“Eighth sister” no more: The evolving mission of Connecticut College

Paul Philip Marthers, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation examines how Connecticut College for Women's founding mission and vision have informed its institutional evolution over nearly 100 years—revealing how Connecticut College's founding to provide educational opportunity for women has been altered by coeducation, and how the College has been shaped by the key roles that curricular emphasis and local community played at its point of origin. Drawing on archival research, oral history interviews, and seminal works on higher education history and women's history, this investigation provides a view into the liberal arts segment of American higher education, where many small colleges struggle for sustenance. Examining Connecticut College's founding in the context of its evolution illustrates whether—and if so how—founding mission and vision inform the way colleges describe what they are and do, and whether there are essential elements of founding mission and vision that must be remembered or preserved? One key finding concerns Connecticut College for Women's historical significance. Through its stated mission and curricular offerings, Connecticut College for Women was the first prominent college to acknowledge that women would be working out in the world. When it opened in 1915, Connecticut College paired the rigorous academic and liberal arts curriculum found at the older Seven Sister colleges with curricular features that prepared women for the growing number of occupations available to them. Like the Sisters, Connecticut College offered traditional liberal arts majors, but unlike the Sisters, it also offered vocational majors such as home economics and courses in secretarial skills. Yet Connecticut College has been left out of the literature on women's colleges. A similar scholarship gap exists for two other colleges founded around the same time with similar aims: Simmons College and Skidmore College. Connecticut, Simmons, and Skidmore represented a significant evolutionary step beyond the Seven Sisters, and their omission from scholarship on American women's higher education is a gap that impedes a full understanding of the subject.

Subject Area

Womens studies|Education history|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Marthers, Paul Philip, "“Eighth sister” no more: The evolving mission of Connecticut College" (2008). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3310483.