Revisiting revolutionary history of Newcomb-Tulane College

Emma Sharp, Contributing Writer

During Women’s History Month, it is important to acknowledge the female influence over time. For Tulane students, it is critical to see this influence in our own college community. The Newcomb-Tulane College, the coeducational gateway for all undergraduates, has a rich history of female leadership. It was originally the Newcomb College, an all-women’s college.

Shivani Bondada

In 1886, philanthropist Josephine Louise Newcomb gave a generous donation to Tulane in memory of her late daughter and established the first degree-granting coordinate college for women in the United States — Newcomb College. Her vision for the college was to shape capable, independent women who would make lasting benefits to society. Despite being associated with Tulane, the college had its own president and administration as if it were independent. While gender education was kept segregated, the college provided women with a space to flourish in a formal education. Newcomb College educated women in the arts, encouraging them to pursue careers as designers and producers in industries that were historically exclusive to men. 

As Newcomb College gained prestige and recognition among women’s colleges, Newcomb women continued to succeed; they created a student-run literary magazine called “Arcade,” competed in athletic events with other colleges and held positions in student government. 

Signed in 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments prohibited sex discrimination in any educational program or activity receiving federal funding. Following the passage of Title IX, single-sex classes ended and women began to enroll in classes with men in the College of Arts and Sciences at Tulane. Finally, in 1987, Newcomb College and the College of Arts and Sciences merged faculties, creating unified academic departments. It wasn’t until 2005, after Hurricane Katrina hit, however, that Tulane officially merged the two. This event created the Newcomb-Tulane College that we know today.

Newcomb College has been home to many notable and influential alumnae. Newcomb College graduate Shirley Ann Grau won the 1965 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Corinne Claiborne “Lindy” Boggs, served 18 years in the House of Representatives and advocated for women’s equality. Rosa Keller became an activist who fought for equal rights for all New Orleans citizens and the desegregation of New Orleans schools and public transportation.

Since 1928, Newcomb Hall, home to the original Newcomb College, has stood tall. Behind its mahogany red brick walls and grand white pillars are memories of the women who pioneered the notion of equal education for women. This Women’s History Month, we can remember the women of New Orleans and Newcomb College who became change-makers in a time where barriers stood in their way.

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