Women in the Professional Schools

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1893 Medical School Demonstration with Alice Hamilton in the audience (third row, eighth from left)

When women were admitted to the University of Michigan, they were also admitted to the University's professional schools, including the Medical School and the Law School. Later, other academic fields including pharmacy, dentistry, and homeopathic medicine also admitted women when they organized their own colleges and schools.

Women especially flocked to the Medical School, which was one of the first opened to women in the country. Faculty and male medical students called these early women medical students, like Eliza Mosher and Amanda Sanford, "hen medics." About twenty years after women were admitted, the Training School for Nurses opened its doors to women pursuing careers in nursing.

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The Michigan Daily

At the turn of the 20th century, the number of women in the professional schools dwindled. Professional education was dramatically changing as the country moved toward standardization and licensing, which meant that few women could have the careers for which they were earning degrees. 

In 1902, the Michigan Daily reported that the distribution of women students was very different from thirty years earlier when the number of women in the professional schools was much greater. They reported that the enrollment in the professional schools had been declining since 1896.1

The Law School historically had very few women students. Few women pursued degrees in law because they could not become practicing attorneys and were refused from state bar associations. Even after federal regulations changed, opressive forces in the legal field kept women out. Today nearly 48% of law school students at Michigan are women.Since the end of the 20th century, the number of women enrolling and graduating from professional schools has steadily increased.


1. "U of M Women Dropping Out of the Professional Departments Steady Increase in Lit Department," Michigan Daily, November 5, 1902. 

2. "Enrollment Reports," Fall 2015, accessed June 8, 2016, http://ro.umich.edu/enrollment/enrollment.php?report=102.

Women in the Professional Schools