Women graduates after the ceremony in 1920

UW Women at 150

A Woman’s Place is at UW: Celebrating 150 Years of Women Grads

Published May 2019

May 2019 marked the 150th anniversary of the awarding of bachelor’s degrees to women at UW-Madison. Our mission, initiated in 2018-19 and to be continued beyond, is to celebrate the contributions of women and the achievements of our alumnae, and to give voice to their resilience in the face of adversity. Stories of the past can help us reflect on the present and envision the future, allowing us to explore how UW-Madison can be a better place for women to learn, grow, and thrive.

The In Her Honor Chancellor’s Fund was initiated in 2019 to mark the 150th anniversary of the awarding of bachelor’s degrees to women at UW. This fund celebrates lives marked by scholarly achievement and public legacy, as well as extraordinary lives devoted to family and community. Gifts will be used to support campus programs that make life better for women and the world better for all.

Participation in In Her Honor is a two-step process. First, please make your gift and designation. Then, please share a story about your honoree (optional). These stories will be archived and you will hear from the In Her Honor program before they are ready to be shared with the UW-Madison community.

Over the course of this academic year, University Communications will feature stories that celebrate the accomplishments of women at UW–Madison through the decades and recognize the challenges that remain, as well as the ways our views of gender have evolved and expanded.

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  • Three graduates and a fourth woman pose in front of the Abraham Lincoln statue on Bascom Hill in 1913. Photo: UW Archives

  • Mabel Watson Raimey, the first black woman to graduate from UW-Madison, is pictured in The Badger 1919. She went on to attend Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, and was the first black woman to practice law in Wisconsin. Photo: UW Archives

  • Signe Skott Cooper is pictured in her uniform as 1st Lt. in the Army Nurse Corps during WWII. Cooper devoted her 60+ year career to nursing education at UW–Madison. Photo: UW School of Nursing

    Read full story »

  • Graduates celebrate during UW-Madison's spring commencement ceremony at Camp Randall Stadium on May 12, 2018. Photo: Bryce Richter

  • Jada Kline delivers an impassioned speech as student keynote speaker at UW–Madison’s winter commencement ceremony on December 17, 2017. Motivated by her mother’s repeated battles with breast cancer, Jada found her calling in medicine. Photo: Jeff Miller

    Read Jada's story »

  • Soon-to-be graduate, Ellie Schu, continues a campus tradition by posing for a photo with Bascom Hill’s Abraham Lincoln statue on May 10, 2018. Photo: Jeff Miller


  • When perseverance is the only option: Mabel Watson Raimey

    March 3, 2021

    Raimey is believed to have been the first African-American woman to graduate from UW–Madison. And that is just the beginning of her story.

  • First female valedictorian became renowned suffragist

    May 7, 2019

    Clara Bewick Colby was among the first class of six women at the University of Wisconsin to graduate with bachelor’s degrees. Later, large crowds would attend her speeches on women’s rights.

  • Meet ‘The Monarch’

    May 6, 2019

    The newly unveiled statue, “The Monarch,” celebrates the 150th anniversary of women receiving degrees at UW-Madison and was designed by artist Victoria Reed to represent female empowerment and influence.

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