Browse Exhibits (31 total)

Alumnae In Academia

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Wilson College Alumnae have pursued careers in academia since the early days of the college. This collection features trailblazers in a variety of academic disciplines.

Ensley, Amy (2019) "Trailblazers and Innovators: Portraits of Educated Women."

Alumnae in Academia part 2

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"You cannot find any longer, except in obscure corners, the old ideal of womanhood - the gentle, docile creature, absorbed in the cares of the household." 

-Vida Dutton Scudder

Wellesley College, 1887

Ensley, Amy (2019). "Trailblazers and Innovators: Portraits of Educated Women."

Alumnae in Education & Library Science

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This exhibit features achievements of Wilson alumnae who worked in the fields of education and library science. 

Ensley, Amy (2019). "Trailblazers and Innovators: Portraits of Educated Women."

Alumnae in Medicine

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"If this picture makes the practice of medicine seem too hard, if the gain does not seem worth the effort, then a girl should not go into medicine. The girl who wishes medicine as a career because it is the one thing above all others that she wants to do, will find that the obstacles seem as nothing, and that the rewards are entirely gratifying."

-Anonymous Wilson alumna,

Alumnae Quarterly, 1948

Ensley, Amy (2019). "Trailblazers and Innovators: Portraits of Educated Women."

Alumnae in Military Careers and Political Activism

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This exhibit features Wilson alumae in military careers and several who participated in political activism.

Ensley, Amy (2019) "Trailblazers and Innovators: Portraits of Educated Women."

Alumnae in Science

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"One survey made recently indicates that chemistry is going to be the miracle producer of post-war goods and jobs. The girl who is to achieve distinction as a research chemist must look forward to the post-graduate training which is necessary for the attainment of professional status. We hope Wilson will have a few of these."

[from a Wilson College Trustee report.
 Wilson had 16 alumnae with
post graduate degrees in chemistry
from 1943 through 1966]

Ensley, Amy (2019) "Trailblazers and Innovators: Portraits of Educated Women."

Alumnae in Social Work and Religion

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"There is a dearth of professionally trained social workers, and social work is essentially a woman's field, one in which men have always been willing to concede women's competence and accept their leadership."

-Careers for Tomorrow, Alumnae Quarterly, 1944

Ensley, Amy (2019) "Trailblazers and Innovators: Portraits of Educated Women."

Alumnae in the Arts and Business and Law

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“Women are too apt to be discouraged when promotions fail to come or too hesitant to take advantage of opportunities. They are too aggressive in demanding equal pay for work equal to that done by men. Don’t be too anxious to get credit. In my work I have found that it does not matter who gets the credit so long as I get my own way in the end.”

-Anonymous Wilson alumna

Ensley, Amy (2019) "Trailblazers and Innovators: Portraits of Educated Women."

Alumnae in the Performing Arts: Orchesis


This exhibit highlights the journeys of three young women and their passion for dance. Soon after Mary Walters Petricoin, Phoebe Neville, and Joan Morgan joined the Class of 1963, they became members of Orchesis, a premiere dance ensemble established at Wilson College in the 1940s. The following transcripts include reflections on their time at Wilson, fond memories in dance, and observations on their struggles and triumphs as women in dance. 

Antiquities Collection


The Wilson College Antiquities Collection dates to the 1920s, when efforts were begun by Wilson's Classics professor at that time, A. Mildred Franklin, to create a collection of artifacts representative of various periods and styles. The Collection contains objects of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mycenaean, and Etruscan origin, dating from the third millennium B.C.E. to 500 C.E. Objects have been contributed by faculty and administration, the Wilson College Classics Club, alumnae, students, and other institutions.

This online exhibit features a small number of pieces from the collection currently on view at the Hankey Center at Wilson College. 

Double click on the thumbnails to view the full photograph and description. 

Around the World in Their Own Words: Foreign Missionaries


This exhibit is a digitized version of a portion of the 2014 Hankey Center exhibit Around the World in their Own Words: The Foreign Missionaries of Wilson College, researched and curated by Amy Ensley, Director of the Hankey Center. This exhibit includes a collection of accounts and photographs of the women who served as missionaries in China from the late 1800s through the 1940s.

Ensley, Amy (2021) "Around the World in Their Own Words: The Foreign Missionaries of Wilson College."

