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Higher Education for Black Women: Spelman College

After 1930, women’s educational participation declined, and, by 1960, women made up a smaller percentage in the elite professions than they had in the 1920s. In 1961, President Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of Women approached its study of education policy in the spirit that had been dominant since the early 1800s. Why educate women? “To prepare women both to realize their intellectual and vocational potentialities and to fulfill their responsibilities to family, home, and community” (Mead and Kaplan

In 1879 the Woman’s American Baptist Home Mission Society commissioned two friends, Sophia B. Packard and Harriet E. Giles, “to study the living conditions ‘among the freedmen of the South.’ Appalled by the lack of educational opportunity for black women, the missionaries returned to Boston determined to affect change. On April 11, 1881, they opened school in the basement of Atlanta’s Friendship Baptist Church with $100 provided by the congregation of the First Baptist Church of Medford, Massachusetts. The first 11 pupils, ten women and one girl, were mostly ex-slaves, determined to learn to read the Bible and write.