These schools are all about girl power. Whether these collegiettes are fighting for improved sexual assault policies on their campuses, founding sororities that foster women’s leadership across the country, or just throwing gender-expectation-defying parties, these are some seriously empowered ladies. Watch out, because in a few years, these girls will be taking over the world.
10. OBERLIN COLLEGE & CONSERVATORY (Oberlin, Ohio)
Oberlin is, in some ways, the quintessential school for feminists. After all, it was the first co-ed college in America, and it’s the alma mater of Lena Dunham, who is definitely the voice of our generation (or, at least, the voice of a generation). Oberlin’s student body is as open-minded as it gets, and collegiettes never stop looking for ways to improve their college experiences.
That’s why one Oberlin student founded Campus Assault and Rape Survivors Online Network (CARSON), a site for college women who have been sexually assaulted, after deciding that the college’s resources were insufficient. Carrie*, a junior who is currently working to improve Oberlin’s sexual assault policy, told Her Campus, “The campus culture and the classroom environment is overwhelmingly positive and empowering. But this certainly does not excuse the failings of those in charge of the wellbeing of its students. If there is anything my Oberlin education has taught me, it is to recognize and address systems that perpetuate injustice, even if that system is the college itself.” Although the administration isn’t perfect, Oberlin produces some seriously powerful collegiettes.
9. BENNINGTON COLLEGE (Benninigton, Vermont)
Bennington was founded as a progressive women’s college where “every girl has a different study plan, arranged according to her educational desires” (according to a Harvard Crimson article from 1952). Although the school went co-ed in 1969, the theme of women’s empowerment remains strong. At a school with a 35/65 male-female ratio, collegiettes definitely dominate campus life, and it pays off; Bennington boasts kick-a** female alumnae like Melissa Rosenberg (who wrote the screenplays for the Twilight series) and Judith Butler (a big deal feminist philosopher).
The one downside to all these ladies at Bennington? It’s hard to find a guy to take to formal. But as one alumna can attest, there’s an upside: when there’s so much competition for so few men, you graduate with some pretty serious flirting skills.
8. LONGWOOD UNIVERSITY (Farmville, Virginia)
You may not have heard of Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia (literally, this place is so rural, they named it Farmville). But we bet you’ve definitely heard of at least one of the Farmville Four: Kappa Delta, Sigma Sigma Sigma, Zeta Tau Alpha, and Alpha Sigma Alpha. These four NPC sororities were all founded at Longwood (then known as the much wordier “Virginia State Female Normal School”) within five years of each other.
Today, Longwood has opened its doors to men, but its history of women’s leadership still stands out. “I have experienced firsthand the respect and success the women at Longwood have gained here,” says Sheridan Simeck, a junior at Longwood and member of the Alpha chapter of Alpha Sigma Alpha. And these Greek girls give back to women around the world: Longwood College Panhellenic Council (on which Sheridan is a representative) has chosen Circle of Sisterhood, an organization dedicated to making education accessible for girls around the world, as its official philanthropy.
7. COLBY COLLEGE (Waterville, Maine)
Picture this: You’re a senior collegiette, and you notice the senior guys at your small liberal arts school are checking out the freshmen. Do you:
A. Declare yourself a SWUG and commiserate with your girlfriends?
B. Start eyeing grad students?
C. Reject traditional gender roles and throw a “cougar party,” where senior girls invite freshman boys?
If you answered C, you might go to Colby, which was the first all-male college in New England to accept women. “An annual cougar party is held by the senior girls … At this party each senior girl is handcuffed to their date, a freshman boy,” explains Katie*, a collegiette at Colby. From the cougar party to major workshops held by the Colby Feminist Alliance, Colby breeds some seriously confident collegiettes. But empowerment at Colby isn’t all fun and games; when Forbes did a study on the best colleges for women in STEM programs (science, technology, engineering, and math), Colby came out as number two on the list.
6. UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
In 1870, University of Michigan became one of the first major universities to open its doors to women. When you’ve had women around for so long, your women’s resources are pretty much expected to be excellent, and Madonna’s alma mater doesn’t disappoint.
Last fall, a piece in The Michigan Daily on hook-up culture sparked dialogue on campus about the place of the hook-up in female empowerment. When the reaction drew more attention than the original piece, a group of student activists came together to write the greatest manifesto on hook-up culture we’ve ever seen. The basic thesis? “Whoever you’re involved with, treat them as a person.” It’s hard to argue with that.