Attempts at Family Friendly Legislation

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Attitudes toward Educated Women: "Marriage is a Career"

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The Winter 1965 Alumnae Quarterly featured speeches from an Alumnae Council Career Convocation.  Here is the speech from Gwendolyn Crawford Elliott ‘41 called “Marriage is a Career”. Elliott had earned a PhD in Economics from the University of Virginia and had been Dean of Women at the University of Delaware before quitting to become a housewife after marrying Randle Elliot, who eventually become president of Hood College. 

Captain Joan Hankey: The Experience of a Lifetime


Captain Joan R. Hankey ‘59 joined the US Navy three days after graduating from Wilson. She earned a Master’s in Computer Systems Management from the US Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey CA. She directed one of the Navy’s largest computer operations centers. Joan was the first woman executive officer of a Navy command not involved with administration of women, and the first woman officer named as assistant for automation for the organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. When she was promoted to Captain, Joan was one of only 17 women Navy captains outside the Nurse Corps. She was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal for outstanding service.

This exhibit is an intimate story of Hankey's life as told in her unpublished memoir and in conversation with Amy Ensley. It was presented to the Wilson College community during Women's History Month in March 2022 by Amy Ensley, Director of the Hankey Center for the History of Women's Education.

Career and Family Advice for Educated Women

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Catherine Sweeney and the Wilson College Sri Lanka Connection


Between 1972 and 2010, 35 young women from Sri Lanka came to Wilson College. The story of how Wilson became a higher education destination for young women from the island nation in the Indian Ocean begins with Catherine “Kay” Hauberg Sweeney (1914-1995).

Kiehl, Pamela (2022) "Catherine Sweeney and the Wilson College Sri Lanka Connection"

Clover Club

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The Clover Club was a Philadelphian gentleman's dining club established in 1882. Its connection to Wilson College is the club's longest-running president, Alexander K. McClure. A digital sample of the Alexander K. McClure collection is available for viewing. In this exhibit, more insight is given into the Clover Club's history, traditions, elaborate dinner menus, and modern-day influence.

Griffith, Leandra (2022) "Clover Club"

Empowered Women: Athletics at Wilson

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This is a digital version of the 2017 Hankey Center exhibit Empowered Women: Athletics at Wilson, researched and curated by Amy Ensley, Director of the Hankey Center. The exhibit explores how athletics and physical education evolved over the history of the college; from playing croquet and basketball on the green to NCAA Division III competition. See how Wilson College experienced Title IX "in reverse" and how ideas of fitness and athletic competition for women changed over time.

Ensley, Amy (2021) "Empowered Women: Athletics at Wilson"

Foreign Refugee Scholars at Wilson : The Rescue of Science and Learning

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This is a digitized version of a portion of the 2018 Hankey Center exhibit Wilson in the World, researched and curated by Amy Ensley, Director of the Hankey Center.

Shortly after the rise of Adolph Hitler, all professors of Jewish descent and others considered “politically unreliable” were expelled from the universities in Germany. With the commitment of the Rockefeller Foundation, the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars was created to rescue them from the “Nazi fury”.

As the war spread across Europe, refugee scholars fled to the United States with the goal of starting a new life at American colleges and universities, including Wilson.

The rise of the Nazi regime in Germany in 1933 resulted in the dismissal of nearly 40% of the faculty in German universities. The law required that anyone of Jewish descent or married to anyone of Jewish descent, or even anyone deemed “politically unreliable” be removed from their positions so that the totalitarian government could control the indoctrination of students with the Nazi philosophy.

At first, these dismissed professors sought positions in universities elsewhere in Europe. But as the full scope of the danger became clear, refugee scholars and those trying to help them, turned to institutions in the United States. This is how Wilson College came to rescue a Nobel prize-winning physicist, an award-winning author, and five other scholars in an effort known as the Rescue of Science and Learning.

A number of agencies adapted their mission to give aid to refugee scholars and find academic placements for them. These included the Academic Assistance Council of England which soon changed its name to The Society for the Protection of Science and Learning, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Institute for International Education, and the New School for Social Research, which in 1933 established the University in Exile to provide jobs for the displaced scholars. Together, these organizations formed a critical link to save the lives of some of Europe’s most brilliant scholars.

The Rockefeller Foundation had been involved in German higher education since 1923 and provided fellowships to promising scholars and grants for the construction of laboratories. It was Rockefeller officials in Paris who raised an early alarm about what was happening to faculty in Germany.

Administrators at the Rockefeller Foundation in New York felt a need to protect their “investment” in former fellowship recipients, so with the commitment of the Foundation, prominent Jewish New Yorkers in banking and medicine organized the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced German Scholars. Committee administrators hoped to show that the crisis was “a matter of concern for all Americans who were committed to the preservation of freedom of teaching and learning”.  

