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."
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.
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:
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.
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.