Elmira College Catalogues and Bulletins
As the first U.S institution of higher education to confer degrees to women equivalent to those for men, Elmira College holds a significant place in the history of women’s education. Opened in 1855 as the Elmira Female College, its goal was to “promote the rights of woman to a larger share of education...to furnish an institution where the most gifted and intellectual may pursue a course of thorough and extended study...” (EC President, Augustus Cowles).
In the mid-19th century, the South Central New York region was particularly progressive, championing such causes as women’s rights and the abolition of slavery. Elmira College students, many of whom were from New York State, were engaged in such causes. The College was inspired by the women’s rights movement—which held its first convention in nearby Seneca Falls, NY, in 1848—to adopt the purple and gold colors of the movement, as well as its fervor. The College admitted men in 1969, but has continued to have a predominantly female enrollment to the present.