The Women of Howard
One of Howard Universitys extraordinary and unique contributions in the field of American higher education was its embrace of females as part of its University community. The Universitys receptiveness to females is traceable to its founding in the 19th century, and is an ongoing positive commitment up to the present. The involvement of females in the Universitys growth and development was mandated in 1867 by Howards incorporators, who also comprised the first Board of Trustees, when they adopted a policy ensuring the University forever open to all individuals irrespective of race, sex, creed, or national origin.1 The only constraint on female participation in Howards administrative and educational systems, from the beginning to the present, has been the availability of qualified women candidates.
During the Reconstruction and Post-Reconstruction eras, females who were old and young, single and married, white and Black, native and foreign, literate, semi-literate and illiterate sought to participate in the Howard experience.2 In contrast to many other post-secondary institutions during these eras, Howard University welcomed females, enrolled them as students, and offered them employment opportunities as faculty and staff.
The Universitys first four students in 1867 were white females, the daughters of some of Howards first trustees.3 Two of these students, Emily E. and Sarah M. Robinson, advanced to Howards Collegiate Department by 1869.4 Howard graduated a female doctor in 1872 and 1874, a female pharmacist in 1887, and a female dentist in 1896 and 1900.5 Charlotte E. Ray, an African American female, was the Universitys first female law graduate in 1872 and is considered the "first woman in the United States to graduate from a regular non-profit law school and also the first woman admitted to practice law before the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia."6
The first graduates of Howards Normal Department in 1870 were all females.7 During the next three years, fourteen females graduated from the Department. Three women graduated from the Preparatory Department in 1872.8 Between 1890 and 1903, the University produced two female pharmacists.9 The valedictorian in medicine at Howards 1884 commencement was a Caucasian female.10 The first two female graduates of Howards dental school obtained degrees in 1896 and 1900; a female graduated from the Universitys Theological Department in 1901.11