March 24, 2011
Women’s History Month Recognized at Lake Erie College
“In the early years of the institution, very few women who attended actually completed their studies through graduation. Instead, many young women looked at their Lake Erie experience as a brief educational opportunity that increased their marriage prospects. Students worked one hour each day on domestic duties. Domestic work continued until 1917. The charge for tuition and board was $90 per year. Enrollment was 127 students.” -Lake Erie Magazine: The First 150 Years
That was over 150 years ago, and times have changed dramatically since then. Not only have the costs of tuition and board risen, but the world’s respect for women has also skyrocketed, and March is nationally known as Women’s History Month.
An all-women’s college for over 100 years, Lake Erie has created memories with various important women throughout history. In 1859, Lake Erie Female Seminary introduced its first principal, Lydia Sessions. Along with six other female teachers, Lake Erie was off and running with its first class of students. In that year, the college welcomed U.S. educator and advocate of education for women in Connecticut and the Midwest, Catharine Beecher, to speak to students. Catharine Beecher was the older sister of Harriet Beecher Stowe, an abolitionist and writer most famous for her groundbreaking novel “Uncle Tom's Cabin”.
Years later, on Oct. 29, 1936, Amelia Earhart spoke to students on campus. Earhart was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, in 1928; the second person to fly solo across the Atlantic, in 1932; and the first person to solo from Hawaii to California, in 1935. She was, and still is, the most famous female pilot in the world, and she mysteriously disappeared only months after visiting Lake Erie College while attempting to fly around the world. According to AmeliaEarhart.com, the U.S. spent $4 million searching for her, which still stands as the most money spent on a search for an individual person to this date.
Lake Erie College continued to bring historical women to campus, including top-ranked tennis star Alice Marble, who was an 18-time Grand Slam winner from 1936-1940, and came to Lake Erie in her prime on May 20, 1939.
The following year on April 30, 1940, former naval yeomanette and Lake Erie College ’18 alumna Dawn Powell came to campus to speak to students. Powell had become a famous author in the 1930s, after moving to New York and writing a collection of novels.
In 1970, Jeane Dixon, a world-famous psychic who predicted the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, spoke to Lake Erie College students. Dixon was famous for her psychic abilities and is also the name behind the Jeane Dixon effect, which refers the tendency of psychics to promote a few correct predictions while ignoring a larger number of incorrect predictions.
The school year of 1975-76 saw two powerful women speak at Lake Erie College, feminist Betty Friedan and anthropologist Margaret Mead. Friedan was the first president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), and she held multiple activist movements. In 1970, with NOW, Friedan led a strike for women’s equality, which included 50,000 women and men marching in New York City. Mead was an often- featured writer and speaker in the era, sharing her ideas about western culture. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Jimmy Carter, an honor also given to Mother Teresa and Rosa Parks.
Lake Erie College closed out the 1970s with appearances by other notable females: Carolyn Payton, the first female and the first African American to be United States Peace Corps Director; Sissy Farenthold, the third woman whose name was put into nomination for Vice President of the United States; and television star Esther Rolle.
Women’s history continued to be made at Lake Erie College in the 1980s, as famous visitors including Elizabeth Janeway, Eleanor Smeal, Loretta Bundage-Johnson and Gloria Steinem came to speak. Lake Erie College became co-ed in 1985, and the school has continued to grow in size and tradition.
In 1999, just before closing out the millennium, Lake Erie College welcomed Dr. Irma Acosta de Fortin, founder of the first private university in Honduras, as commencement speaker. De Fortin founder of the Universidad Jose Cecilio del Valle, spoke about Honduran culture, politics and education. Six years later, Mrs. Ohio and top-ten finalist for Mrs. International, Carrie Layne, spoke to students to advocate against eating disorders.
Widely acclaimed and notable figures continued to present at Lake Erie College, and 2009 saw two notable women on campus. In April, Pulitzer Prize-winning and Plain Dealer columnist, Connie Schultz visited to share her experiences with the campus and community, and in October, MSNBC personality and journalist Mika Brzezinski delighted a full Morley Music Building audience with accounts from her career.
Originating from an all-women’s seminary, Lake Erie College has always taken pride in women making history. Lake Erie women and the women who have graced the campus through their visits have gone on to set world records, win championships, write books and fly planes. We know our women today will continue the success as they continue to write history.