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Women at Duke University

University Archives materials and collections documenting the history of women at Duke University

Historical Overview

Duke University traces its origins to Union Institute Academy, a subscription school founded in 1838 by families living in Randolph County, North Carolina.

At Union Institute—and later at its successor, Normal College—women were enrolled or were sought as students, and President Braxton Craven's wife, Irene Leach Craven, taught some of the first classes.

In 1859, Normal College formally affiliated with the Methodist Church, and was renamed Trinity College. The training of Methodist ministers became a major concern of the school at this time, but, during the U.S. Civil War, women were again in attendance.

It was not until 1878, however, that Mary, Persis and Teresa Giles received degrees and became Duke's first female graduates.

Secondary Sources: Books, Research Papers, etc.

The following secondary source materials contain information about women at the institution while it was based in Randolph County. Clicking on the links will take you to the catalog record for each item.

Many of the secondary sources listed below are the products of research using Duke University Archives collections. As you read these secondary sources, take careful note of their footnotes; they will point you to University Archives collections that may be helpful to your own research.

Manuscript Collections

The links below will take you to the collection guide or catalog record for each manuscript collection. See the "Introduction" tab of this LibGuide for guidance on accessing these collections.