Rhode Island

Pembroke College


In April 1874, a woman submitted her application to the then all-male Brown University. The school’s Advisory and Executive Committee rejected the application thinking that accepting women was not going to be benefit the school. This case was reviewed and re-reviewed for fourteen years. In October 1891, the Women’s College was founded in Brown University.

This was the first time women were allowed to enroll in an Ivy League institution. However, the men attended the all-male Brown College and were segregated from the new batch of female Ivy League students. A similar gender segregation system was implemented in other universities such as the Columbia University, which had the Columbia College for men and the Barnard College for women; the Harvard University, which had the Harvard College for men and the Radcliffe College for women;

and the Princeton University, which has the College of New Jersey for men and the Evelyn College for Women.

Pembroke college
The Women’s College of Brown was recognized as an official body of the university in 1896. In 1903, the Women’s College was provided with its own faculty. The college was renamed Pembroke College in 1928 after Pembroke College at the University of Cambridge in England. One of the founders of Rhode Island graduated from the Pembroke College of Cambridge, and in honor of him, one of the buildings in the Brown University was named Pembroke Hall. This man was Roger Williams. Williams was an English theologian, a supporter of religious toleration and the separation of church and state. He campaigned for fair dealings with Native Americans, and in 1644, he received a charter for the creation of the Rhode Island colony.

The Pembroke Hall was where most of the women students’ classes took place. The Women’s College was also already using the Pembroke College of Cambridge coat of arms on their programs and pins. In 1969, Pembroke and Brown students started sharing dormitories. Students from both schools were participating in the same classes and extracurricular activities anyway, so the Advisory and Executive Council decided to merge the all male and the all female college. The merger became official in July 1, 1971.

The Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women was established in 1981 in the Brown University. It prided itself as a “center for interdisciplinary research on gender and society”, and it aimed to preserve the history and continue the involvement of women in Brown. The Center is associated with Sarah Doyle Women’s Center and it houses Gender Studies programs. Aside from this the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women, in line with its mission, publishes the Academic Journal Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies. Over time, the number of women students in Brown continued to increase and during school year 2005-2006, fifty one percent of the students were female.