The Emergency Committee was led by Stephen P. Duggan and a very young Edward R. Murrow. The two worked to gain visas and work permits, coordinate financial help, and network with US colleges and universities to place scholars.

US immigration law required that foreign faculty have a hiring agreement from a college, before being allowed to emigrate. But as this was the height of the Great Depression and many Americans were without jobs; colleges were afraid of being saddled with a refugee and of being criticized for placing refugee scholars over the unemployed US scholars.

In 1935, Murrow wrote, “The thing that really concerns me, is the general indifference of the university world and the smug complacency in the face of what has happened to Germany. There is a tendency to consider the matter as a Jewish problem and a failure to realize that it represents a threat to academic freedom in this county as well as in Europe. Part of this attitude undoubtedly has its roots in the latent anti-Semitism which in my judgment in increasing very rapidly over here.”

Wilson College Faculty meeting minutes - Oct. 1940

“Desiring to relieve the sufferings of scholars driven from their homes and their work by the totalitarian regimes; and believing that in helping them we are helping to defend the cause of democracy, we the members of the faculty and staff of Wilson College have subscribed the sum of approximately one thousand dollars for the support of a refugee scholar to serve as a guest member of our faculty for the academic year, 1940-41.” 

Wilson hosted seven scholars over the next five years, including Nobel Prize-winning physicist Jean Perrin. This exhibit tells their stories.

Ensley, Amy (2019) "Foreign Refugee Scholars at Wilson: The Rescue of Science and Learning"

Friendship and Sisterhood: The History and Impact of Wilson's Black Student Union


The first African-American student to graduate from Wilson College was matriculated the same year as the 1954 Brown vs. the Board of Education decision. (Two students attended before Doris Oswell Brunot graduated in 1958.) Since then, African-American students have danced, sung, played sports, and served in student organizations. In short, they have enriched the life of the College. This exhibit contains numerous primary source materials from the Hankey Center regarding Wilson College's Black Student Union (BSU). These photographs, articles, and more demonstrate the presence and importance of the organization, highlighting how the BSU has, for nearly fifty years, been and continues to be a propelling force for positivity and community on Wilson’s campus. Through the years, the goals of the BSU were changed by the political movements of the time. Though its tactics and name have changed over its near fifty year tenure at Wilson, the Black Student Union has been a constant beacon, seeking to educate, engage, and rally the Wilson College community. 

In 1968, the Wilson College Afro-American Society (WAAS) was recognized as a student organization. In the spring of 1969, the WAAS called the attention of the administration and faculty to issues its members thought needed to be addressed in a timely fashion. Some of these issues were: improving polices on admission and recruitment of minority students; the need to recruit and hire more African-American faculty and staff at all levels; and the addition of courses relevant to the history and experience of African-Americans. To bring even greater attention to its ten proposals, the organization staged a boycott of classes on April 28, 1969. The 1969-1970 Bluebook noted that its members “encouraged greater discussion and thought of the problems and goals of Black culture and recommended solutions benefitting the college community.” WAAS also sponsored college-wide cultural events such as Black Weekend (1972) and Afram 1980. Its successor student organization is the current Black Student Union (BSU). The current BSU's purpose is to "encourage African-American awareness, enhance the quality of life for members of the Black Student Union, conduct activities involving community outreach, and foster greater understanding of African-American culture and related issues."

This exhibit contains numerous primary source materials from the Hankey Center regarding Wilson College's Black Student Union. Double click on thumbnails to view full documents and descriptions. 

McGhee, Kieran (2017) :Friendship and Sisterhood: The History and Impact of Wilson's Black Student Union"

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Hannah J. Patterson: Feminist Trailblazer


Hannah J. Patterson was a leading figure in the Woman Suffrage Movement from 1912 through 1917. In 1912, she was the Chairman of the Woman’s Suffrage Party of Pennsylvania and with PWSA President Jennie Bradley Roessing, led the three year campaign for a suffrage amendment to the state constitution. In 1915, she was elected Secretary of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association under Carrie Chapman Catt. When NAWSA leadership offered their organizing abilities to aid in the war effort during first World War, Patterson was named Resident Director of the Woman’s Committee of the U.S. Council of National Defense, earning the Distinguished Service Medal in 1919. Patterson continued to focus on women’s issues and politics throughout her life.

