History of Women at Holy Cross

Did you know that Holy Cross wasn’t always a co-educational institution? In 1836, Father James Fitton purchased the land now known as Holy Cross to serve as an all male academy. With his pastoral responsibilities taking time away from his academy management, Father Fitton handed over his land to Bishop Joseph Fenwick, who held the College’s first Commencement of six male students in 1849. Within three years, the College had increased to 100 male students.

Since its opening, Holy Cross has served as an exquisite institution and has continued providing one of the finest educations to approximately 2,900 students today. With 48% men and 52% women, Holy Cross students serve as men and women for and with others, as Holy Cross students are urged to measure their personal successes in life by what they have done to better the lives of others. The fairly equal ratio of men to women at Holy Cross allows for the accumulation of diverse opinions, perspectives, and experiences which make Holy Cross so special.

Opening its doors to women in 1972, Holy Cross has included them in all aspects of campus- academics, athletics, and extracurricular activities. For example, “Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies” has increasingly become a popular academic concentration for all students. This concentration explores the many facets of gender and encourages students to delve deeper into the every day assumptions and marginalized experiences. Within this concentration are study abroad opportunities, capstone projects, volunteer and research opportunities, and student organizations including the Feminist Forum and Pride.

Outside of academics, there are many opportunities strictly for women. The Sister to Sister Collaborative  (S2S) is a campus-wide committee open to female ALANA and international students, staff, faculty, and administrators of Holy Cross. It seeks to create opportunities for ALANA and international women to feel supported and included in the Holy Cross community by providing a forum for developing and nurturing dialogue around issues that impact their daily lives. In addition to S2S, the Women’s Corner, created by Sociology and Anthropology departments, features diverse perspectives, promotes open exchange, and fosters critical inquiry in a space that highlights issues pertaining to women, gender, and sexuality.

Holy Cross also offers opportunities for women to be successful both before and after their four years at the college. The Women in Business Conference is open to female students and celebrates, honors, and inspires those pursuing a business career and offers an opportunity to network. The Women’s Institute of Summer Experimental Research (WISER) provides accomplished young women entering their junior or senior year in high school the opportunity to earn college credit through a seminar-style course in the natural sciences as well as to gain hands-on research experience in a state-of-the-art laboratory. The Women in Science Day aims at maintaining and enhancing the involvement of women in the STEM disciplines by allowing high school students to participate in interactive lab demonstrations offered by the departments of Chemistry, Biology, Physics, and Mathematics & Computer Science, as well as STEM-specific browsing sessions, with representatives from the College.

There are many extracurricular and athletics groups open for female students as well. These include all-female a cappella groups, and all female Division 1 sports teams and club sports teams such as women’s soccer, rugby, volleyball, lacrosse, and basketball.

 Since 1972, women have been vital in the success and experience of Holy Cross. They have been an integral part of the campus’ student body by contributing new perspectives, opinions, and experiences. Without women, the Holy Cross we know today would not be same.  In celebration of Women’s History Month, the College has held and continues to showcase a series of events, performances, and lectures, which take place throughout the month of March and are open to the public.


written by Joanna A. ’19




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