The first 14 Barnard students took classes in Greek, Latin, and math. When the administration began hiring its own instructors, one third of them were women.
A Fearless History
The vision was bold: creating a rigorous and challenging college for women equivalent to the education offered by Columbia.
At the turn of the 20th century, suffragists were still campaigning for the vote, and Columbia University, like most other institutions of higher learning at the time, would only admit and educate white men. Eventually, the Columbia Board of Trustees agreed to create a syllabus for women to earn a certificate from the University. Still, they were prevented from joining regular classes. A group of New York City women, led by young student activist Annie Nathan Meyer, wanted more. They assembled a committee to support their vision and, after two years of petitioning, convinced the Trustees to create an affiliated college, which they named after Columbia’s recently deceased president, Frederick A.P. Barnard.
In 1889, Barnard became the first college in New York City to offer degrees to women. Since then, generations of bold Barnard women have challenged themselves and one another to redefine — and keep redefining — what it means to be a woman, a scholar, an activist, and a leader.
Opening Doors, Pushing Them Wider
We’re focused on increasing access to a Barnard education for students of color, first-generation students, and low-income students.
With a focus on the mind-body connection, Barnard is expanding the definition of student well-being to include mental, physical, and even financial wellness.
As a member of the American Political Science Association’s Minority Fellows Program, scholar-activist Amber Mackey uses the skills she learned at Barnard to improve public policy and everyday lives. She’s pursuing a Ph.D. with support from the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship.
From the start, Barnard’s mission has been to empower smart, ambitious women by offering rigor and relevance in an academic community where women lead. As our reach broadens, the mission grows ever more powerful. For decades Barnard women have fought for suffrage, peace, gender equity, social justice, climate action, and more.
Generations of Change-Makers
Passionate Barnard women debated suffrage, picketed politicians, and held mock elections during the decades-long struggle for the 19th Amendment.
In 1968, Barnard women rallied, occupied buildings, and helped persuade Barnard and Columbia to change their policies.
Barnard women continue to lend their voices to the chorus opposing sexual, relationship, and domestic violence in all of its forms.
Lala Wu ’07 left a career as a practicing lawyer to launch Sister District, a project dedicated to organizing and supporting progressive volunteers and voters. In four years, Sister District has grown to 50,000 volunteers across the country and connected with over 3 million voters.