Ensley, Amy (2021). "Hannah J. Patterson: Feminist Trailblazer"

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Orchesis attempts to introduce students to the broadest opportunities possible for active participation in the various forms of dance. Students work with visiting artists; attend performances in other venues; study in New York City; engage in choreographic projects; work in the community to educate and develop an audience for dance; gain experience in lighting, sound and costume design – all technical aspects of performance.

This exhibit highlights the variety of performances Orchesis shared with the Wilson College community, primarily from the 1940s to the 1980s. 

Page Turner: The Evolution of the John Stewart Memorial Library


A brief history of the John Stewart Memorial Library on the Wilson College campus.

The Library opened in 1925. An addition was made to the building in the early 1960s.

In 2015, the Library opened with its historic frontage restored and a new learning commons addition to replace the previous annex. In honor of the new building, the Library and Archives created a display on the library's history, which has been reproduced digitally here.

Rupinski, Leigh (2015). "Page Turner: The Evolution of the John Stewart Memorial Library"

Paul Swain Havens


Paul Swain Havens served as president of Wilson College from 1937-1970, leaving a notable impression on the institution and its surrounding community. Born the son of Wilson alumna, as well as an instructor of classical language and former university president, Havens's passion for learning began at a young age. He excelled in primary school, earned a B.A. degree at Princeton University, and attended the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.

Before ascending to Wilson’s presidency at the age of 33, Havens taught courses in English literature and the humanities at Princeton, George Washington University, and Scripps College. President Havens, who was affectionately known to students as “Prexy,” oversaw numerous improvements to Wilson College, entertained prominent visitors to the campus, and advocated for the advancement of women’s education. While he was respected for his accomplishments and his intellect, Havens’s character left also left a lasting impression on those who knew him. Along with his wife, Lorraine Hamilton Havens, he generously welcomed Wilson students into his household for guidance and help with coursework, and showed a sincere concern for both their academic achievement and their personal wellbeing. Havens furthermore taught a popular course in his living room titled "The Life of the Mind," which challenged students to think critically about the issues of their day.

Pioneers: Early Women Faculty at Wilson College


This exhibit includes essays by Joan McCulloh, Wilson College class of 1952, who has been transcribing the correspondance collections of some of our earliest women faculty at Wilson College. The essays highlight the careers of these pioneers.

Renowned Visitors in Wilson College's History

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Wilson College’s history is replete with famous lecturers, performers, and guests. Over its 150 year existence, the college has welcomed great changemakers and has amplified the voices of powerful men and women, decade after decade. This exhibit features fifteen of the most notable visitors in Wilson’s history, and contextualizes their relationships with the college, including images from their time spent on campus.

The Making of a Civil Rights Activist: Pat Vail and Freedom Summer


The day after three civil rights activists disappeared in Mississippi, Patricia Vail '63 wrote her parents from Oxford, Ohio, expressing her fears as she prepared to join other activists in the deeply racist state.

"We are not safe," Vail, then 22, wrote June 22, 1964, in a letter to her parents, "Like everyone else involved, I realize that I could be killed this summer. I've known this all along[...]In the end I decided that this is a cause that I'm willing to die for."

The Mississippi Summer Project, known as Freedom Summer, was organized by a coalition of civil rights organizations that brought young, idealistic college-age students to Mississippi to register black voters and set up Freedom Schools to teach young children about black history and good citizenship. Organizers hoped that Northern white students working for civil
rights would draw national attention to the extreme brutality and oppression suffered by the black community in Mississippi.

This exhibit highlights Vail's activism and experience during Freedom Summer and is based on the article The Making of a Civil Rights Activist, Wilson Magazine, Summer 2014 by Amy Ensley. Double click on the thumbnails to view the full document and description. 

Ensley, Amy (2017). "The Making of a Civil Rights Activist: Pat Vail and Freedom Summer"

Wilson College Notable Faculty


This exhibit, researched and curated by Katelynn Gilbert, graduate assistant at the Hankey Center from Fall 2019- Spring 2021, profiles notable women faculty at Wilson College from 1869 to 1970. 

Wilson College Presidents


Profiles of Wilson College Presidents from 1869 to present.

Wilson College Response to the Great Depression

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This exhibit explores the effects of the Great Depression on the Wilson College community


Friar, Chris (2016) "Wilson College Response to the Great Depression"




Wilson in the World

This exhibit is a digitized version of the Hankey Center Women's History Exhibit from 2018 by director Amy Ensley. It highlights various aspects of Wilson's role internationally including the accomplishments of several faculty and alumnae and the college's history of enrolling international students.

Ensley, Amy (2019). "Wilson in the World"