On March 26, 1869, Susan B. Anthony lectured at Library Hall, accompanied by Sarah F. Norton, president of the Working Women's Association and an advocate of gender-neutral education. Ezra Cornell, cofounder of Cornell University and the donor of Library Hall, was in attendance. It is unclear what organization sponsored this event, but clearly it was a part of a then-ongoing debate over what path the new university would take toward realizing its announced ideal of equal education for men and women. Norton called for a radical, thorough-going implementation of co-education at Cornell. For her part, Anthony followed with a broader summation of the arguments for woman’s rights.
According to a local newspaper, The Cornell Era, Cornell afterward commented that “all who shall pass the requisite examinations will be allowed to enter the University, without regard to sex,” though owing to the new institution being “taxed to the utmost to accommodate the students now to be admitted and soon to be admitted,” the university could not yet take steps to implement co-education more aggressively.
Cornell University instituted co-education in 1870, though the number of women admitted was tightly restricted until the construction of Sage Hall as a woman’s dormitory in 1872.
Thanks to Patricia Longoria, Carol Kammen, and Elaine Engst for research assistance.