Bryn Mawr College

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Group.png Bryn Mawr College  
Bryn mawr.png
HeadquartersPennsylvania, USA
A private women's liberal arts college

Bryn Mawr College is a women's liberal arts college in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Founded as a Quaker institution in 1885, Bryn Mawr is one of the Seven Sister colleges and the Tri-College Consortium. The college has an enrollment of about 1,350 undergraduate students and 450 graduate students. It was the first women's college to offer graduate education through a PhD.[1]


Bryn Mawr College is a private women's liberal arts college founded in 1885. The phrase bryn mawr means "large hill" in Welsh. The Graduate School is co-educational. It is named after the town of Bryn Mawr, in which the campus is located, which had been renamed by a representative of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Bryn Mawr was the name of an area estate granted to Rowland Ellis by William Penn in the 1680s. Ellis's former home, also called Bryn Mawr, was a house near Dolgellau, Merioneth, Gwynedd, Wales. The College was largely founded through the bequest of Joseph W. Taylor, and its first president was James Rhoads. Bryn Mawr was one of the first institutions of higher education in the United States to offer graduate degrees, including doctorates, to women. The first class included 36 undergraduate women and eight graduate students. Bryn Mawr was originally affiliated with the Quakers (Religious Society of Friends), but by 1893 had become non-denominational.

In 1912, Bryn Mawr became the first college in the United States to offer doctorates in social work, through the Department of Social Economy and Social Research. This department became the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research in 1970. In 1931, Bryn Mawr began accepting men as graduate students, while remaining women-only at the undergraduate level.

From 1921 to 1938 the Bryn Mawr campus was home to the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers in Industry, which was founded as part of the labor education movement and the women's labor movement. The school taught women workers political economy, science, and literature, as well as organizing many extracurricular activities.[2]

A June 3, 2008, article in The New York Times discussed the move by women's colleges in the United States to promote their schools in the Middle East. The article noted that in doing so, the schools promote the work of alumnae of women's colleges such as Hillary Clinton, Emily Dickinson, Diane Sawyer, Katharine Hepburn (Bryn Mawr Class of 1928) and Madeleine Albright. The Dean of Admissions of Bryn Mawr noted, "We still prepare a disproportionate number of women scientists [...] We’re really about the empowerment of women and enabling women to get a top-notch education." The article also contrasted the difference between women's colleges in the Middle East and "the American colleges [which] for all their white-glove history and academic prominence, are liberal strongholds where students fiercely debate political action, gender identity and issues like 'heteronormativity', the marginalizing of standards that are other than heterosexual. Middle Eastern students who already attend these colleges tell of a transition that can be jarring."[3]

The College celebrated its 125th anniversary of "bold vision, for women, for the world" during the 2010–2011 academic year.[4] In September 2010, Bryn Mawr hosted an international conference on issues of educational access, equity, and opportunity in secondary schools and universities in the United States and around the world.[5] Other festivities held for the anniversary year included publication of a commemorative book on 125 years of student life,[6] and, in partnership with the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, creation of a mural in West Philadelphia highlighting advances in women's education.[7]

On February 9, 2015, the Board of Trustees announced approval of a working group recommendation to expand the undergraduate applicant pool. Trans women and intersex individuals identifying as women may now apply for admission, while trans men identifying as such at time of application may not.[8] This official decision made Bryn Mawr the fourth women's college in the United States to accept trans women.[9]

On November 19, 2020, a 16-day student strike for social justice and against racism organized by the Bryn Mawr Strike Collective came to an end.[10] President Kim Cassidy accepted the areas that need action as demanded by the Collective and committed herself and the institution to fight for anti-racism.[11]


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