystander Intervention is housed in the Women’s Center, a popular program for students of both genders.
The Women’s Resource Center began as a way to offer female students much-needed opportunities on campus. Today, it works to bridge the male and female communities—an important task that has supported not only a co-ed student body, but also an integrated student body where men and women are given not separate, but equal opportunities.
These opportunities have boasted great success, producing many highly successful female graduates from BC. Among the esteemed alumni are Virginia Mitchell Ryan, vice president of JP Morgan Chase; Denis Morrison, president and CEO of Campbell Soup Company; Amy Poehler, Saturday Night Live and Parks and Recreation actress; Elisabeth Hasselbeck, former co-host of The View; Margaret Heckler, former U.S. congresswoman and former U.S. secretary of health and human services; Cheryl Jacques, first openly gay state senator; and many more.
Once zero percent female, BC’s student body is currently comprised of 54 percent females. This said, there are a host of opportunities on campus for women. Women have established their presence in academia, athletics, and the arts with 18 women’s varsity athletics teams and clubs like Women in Business or The Sharps all-female a cappella group. More than anything, however, women have been truly integrated into life at the University.