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8 ‘Feminist’ Colleges & What It’s Like To Go There

Move over, Rosie the Riveter. There’s a new generation of feminists in town, and they’re collegiettes! From awesome women’s activism to feminist a cappella groups, these schools are full of girl power. These schools have special programming dedicated to women’s issues, very active feminist alliances and student bodies that bring women’s and gender issues to the forefront of campus culture.  Read on for some of the country’s most feminist colleges!

1. Mount Holyoke College (South Hadley, MA)

Although nestled in a small town in the middle of Massachusetts, Mount Holyoke women have big city dreams. As one of the oldest colleges for women in the country, Mount Holyoke puts women’s leadership at the forefront of their liberal arts curriculum. “We all come to MHC learning [that] our job as MHC students is to make history in our field and eventually become influential women,” Libby, a junior at Mount Holyoke, says. From a women’s leadership center to their feminist a cappella group Nice Shoes, whose repertoire includes female empowerment songs, MHC breeds strong, activist women. “After going to [an all-girls high school] I needed a feminist institution. I needed a college that supported women and their power,” Libby says. MHC boasts alumnae like Emily Dickinson and the first female cabinet member Frances Perkins. Talk about girl power!

2. Wellesley College (Wellesley, MA)

Be very, very careful if you mention Hillary Clinton’s name to a Wellesley woman. As one of the school’s most famous alumnae and the object of their not-so-secret infatuation, Hillary continues to be a role model for the college’s undergrads—often eliciting a shriek of delight when her name drops. Located in a suburb of Boston, Wellesley women enjoy high power academics plus all of Boston’s opportunities (boys included!). Click here to read one girl’s experience at Wellesley! Rebecca, a junior at Wellesley and a proud owner of a “What would Hillary do?” coffee mug, says, “Wellesley is empowering because of the classroom experience and the community itself. It’s also empowering looking at the Wellesley women before you who have made history. Wellesley really helps you understand what it means to be a feminist and how it means that women and men are equal. There’s a broad spectrum of feminism at Wellesley.” Other awesome alumnae? Madeleine Albright and Nora Ephron were also Wellesley girls.

3. Chatham University (Pittsburgh, PA)

Chatham women don’t just support women’s rights—they actually make them happen. “Though students represent both liberal and conservative views, everyone takes women’s rights extremely seriously,” says Mara, a Chatham sophomore. “The student organization, F.A.C.E. (Feminist Activists Creating Equality), has a major presence on campus, organizing everything from petition signings to a Walk for Congo Women. Other groups work to incorporate the same themes into their work and their events.” This Pittsburgh school requires all students to take women’s studies classes (a perennial favorite is Eco-feminist Literature, says Mara), but all classes are infused with a nice dose of feminism. “’Women’s issues’ are a focus of Chatham’s mission, and that approach is strongly reflected in academics. Nearly every course incorporates readings, lectures and discussions that examine women’s rights in the context of the subject,” Mara says. Notable alumnae include biologist Rachel Carson and Judy Bachrach, a Vanity Fair editor.

4. Smith College (Northampton, MA)

There’s no doubt about it: “I think the overall, prevailing feeling is that if you go to Smith, you are a feminist,” freshman Claire says. “The school drills it into our heads that we should be strong, independent women or we don’t belong [here].” And speaking of strong, independent women, Smith’s famous alumnae list reads like a Who’s Who in American Feminism: writer Sylvia Plath, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and chef Julia Child (just to name a few!). And here are a few slogans that can be seen on official Smith College apparel: “Smith College: a century of women on top.” (innuendo intended, Claire jokes) and “It’s not a girl’s school without men; it’s a women’s college without boys.” Awesome!


5. Barnard College (New York, NY)

Sure, Barnard is affiliated with its Ivy League neighbor Columbia, but make no mistake: these women have their own identity. “Barnard is a feminist college in the sense that Barnard’s curriculum and career development empower women and create opportunities for us to pursue any field of study and any profession we desire,” Emma, a sophomore, says. Combining the best of both worlds, easy access to a co-ed social life and sisterhood, Barnard girls have it all: an amazing career office (hello, internships!), New York City and the Barnard Center for Research on Women, which promotes women’s and social justice issues by bringing speakers and other programming to campus. And those are just a few reasons Barnard women love their school.

6. Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT)

Although both men and women attend Wesleyan, students are quick to call their college decidedly feminist. While there’s no feminist alliance on campus, sophomore Kate says, “There are groups on campus dedicated to feminist issues, like Take Back The Night and Students for Consent and Communication. Womanist House and Women of Color House are also great hubs of feminist activity. The Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies major sponsored an awesome daylong forum on Women and Politics this past semester.” And feminism isn’t located in just one niche of the student population. Says Kate, “Talk about feminism/women’s issues/gender/sexuality is pretty rampant on campus, and not necessarily located in one place.” Proud female alumnae? Actress Dana Delany and writer Amy Bloom.

7. Sarah Lawrence College (Yonkers, NY)

While Sarah Lawrence has become known as one of the most expensive colleges in America, SLC has also made a name for itself for its strong feminist population. While small and predominantly female (men make up 29% of the undergrad population!), the school has rigorous academics and a strong student-led Feminist Collective that has a partnership with the Women’s History Graduate department for screening films/documentaries relevant to materials/discussions—SLC is a great place to grow and learn as a feminist, says Ciaran, a junior. “Many students at SLC are very involved in human rights and social justice both in their studies and personal lives,” she says. Yoko Ono and Barbara Walters are two SLC alumnae.

8. Oberlin College (Oberlin, OH)

Oberlin isn’t just feminist — equality regardless of any trait is stressed on campus. “Oberlin as feminist insofar as it’s very progressive re: gender. One way you can see this is in the Baldwin house – it’s an on-campus housing option for female-identified and trans individuals. But I would really say that the way this ‘feminist’ or progressive viewpoint is most evident is in the general awareness on campus. Gender is a topic that our campus discusses a lot,” says sophomore Sarah. Oberlin also has a robust major in Gender, Sexuality and Feminist studies, with courses about the history of beauty pageants and the theologies of abortion. Oberlin is also known for churning out strong, feminist-minded women like Girls star Lena Dunham and singer Liz Phair.

These feminist colleges aren’t for everyone, but if you’re passionate about women’s rights and love the idea of spending four years in an environment filled with ambitious women, one of these colleges might be right for you! Click here for advice on deciding whether or not to go to a women’s college.

Photo Credits:

Katie was the former Senior Associate Editor of Her Campus. She graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 2015, where she studied Writing Seminars, psychology, and women's studies. Prior to joining the full-time staff, Katie was a national contributing writer and Health Editor for HC. In addition to her work with Her Campus, Katie interned at Cleveland Magazine, EMILY's List, and the National Partnership for Women & Families. Katie is also an alumna of Kappa Alpha Theta. In her spare time, Katie enjoys writing poetry, hanging out with cats, eating vegan cupcakes, and advocating for women's rights. 
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