Wellesley Features Prominently In Op-Eds On The Enduring Importance And Value Of Women’s Colleges

January 4, 2016
Wellesley Students at the 2010 Albright Institute

Graduates of women's colleges make up just two percent of college degree holders, but they are highly represented in leadership positions. A Hartford Courant op-ed, penned by Rhona Free, president of the University of St. Joseph, announced in its opening sentences that no one should be surprised that Wellesley College produced “the first woman [likely to be] nominated by a major party for president,” referencing Hillary Rodham Clinton ’69. She went on to write that, “The list of ‘firsts’ among women's college graduates is long and impressive” and includes Madeleine Albright ‘59, the first woman secretary of state.

Free’s op-ed, which was later published by several other newspapers, cited a report from the Women's College Coalition that showed 30 percent of the women on BusinessWeek’s list of “rising stars in corporate America” are alumnae from all-women institutions. Likewise, “a third of the Fortune 1,000 female board members graduated from single gender institutions.” Her article, “Women’s Colleges Produce Strong Leaders,” is one of a spate of recent opinion pieces in major publications—all on the enduring importance and value of women’s college in today’s higher education landscape—that feature Wellesley prominently in both text and image.

Wellesley also featured prominently in a Fortune article, “What I’ve Learned from Hillary Clinton, the Wellesley Girl.” Author Katherine Reynolds Lewis recounted how, as a young woman attending Harvard, she didn’t understand the role of women’s colleges. Now, she said, becoming a mother of daughters has convinced her of “the merit in carving out all-female spaces for education, debate, and building relationships.” She wrote: “Looking at my contemporaries who went to Wellesley, it’s obvious that they’re universally well-educated, intelligent human beings…and I bet they don’t have the same questions today that I have about whether I have a harder time accessing certain college connections and networks because I am a woman who had a co-ed college experience.”

A third article, in Forbes, noted that students at many all-women's colleges, Wellesley included, have the benefit of co-registration at neighboring co-educational institutions but declared, "The essential, life-changing difference available at women’s colleges is that they are largely ‘of, by and for’ women.” The piece featured as its main image a photo of Clinton speaking at Wellesley, behind a podium emblazoned with “Honoring Student Activism."

Concluding her piece for the Courant, Free wrote, “In a world where exceptional young women have a host of academic options, a growing number are choosing to attend a women's college—not by default, but by choice—a choice the data says is a smart one.”