Skip Navigation

We’re not sure which woman can be credited as the very first female professor at the UW. For starters, 19th-century enrollment and employment records are anything but complete, and because of the period in which the university was established, any woman’s involvement as a student or instructor would have been downplayed or left off the books. Once the Civil War broke out and enrollment plummeted, UW administrators allowed women to enroll in its Normal School, out of necessity. One male student described the arrival of women on campus as an “army with banners, conquering and to conquer ... with bewitching curls, and dimpled cheeks, and flowing robes, and all the panoply of feminine adornment. Worst of all, they came to stay.” Annie Taylor Noyes 1865 was one of these first women who stayed to earn her degree from the Normal School. In 1928, she wrote an essay for the Wisconsin Alumni Magazine detailing her campus experience and noted two female assistants within the Normal School: Anna W. Moody of Geneva and Clarissa Ware of Madison. Moody served as the first preceptress in the Normal Department in 1863 before becoming the principal of the Preparatory School in 1864. Ware worked as an assistant teacher and associate preceptress in the Normal Department from 1864-1869. When the Female College was established in 1870, Ware became its preceptress. It’s safe to say these two women were among the first female instructors at the UW. There are many pioneering women in the UW’s history, but here are just a few notable women who were the first female faculty members in their colleges and departments: Margaret H’Doubler 1910, MA’24, who founded the nation’s first dance department in 1926; Marygold Melli ’47, LLB’50, the first female faculty member in UW Law School, hired in 1959; and Diane Lindstrom, hired in 1971 as the first female professor in the UW history department.

More From Ask Flamingle HQ

Voting is open! Help choose the new design for The Red Shirt before 5 p.m. CDT on Friday, April 26. Vote now!