Suggested Research Topics - Gender and Social Space on the University Campus, 1870-1970

Women were first admitted to the University of Michigan as students in 1871. In the early years of coeducation, women students were sometimes segregated within classrooms. In the 1920s, President Clarence Cook Little thought that women students should follow a course of study designed to prepare them for their roles as housewives and mothers. As students and as faculty, women were excluded from certain organizations and buildings at the University. Faculty women were not admitted to the Research Club until the 1950s; they formed the Women's Research Club in 1902. Others organized Women of the University Faculty in 1939 so that women faculty members "scattered through widely separated units" could become acquainted.

What was it like to be a woman student or faculty member at the University of Michigan in the late 19th century? How did the experience change over the course of the twentieth century? How did the physical plant affect the experience of being a woman at the University, that is, what difference did it make that women were excluded from certain buildings on campus? What difference did it make when women had their own space in buildings such as Barbour Gymnasium and the Women's League?

Examples of Primary Source Collections and Other Resources:

Selected Secondary Sources


In an effort to encourage creative thinking about possible research topics for students unfamiliar with archives and their inevitable complexities, archivists and student employees of the Bentley Historical Library have authored "suggested research topics ." The purpose of these is not to define a topic but rather to stimulate thinking about a topic where the holdings of the Bentley Library are particularly strong.