5. FRANKLIN & MARSHALL COLLEGE (Lancaster, Pennsylvania)
Franklin and Marshall collegiettes are proud to call themselves diplomats. “I go to Franklin & Marshall, where girl power is the best power there is,” says Shira Kipnees, a junior at the school. This liberal arts college in Lancaster, PA (a town better known for its Amish community), has some incredibly powerful women making a difference.
This spring, TotalFratMove.com published an article condoning a group of fraternity men who “crashed” a Slutwalk – an event which fights rape culture by pointing out that no matter how “sl*tty” women’s clothing might be, they are never “asking for it.” Well, this article didn’t go over well with women at F&M, so they took action. They created a Change.org campaign to get TFM to “publically acknowledge the role that their website’s misogynist culture plays in harming the efforts of college activists,” which is now more than halfway to its goal (hint, hint).
F&M collegiettes fight sexual assault offline as well. Last year, the keynote speaker at their annual Take Back the Night event was Olympic judo gold medalist (and sexual assault survivor) Kayla Harrison. Their women’s center even has a blog. We’re into that.
4. KENYON COLLEGE (Gambier, Ohio)
When Kenyon collegiettes see a problem, they take action. So when many of them noticed that, despite the large number of women interested in theatre, most shows were written, directed, and performed disproportionately by men, they founded Stage Femmes. Stage Femmes is a theatre group “providing female and male students alike interested in theatre with opportunities to produce works that showcase the talent of women in all areas of drama,” and it is now an incredibly active piece of the Kenyon theatre scene.
But Kenyon also takes feminism out of the theater and into the classroom. Hannah*, a collegiette at Kenyon, tells us, “Kenyon's academic courses are infused with a unique perspective on gender as a social construct and a fluid identity, and classes are approached with an understanding of gender as an important and valuable lens through which to view academic topics. Kenyon, all in all, is a remarkably wonderful place to be a feminist!”
3. YALE UNIVERSITY (New Haven, Connecticut)
In 2011, Yale students filed a federal complaint against the university, saying it was in violation of Title IX for not properly addressing sexual assaults on campus. Doesn’t sound so female-friendly, does it? “Sexual assault, and universities not taking those cases seriously, happens everywhere,” says Katie Chockley, a senior who is proud to be a Yalie. She argues that the Title IX suit is evidence that you shouldn’t mess with Yale collegiettes. “Yalies suing the [school] shows that Yale has empowered us and given us the tools we need to seek justice in a way not every university does,” she says.
When not making national headlines for taking an Ivy League school to court, Yale women are in the news for their very outlook on life. This spring, a New York Magazine article pointed the spotlight at the “SWUGs” of Yale – the self-declared Senior Washed Up Girls who spend more time drinking wine with their girl friends than partying with guys who would rather flirt with the freshmen anyway.
A feminist perspective? Hard to say, but the article sparked national conversation about young women, sexuality, and empowerment. That’s the kind of conversation Yale collegiettes have all the time, says Kristen Dowling, a Yale junior. “It would not be strange to overhear us talking about gender and intersectional feminism over ice cream sundaes in the dining hall,” she says.
2. SMITH COLLEGE (Northampton, Massachusetts)
Founded to provide women with the academic resources available to men at the time, Smith is definitely what one would consider a feminist college – and how could it not be, with alumnae like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan?
While Smith teaches its collegiettes to be strong, independent women, it doesn’t neglect some of the creature comforts. Every Friday, students are invited to an afternoon tea, a tradition that has gone on for more than 100 years. The college’s 36 small residential houses (actual houses, not dorms) build strong ties between the ladies who live there, and Smith students have nothing but love for their classmates. We suspect the lack of boys cuts down on inter-collegiette competition.
1. WELLESLEY COLLEGE (Wellesley, Massachusetts)
Drive onto Wellesley’s campus, and you’ll be greeted by banners that read “Women who will.” Women from this top-ranked all-female college (including Madeleine Albright, Nora Ephron, Diane Sawyer, and Hillary Rodham Clinton) are known for taking the world by storm, so current collegiettes know they are going to school with the next generation of lady leaders. “It's empowering to be so proud of your peers… because there are not nearly as many female leaders in this world as I would like,” says Emma Regan, a sophomore (who also noted that not everyone who goes to Wellesley identifies as female). “Above all, our peers, professors, mentors, friends, et cetera, truly believe that we can contribute positively to the world.”
*Names have been changed.