With the arrival of Susan Herbst as the University of Connecticut’s president, it’s time to take note of some other firsts for women in the history of the University.
The first woman on staff was Mrs. R.H. Coit who served as matron from 1882 to 1883 at the Storrs Agricultural School. Although records do not indicate exactly what a matron’s role entailed, it’s possible she did cooking and cleaning in the single-building school/dormitory that was home to the first dozen students of the then boys-only school.
The first woman on faculty at the agricultural school was Josephine Nettleton, who first taught algebra when she joined the teaching staff in 1888. Later she was a instructor in mathematics and physical geography.
It was in the fall of 1890 that a girl joined the boys in classes. Nellie Wilson had asked Benjamin Koons, principal of the school, if she might be admitted. Koons, reasoning that the state law establishing the school for boys did not expressly forbid the enrollment of girls, answered in the affirmative.
Wilson was joined by Louisa Rosebrooks and Anna Snow in the spring of 1891, and two years later, the legislature formalized their enrollment when it changed the name of the school to the Storrs Agricultural College.
The following year, 1894, Wilson, Rosebrooks, and Snow, whose names are memorialized on residence halls in South Campus, became the first women to graduate from the college. And they did it all as the first commuting students. The first dormitory for women, Grove Cottage, would not be built until 1896.
-Mark J. Roy, University Communications (retired)