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Drexel Archives

Historical photographs and other interesting documents from the Archives' collections, as well as information about the Archives.

Women Engineering Students at Drexel

by Robin Elliot
The Sarah Drexel Van Rensselaer Dormitory was not only a social home for women students at Drexel, but was also the site of academic conferences designed to assist female students in their educational studies.

Grace Godfrey, Dean of Home Economics

by Robin Elliot

Women during the last quarter of the nineteenth century began to develop new life paths for themselves. Women began choosing to remain single and were able to support themselves through teaching careers. These women had gone to college and if they did marry, it was later in life than many other women in America at that time. The women educators of Drexel were connected to this social change. Dean Grace Godfrey was a successful, single woman who dedicated her life to helping Drexel be an institution of higher learning for women, assisting them in all facets of their future lives.

Dorm Life

by Cheryl Klimaszewski

It's hard to imagine life for women attending the Drexel Institute in the 1920's in light of the freedoms and privileges female students have as university students today. Women were required to live in the student housing and rarely was special permission granted for them to live off campus, usually only when the cost of housing was issue and the female student could find room and board with a family in exchange for light housekeeping or childcare.


Retail Studies in the Depression

by Robin Elliot

In 1933 Drexel applied to the state of Pennsylvania for permission to give a B.S. degree in retailing. The application was denied and the students received a degree in Commerce instead. The number of students who qualified was extremely limited, which was one reason for the denial. The degree would have been part of the existing Co-operative Retailing course.

Women’s Health

by Cheryl Klimaszewski

In the 1920’s, physical exams were required for all female students at the Drexel Institute. Here we see a letter from John Arnett to Drexel Institute President Kenneth G. Matheson, in which he outlines the physical ailments of the “girls,” which conveniently fall into one of four categories: anemia (group A), constipation (group C), menstrual disturbances (group D) and overweight (group O). Diet, exercise and lifestyle plans were distributed to each student according to her grouping and examples can be seen below.

women's health cover letter.jpg

War Courses for Women

by Robin Elliot

During the First World War the Drexel Institute was part of a nationwide patriotic movement to get women into the workforce. Drexel offered secretarial courses for women which were advertised as specifically for women and their desire to help their country. Drexel worked with the United States Civil Service Commission to train women for work as civil service secretaries. The training was designed to qualify employees as quickly as possible to help with the war effort. The publicity campaign depended on women’s desire to help their country and the men who were fighting, even if the women were living on the home front.


Milestones for Women at Drexel

In 1900, Pauline Conway became the first woman to complete Drexel's architecture program.

The first student housing for women was built in 1918. Construction began on the Sarah Drexel Van Rensselaer Dormitory for Women in 1931.

In 1919, Drexel awarded its first degrees to women.

In 1938, Edith M. Rood became first woman editor of The Triangle.

In 1943, women first enrolled in the School of Engineering. The Drexel Society of Women Engineers was founded three years later.

March is National Women's History Month

Drexel University Archives will mark Women's History Month with a series of essays about women’s education in the early years of the Drexel Institute.

Processing Archivist Robin Elliot and iSchool graduate students Cheryl Klimaszewski and Katelyn Wolfrom are processing the papers of the early presidents of Drexel, from 1913-1963. Over the next month, this blog will feature their discoveries – the letters, photographs, publications that document the experiences of the women who studied at Drexel at the start of the 20th Century.

Check out the Drexel photos on

One of the interesting things about working in an archives is that you never know what you'll find when you open a box. We have two large boxes of photographs in the archives that have little or no information - no photographer, no names, no date. In order to find out more about the people, places and things featured in these images, we've scanned them and uploaded them to, one of the most popular photo sharing sites on the web.

Welcome to the Drexel University Archives blog.

Welcome to the Drexel University Archives blog. This blog will feature historical photographs and other interesting documents from the Archives' collections, as well as information about the Archives. We hope it will appeal to anyone with an interest in Drexel's history.

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