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Many Kenyon students would describe the university as a “bubble”, having little contact with the wider community, and this was particularly true when Kenyon was an all-male institution. Kenyon opened its doors to women in 1969, and female students eventually became an integral part of the community, participating not only academically, but also in campus life and previously all-male traditions. However, this was not the first time that women had been educated at Gambier. From 1887 to 1937, a preparatory school called Harcourt Place Seminary for Young Ladies and Girls existed where Norton, Lewis and Gund residence halls are located today. The school had a strained relationship with Kenyon, even though they were adjacent institutions.
According to an article by former Kenyon president Robert A. Oden, the school was originally the home of Bishop Charles Pettit McIlvaine, who succeeded Philander Chase, both as bishop of Ohio and president of the university. After moving, his home became the Harcourt Place School of Boys, which closed in the early 1880s before becoming a seminary for girls. “There is even a sense in which Harcourt Place Seminary can be called the site of Gambier’s first college education for women, this because the seminary’s faculty was supplemented by no fewer than four Kenyon professors and because the seminary offered a graduate degree in two years. high school course,” Oden said.
The school had a positive reputation outside of Gambier, as many of the women who attended attended prestigious co-educational universities. Unfortunately, Harcourt closed during the Great Depression, and Kenyon students hardly regretted the closure, according to Linda Urban ’70 in a 1969 academic Article. He claimed that the Harcourt students and the Kenyon students barely knew each other.
Although Harcourt Place Seminary for Ladies and Girls was adjacent to the campus, there was very little overlap between the communities. A look at the academic The files reveal that the male students made little effort to make the Harcourt female students feel welcome, and Harcourt, as an institution, had many rules to ensure separation. Shortly after the school was founded, the Harcourt faculty became concerned that girls were being harassed by male students, so a rule was implemented that girls could only enter the Kenyon campus on Thursdays. One more controversial moment was when they were not allowed to attend Kenyon’s Junior Promenade. “School officials banned the event because ‘forbidden round dancing’ would be allowed. In retaliation, Kenyon’s men arranged for the transportation of girls from a Columbus graduate school,” Urban wrote. An 1887 edition of the academic he made it clear that Kenyon students were frustrated with Harcourt’s strict policies, although this only caused them to withdraw from any relationship with the school rather than oppose the division imposed. “It’s fair to say that the vast majority of students now have no desire to associate with the seminary ladies, not that they don’t appreciate the young ladies themselves and would be happy to meet them, but… they don’t care. be obligated or receive favors from the seminary authorities,” one student wrote. Although Kenyon was clearly unable to foster a relationship with the school, 30 years after Harcourt closed, the university was finally able to integrate women into the community, where they now make up 56% of the student body.