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"A DECISION AGAINST WOMAN," blazed a headline in the college newspaper, the Industrial Collegian, in June 1895, referring to an oratory contest in which a female college student was allegedly denied victory because of her gender. "SHALL WE PLAY BASKET BALL?" invited another story headline in the April 1897 Collegian. "The time has passed when the girl who would indulge in out door sports is not considered a lady." In 1911, an essay entitled "The Emancipation of Woman" appeared in the college's Jack Rabbit yearbook, proclaiming, "This is the age of the new woman." These items from the dawn of the twentieth century denoted the increasingly receptive environment in which the women of South Dakota Agricultural College (SDAC) found themselves. The land-grant college, coeducational from its inception, had welcomed its first college-level students in the fall of 1885. Offering free tuition to residents of Dakota Territory, free rooms, and a special course in domestic economy "for ladies," the school quickly attracted a number of female students. Lulah Wellman, the first woman to graduate from the institution, received her degree in 1888. By 1920, 289 women had completed the four-year program, constituting 35.5 percent of the 815 graduates to that time. During the span of years from 1888 to 1920, women's roles and public perceptions about those roles were in flux, and conditions at the agricultural college reflected the changes occurring in society at large.
South Dakota History
South Dakota State Historical Society
Copyright © 2003 South Dakota Historical Society. Posted with permission.
Lindell, Lisa R., "The "Quickening Power" of Education: Women Students at South Dakota State University, 1885-1920" (2003). Hilton M. Briggs Library Faculty Publications. 37.