During the twentieth century, women succeeded in holding executive-level positions and deanships at Howard University. These "female firsts" document the extraordinary contributions that talented women have made to the University. Dr. Sara W. Brown holds the distinction of being the first female member of the Howard University Board of Trustees.25 She sat on the Board from 1924 until her death in 1948. The first female chairperson of the Board of Trustees was Dr. Geraldine P. Woods who served during 1975-1988.26 Dr. Dorothy B. Ferebee administered Howard’s health program as the first female University Health Director during the period 1975-1988.27 Dr. Lorraine A. Williams, the first female Vice President (Academic Affairs) of Howard, served from 1974 to 1983.28 Dr. Joyce A. Ladner was the first female Acting and Interim President of Howard University respectively during the years 1994 and 1994-1995.29 Mrs. Norma B. Leftwich, Esq., is currently the first female General Counsel of the University. She was appointed in 1995.30

     Women began to serve regularly as Deans of the University during the twentieth century. Ms. Lucy D. Slowe holds the distinction of being the first female Dean of Women.31 She held the position from 1922 until her death in 1937. During the period 1945-1967, Dr. Inabel B. Lindsay contributed to the growth and development of Howard’s School of Social Work as its first female Dean.32 From 1968 to 1986, the Howard University College of Nursing obtained the services of Dr. Anna L.B. Coles as its first female Dean.33 In 1969, Ms. Patricia R. Harris, Esq., served as the first female Dean of the School of Law.34 The first female Dean of the College of Fine Arts, Dr. Vada E. Butcher, led the College during the periods 1972-1976 and 1984-1991.35 Dr. Cecile H. Edwards, the first female Dean of the School of Human Ecology and the School of Continuing Education, served in these positions respectively during the years 1974-1986 and 1986-1987.36 From 1975 to 1991, Dr. Jeanne C. Sinkford administered the College of Dentistry as its first female Dean, and Dr. Beverly Caffee-Glenn guided the School of Education during 1989-1991 as its first female Dean.37 Dr. Janette L. Dates is currently the Dean of the School of Communications. She was appointed in 1997.38 Images of these Howard "female firsts" can be seen in the HUArchivesNet Gallery in this issue.

     Howard University’s historic mission of diversity encompasses its ongoing adherence to the belief of female inclusion in its postsecondary educational process. Howard alumnae serving worldwide are living testimonies to the University’s incalculable contributions to both the American and world communities. Individuals such as Debbie Allen, Mary Frances Berry, Sharon Pratt Dixon, Roberta Flack, Frankie Muse Freeman, Charlene Drew Jarvis, Jessye Norman, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Phylicia Ayers-Allen Rashad, and Lynn Whitfield reflect the high caliber of women graduates from the University.39 Howard University is forever mindful of its female tradition and is committed to maintaining this successful historical relationship in the future.


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May 2000