History of Radcliffe

  • <p>Radcliffe Yard Today.</p> <p>In the background of the image are four red brick buildings. The center right building is two stories and has a tower on the top. The center left building is also two stories with four large white columns holding up an overhang in the front of the building. The right and leftmost buildings are not fully visible. In front of the buildings is a yard with patches of snow on the ground and barren trees. Around the yard is a walking path where a woman in a black suit walks.</p>
  • <p>Aerial View of Radcliffe Yard.</p> <p>A black and white photo showing a bird's eye view of a college campus. Majority of the brick buildings are in a circle, surrounded by trees and green fields. The main campus is next to a road with cars driving on it.</p>

History of Radcliffe

Like many other colleges of the time, Harvard began with enrollment limited to men. In 1879, Radcliffe College was founded originally as the Society for the Collegiate Instruction of Women, also known as the "Harvard Annex."

  • <p>The Harvard Annex, Class of 1884.</p> <p>A sepia photo of six white women in a room. The leftmost woman sits in a velvet chair that faces the wall, but her body is turned towards the front. She wears a long dark dress and has dark hair pulled into a low bun. The next woman stands against a large table with a water pitcher and plate on it. Her elbow is on the table. She wears a dark dress and has dark hair. The next woman leans against a railing with her elbow. She wears a long dark dress with a light neckerchief and holds a piece of paper. She is staring to the left. Next to her is a seated woman whose chair faces the left. She wears a lighter colored dress and holds a book in her hand. The last two women are also seated on stools with the back stool being taller than the front. They both wear long dresses.</p>

Classes were separated by gender, but the colleges shared a teaching staff. In 1894, the Annex expanded, and became an official college. It was then named Radcliffe, after Ann Radcliffe who established Harvard's first scholarship fund in 1643.

  • <p>Portrait of Alberta Virginia Scott, 1898.</p> <p>A sepia photo of a black woman wearing a white shirt and neckerchief and belted pants. She wears a graduation robe over her clothes and has a mortarboard on her head. Her hands are touching in front of her body.</p>
  • <p>Graduation Photo of Helen Keller, 1904.</p> <p>A sepia photo of a young white woman with curly hair is sitting down and holding papers on her lap. She is wearing a long white dress with a dark bow on the collar, and graduation robes with a mortarboard on her head.</p>

Radcliffe College's first president was Elizabeth Cary Agassiz. Agassiz, like many members of the Harvard community, has a complicated legacy. She was a cofounder of Radcliffe College and a champion for the inclusion of women at the University.

And, she was the wife and scholarly partner of Harvard Professor Louis Agassiz, a prominent advocate of racial science, which was bogus science used to justify racism. Cary Agassiz was deeply involved in her husband’s work.

Radcliffe College went on to produce incredible alumnas. Notable graduates include:

  • Alberta Virginia Scott, the first African American woman to graduate from Radcliffe in 1898.
  • Helen Keller, a disabilities right's activist, and notably blind and deaf, graduated from Radcliffe in 1904. In 1955, she became the first woman to receive an honorary Harvard degree.
  • <p>Co-Educational Courses with Harvard and Radcliffe Students.</p> <p>A black and white photo of a room full of young students. Most of them are looking to the front of the room, with several of them taking notes. The students are sitting in ascending rows of seats, and many of the students are dressed in semi-formal professional clothing.</p>

Harvard's enrollment of men fell during World War II as increasing numbers entered the armed services. In 1943, men and women's classes were integrated and remained so after the war.

In 1969, more than 2,000 students signed a petition demanding that the Harvard and Radcliffe dorms be integrated. The integration process, dubbed "a great experiment," began the following year.

  • <p>Gate leading into the Radcliffe Yard, Home to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.</p> <p>A brick gate covered in green ivy. On the left wall of the gate, there is a red sign that reads "Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University." The gate door is made of black metal, and there is a light over the gate’s entrance.</p>

In 1999, Radcliffe College was officially dissolved, becoming the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Up until this point, women's diplomas bore the names of both Harvard and Radcliffe and were signed by the presidents of the two institutions. The Radcliffe Institute is one of the many entities that make up Harvard University.

Today, Harvard College welcomes students from all backgrounds and beliefs to learn from and with one another; students come from across the country and all over the world, with diverse backgrounds and far-ranging talents and interests.

  • History of Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study