Alice Freeman Palmer


Alice Freeman Palmer


Alice Freeman Palmer graduated in 1876 and was among the first women to come to the University, although she did not pass her entrance exams at first and was admitted with President Angell's help. She went on to become the youngest college President in the country in 1881 when she was appointed to the Presidency at Wellesley College at the age of 26. 

After her death, her husband donated $35,000 to U-M to establish the Alice Freeman Palmer Professorship, which was intended to be given to a woman who would enjoy the same privileges and pay, as any male member of the faculty. When asked by the regents to appoint a man to the position instead, George Palmer refused, and the chair was not filled by a woman until more than 30 years later, in 1957.1


Lucy Andrews

Palmer was very close with a fellow University of Michigan grad and member of the Wellesley faculty, Lucy Andrews. They lived together in Ann Arbor and often addressed one another as "my little wife." It may seem surprising that intimate, committed relationships such as these between two unmarried women, often called "Boston Marriages," were tolerated during this time. Most contemporary observers did not regard these relationships as sexual, but scholars today conclude that they often had an erotic element. When the two women met, Andrews was engaged to be married to a man, but the relationship ended for unclear reasons and she never married.2


1. Dorothy McGuigan, Dangerous Experiment: 100 Years of Women at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor: Center for Continuing Education of Women, 1970).

2. Ruth BordinAlice Freeman Palmer: the Evolution of a New Woman (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993).