Douglass Through the Decades

1910 - 1919
At the start of the 20th century’s second decade, the State of New Jersey offered limited higher education for women. That changed when the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs, active in the women’s rights movement at that time, convinced Mabel Smith Douglass to head a committee that would establish a women’s college as part of Rutgers University. Through a mix of dedication and  persistence, Mrs. Douglass convinced the Rutgers trustees to support the venture. The Federated Women’s Clubs raised funds to support the project, in addition to receiving revenue from the Smith-Hughes Act, which supported Home Economics education. In September 1918, the New Jersey College for Women opened its doors to 54 students.

1920 - 1929
The New Jersey College for Women grew rapidly during its first full decade of existence. Under Dean Douglass’ leadership and employing both private and state funds, the college created new departments and constructed five academic buildings. This period also saw the building of the Voorhees Chapel, as well as the opening of three residence campuses, which served as the focal points of an active and vibrant residence life program. The Class of 1922 created the first yearbook, newspaper, Yule Log, Sacred Path ceremony, and the Associate Alumnae of Douglass College.

1930 - 1939
In this period, under Dean Margaret Trumbull Corwin, the harsh realities of the Great Depression stumped growth in enrollment. The construction of new facilities came to a standstill. Yet during this decade, the New Jersey College for Women saw greater diversity in its student population with its first Latina, African-American and Asian-American graduates. The college also developed its first recruitment plan and the Associate Alumnae become a vital organization with a professional staff.

1940 - 1949
The decade opened with the college community actively supporting the allied cause in the World War II. Students and faculty formed relief organizations, rolled bandages and entered war production industries. With the war’s end and with the likelihood of greatly increased enrollments, Dean Corwin led the planning for a larger institution with new programs and facilities.

1950 - 1959Douglass College Seal, Douglass Residential CollegeThe '50s ushered in a period of conservatism among students, who found a place for traditional activities in the newly constructed College Center on the Douglass campus. In 1955, the New Jersey College for Women became Douglass College, in honor of its founder. To mark the occasion, the college introduced a new Alma Mater and College Seal. Halfway through the decade, Dean Mary Ingraham Bunting moved into the Dean’s Home at 23 Nichol Avenue. She established new programs for summer research internships and college re-entry for mature women— the first such programs in the nation at a traditional college.


1960 - 1969
Dean Ruth Marie Adams oversaw the completion of the largest group of building projects in the college’s history: a library, the Neilson Campus residence and dining halls, the New Gibbons residence complex, and three new classroom buildings. She created the college’s first honors program and first program for economically disadvantaged students.

The decade’s end saw the social upheavals of the civil and women's rights movement and the Vietnam War. While the college established committees to address this social landscape, other changes on campus included more flexible graduation requirements, the end of mandatory chapel attendance, and formal affirmative action policies.

1970 - 1979
With Dean Margery Somers Foster at the helm, Douglass College reacted to the turbulent '70s. The college discontinued its curfew, abolished the honors system, established the Educational Opportunity Fund program, and launched a pub in the College Center.

During this decade, Douglass centralized admissions, financial aid, registration, and scheduling. It also established the Women’s Studies Program for Rutgers University -- among the first and best in the nation. Dean Foster and the entire Douglass community resisted substantial pressure to become co-educational and the college retained its historic mission of providing an education for women. Dean Jewel Plummer Cobb implemented the Douglass Scholars Program and new initiatives in student recruitment as the College responded to co-education in the other New Brunswick colleges.

1980 - 1989
In 1981, the establishment of Faculty of Arts and Sciences in New Brunswick effectively ended the distinct Douglass College faculty. Dean Mary S. Hartman created the Douglass College Fellows and moved to restore strong liberal arts graduation requirements. Douglass joined the National Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN), initiated the Douglass Project for Rutgers Women in Math, Science and Engineering,  began the Emerging Leaders Program, and became the home of the Blanche, Edith, and Irving Laurie New Jersey Chair in Women’s Studies.

During this period, Rutgers started the School of Business in New Brunswick, which offered Douglass students for the first time the opportunity to receive joint degrees with many Rutgers professional schools.

1990 - 1999
Douglass College entered its 75th year with a very successful capital campaign. “Freshmen” became “first-year students” and enjoyed new opportunities to pursue a certificate in International Studies, live in the cutting-edge Bunting-Cobb Science and Math Residence Hall, or undertake a Mabel Smith Douglass Honors thesis. Douglass also introduced "Shaping a Life," a course mandated for all first-year students, established the Institute for Women’s Leadership, wired residence halls for Internet access, and replaced volunteer house chairwomen with paid resident assistants.

Dean Barbara A. Shailor recognized the increasing importance of technology and was instrumental in strengthening relations between the college and its corporate and foundation partners. Under her leadership, Douglass College also undertook major renovations in two of the college’s landmark buildings—College Hall and Voorhees Chapel.

2000 - 2010
Douglass began the new century with its ninth dean, Carmen Twillie Ambar. Dean Ambar oversaw such programs as the "Transitional Leadership for the Workforce," a teleconferencing course offered jointly with Ewha Womens University in Seoul, Korea, and the Global Village, a collection of special interest houses that prepare Douglass students for the world of globalization.

During this period, Rutgers undertook a major transformation of undergraduate education in New Brunswick. As a result, in the fall of 2007, the new first-year students entered a transformed Douglass that provided a women-centered educational experience for any woman undergraduate at Rutgers. Under the leadership of Interim Dean Harriet Davidson, the college began the process of developing new programs for the women joining Douglass.

2010 - Present
In August 2010, Dr. Jacquelyn Litt was appointed as the tenth dean of Douglass and the first dean of the Douglass Residential College. Under her leadership, the college has developed a new organization and innovative strategies for enhancing programming and leadership opportunities for its enormously diverse and academically talented students. Dean Litt recognizes the importance of  engaging students in experiential learning through common learning opportunities, community service, leadership opportunities, and engagement in peer mentoring. She initiated a new Global Education Program, a Douglass Career Development Program, and a renewed focus on programs to support women in STEM fields, including a new residential learning community for first year women students enrolled in the School of Engineering.