Persis Longsdorff Describes the Beginnings of Coeducation

November 10, 1968

In a letter to Dickinson College Historian Charles Coleman Sellers, Persis Longsdorff Sipple described the beginnings of coeducation. According to Persis, her father went to President McCauley and told him that he had "four daughters, who soon be ready to enter college somewhere. He finally prevailed upon him to make the decision to allow girls to be included in the student body." Thus, Persis and her sister Zatae entered the College in 1884.

Persis describes the torment Zatae faced as a woman entering an all-male sophomore class. The young men of the class of 1887 placed snakes and mice in Zatae's coat pockets. Finally, Zatae decided to enter the Junior oratorical competition. After all but two men of the class dropped out of the competition, Zatae remained in the competition. Persis asserted that her father, worried for his daughter's safety, hired police to protect her during the competition. Remembering the competition, Persis wrote that "First the lights went out, then the bell at West College tolled-- however , she raised her voice and continued until the end. I was acting as her prompter and I recall how greatly I was worried."

In the end, all four Longsdorff women attended Dickinson College and became leaders within their classes.

Location of Document in Archives
Straw, Zatae Longsdorff Drop File