Was Emerson Started as an All-Women’s College?

No! Although the student body was predominantly female when the College opened, Emerson has always been a co-ed institution. Of the 62 students listed in the 1881 course catalog, at least 10 of these were men. Some students are listed by initials only, so it is difficult to get a true count.

In the 1928 Emerson College News, an article titled “Increase in Number of Men Students” mentions that the number of male students nearly doubled from 1927 to 1928. Since there is only one male shown as a senior in the 1927 yearbook, this was an easy feat.  

Another article in the same magazine titled “Special Classes for Men” gives (what I suspect is) the cause for this increase—the College added new courses specifically designed for “professional men,” focused on Public Speaking and Vocal Technique.

Almost 50 years after opening, Emerson’s student body was still predominantly female. In fact, the first property the College purchased in 1927 was the former Ericson Hotel at 373 Commonwealth Avenue, which became a women’s dormitory. Male students were left to find housing in local homes.

373Commonwealth_89142b

373 Commonwealth Avenue

373 Commonwealth Avenue

373 Commonwealth Avenue

By the 1940s, the gender breakdown of the student population began to become more evenly distributed due to several factors. The G.I. Bill was introduced in 1944, which allowed more veterans (only men at this time) to receive a higher education. The G.I. Bill was so influential in America that just three years after its introduction, about half of all college students were veterans. The curriculum offered at Emerson had also begun to change around this time, with offerings in Radio Broadcasting. As you can see from this photograph of the Intercollegiate Broadcasting Club, Radio programming drew more male students than female.

1947 Intercollegiate Broadcasting Club

1947 Intercollegiate Broadcasting Club

Today, the student population is approximately 65 percent female and 35 percent male.

Rosalie Gartner (Archives)

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