Seven Sisters (colleges)
The Seven Sisters colleges were founded between 1837 and 1889:
1837: Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, South Hadley, Massachusetts. It became Mount Holyoke College in 1888.
1861: Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York. It is now coeducational.
1871: Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts.
1875: Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts .
1879: Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Massachusetts. The College has closed--there are no longer any students--they have been merged into Harvard College.
1885: Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.
1889: Barnard College, New York, New York. Since 1900 it has been closely associated with Columbia University.
Two of the Seven Sisters, Mount Holyoke and Smith, are also members of the Five Colleges.
Formation and name
The Seven Sisters were formally organized in 1927 to promote higher education for women. The name was a reference to the Pleiades, seven sisters from Greek mythology.
As noted by Irene Harwarth, Mindi Maline, and Elizabeth DeBra, "Independent nonprofit womenís colleges, which included the 'Seven Sisters' and other similar institutions, were founded to provide educational opportunities to women equal to those available to men and were geared toward women who wanted to study the liberal arts" . They also offered broader opportunities in academia to women, hiring many female faculty members and administrators.
Not all of the Seven Sisters are still women's colleges. Vassar began accepting men in 1969. In 1963, Harvard College assumed joint
responsibility with Radcliffe over Radcliffe undergraduates. In 1999 Radcliffe College was dissolved, and Harvard University assumed full
responsibility over the affairs of female undergraduates. Radcliffe is now the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study in Women's Studies at
For the first time in 1978, women had served as the presidents of all of the Seven Sisters colleges.
Irene Harwarth, Mindi Maline, and Elizabeth DeBra further state that "the 'Seven Sisters' was the name given to Barnard, Smith, Mount Holyoke, Vassar, Bryn Mawr, Wellesley, and Radcliffe, because of their parallel to the Ivy League menís colleges" . Through the 1960s, the Seven Sisters maintained extensive social ties with nearby Ivy League universities, including weekend visits, dances and parties inviting Ivy and Seven Sisters students to mingle. Women at Barnard College would date men at nearby Columbia University while women at Radcliffe College and Wellesley College would court the men at close by Harvard University. Although the women at the seven sisters colleges would usually date the men at nearby Ivy League schools there were some instances were the men of these schools would travel a fairly great distance to see women who schools were far away from their schools. (The movie Animal House includes a satiric version of the formerly common visits by the men of Dartmouth College to Massachusetts to meet the women of Smith College and Mount Holyoke College, a drive of more than two hours.)
The Seven Sisters in popular culture
In the 301st episode of the television show The Simpsons ("I'm Spelling as Fast as I Can"), the fictional character Lisa Simpson, who has been offered a scholarship to a Seven Sisters college of her choice, has a dream in which each of the colleges is humorously personified.