1855 : Michigan Women’s College Founded in Lansing

September 3, 2023 all-day

Michigan Female College

Michigan Female College Postcard
The Michigan Female College dates to the early years of our state’s development. It is associated with one of Michigan’s most distinguished and admired women of the 19th century, Abigail Rogers, and nationally to the First Wave of the Women’s Movement. The Female College was opened in 1855 with both classical and scientific classes, and by 1867 had admitted over 1000 female students from ten states. In addition to teaching and campaigning, Abigail also personally supervised the construction of the College’s own building, which was complete in 1858.

Abigail C. Rogers (1818-1869)

“Her great work, the work on which she spent her whole life was the admission of women in to the University of Michigan and the Michigan Agricultural College on an equal basis with men. She did not live to see this for she died in 1869. All women who have been admitted to The University of Michigan and Michigan Agricultural College since her death must remember that Miss Rogers’ life long efforts opened the doors of higher education to them.” Frank M. Turner, M.D., Historic Michigan, Vol. III, An Account of Ingham County, 1924

Giving Women A Sense of Place: The Michigan Female College

During the years of its existence, the Michigan Female College was to Lansing a recognized social and educational power, whose far reaching influence it is not easy to estimate. According to the Lansing Republican, “Abigail Rogers was the acknowledged and leading champion of the higher education of women in Michigan.” Mrs. Eliza C. Smith, Pioneer Society of Michigan, Vol. VI., 1884, pages 284-290.

Educated and experienced in the administration of college level education, Abigail and her sister Delia Rogers determined to open a school of the highest grade for young women in the State Capital “to keep before the public mind as constantly as they could, the duty of the State to provide for the education of its daughters as it had already provided for the education of its sons.” Their goal was to achieve permanence by ultimate acceptance and adoption when the State should come to recognize and act upon its obligations to the neglected half of its children. By 1867 over 1000 students from Michigan and nine other states had attended the school. The course of study was both Classical and Scientific. Abigail Rogers, 31st Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1867.

“Your Committee cannot but admire, and warmly commend, the earnestness and devotion with which the estimable ladies at the head of the Institution have pursued their work. Through discouragements and difficulties that would have defeated anything but the most determined perseverance, they have labored, and the success and reputation which they have achieved have been most nobly and honorably won. In behalf of the Committee. C.C. McIntire” 31st Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1867.

The school opened in 1855, holding daily session in the State Capitol building for two years until a permanent building could be obtained. The property and a subscription of $20,000 (about $450,000 today) was secured through the efforts of James Turner, his brother-in-law, Daniel L. Case and his business associates, H. H. Smith and A.N. Hart. This enabled the building of the north wing under the supervision of Abigail Rogers who also obtained many in-kind contributions and services and additional contributions from the Detroit area so that the building was completed in 1858 Shortly after Abigail Roger’s death in 1869, the Michigan Agricultural College (now Michigan State University) agreed to admit women, followed by The University of Michigan in 1870.

Sources :
Pioneer History of Ingham County, Chapter 9.