HER House: The Nation’s First All-Female Cooperative House

There’s a red bricked brownstone on Bay State Road flanked by black iron gates. By the entrance you might notice two lawn chairs and a red plaque adorned with the letters “Harriet E. Richards House, 191 Bay State Road.” This is a brownstone you probably walk by everyday and don’t pay much thought to, but it’s my home. 

HER House is a special residence on campus. It’s exclusively for low-income women and it’s cooperative. The residents are expected to cook a meal for the house, which comprises 24 girls, once or twice a month and are required to do weekly chores. This may sound bizzare for a college dorm, but it creates a real sense of community and camaraderie among all the girls in the house. 

Sacha de Jong is the president of the HER House executive board and a senior studying Health Sciences. In an interview, she explains what living in the house is really like.

Credit: Sacha de Jong

What exactly is the HER House?

“The HER house is an on-campus dormitory that offers affordable housing at BU. Qualifying low-income undergraduate students are able to receive room and board at a discounted rate. This helps make a college education more accessible financially. The house was the first cooperative dormitory in the country. It was established in 1890 by Harriet E. Richards, who generously funded the purchase of the house.”

What’s your job as president?

“I’m happy to be serving as house president this year. As President, I have dual roles in the logistics and community of the house. I help oversee the Eboard and the organization of house functions, like meetings [and] events. I also help to advise members in cooperative living. The house is cooperative in that members share in household tasks. We use a lot of different rotation systems to complete all chores. We also eat communal meals each night, cooked by one house member. This is also organized by Eboard.”

Credit: Sacha de Jong

What do you like about living in the HER House?

“As my third and last year in the house, I wanted to contribute as much back to the house as I can. This house has been so much more than a place to live for me during college. Through many life changes, the HER House has been a constant for me when I really needed it. I have not only had affordable housing and food, which is already such a rare blessing, but I have had an amazing support system of housemates who can relate to my background. This is so rare at a school like BU, and I truly doubt I could have stayed here without the HER House. “

This house goes relatively unknown by the majority of students on campus, but the impact and great support that it leaves with its residents is immeasurable. I’m grateful to be a part of such a wonderful community!

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