The history of the University of Virginia is not complete without women’s stories.

2020 is a unique moment in time at UVA: the 100th anniversary of the Board of Visitors resolution allowing some women to enroll in select graduate and professional programs and the 50th anniversary of full coeducation. To honor these milestones, the UVA Alumni Association will host Retold, a celebration of the transformational impact of women on the University of Virginia.

Celebration Weekend

We hope to bring the alumnae community together this fall for an inspirational, historic weekend honoring the stories, achievements and influence of UVA women. If public health and University operations allow, we invite you to join us on Grounds September 24–26, 2020.

alumnae community

The UVA alumnae community is constantly evolving. It is made up of women with unique paths, experiences and perspectives who have shaped their communities, on Grounds and beyond. Meet just a few of these women.

the story of women at UVA


UVA hosts the state’s first Normal School, a summer program for Virginia primary school teachers. The program draws almost 500 students, 312 of whom are women. The courses offered are intended to satisfy requirements for teacher certification but do not lead to degrees. Only men can earn credit and degrees for the courses they took.

That same year, the faculty and Board of Visitors vote against admitting women under any conditions.

BOV Notes
Minute book of the Board of Visitors of the Univeristy of Virginia, 1892

Caroline Preston Davis, daughter of a faculty member, applies to UVA to take the bachelors-level math exams. The Board of Visitors (BOV) approves her application provided she pay a fee and test separately from male students. She passes with distinction and receives a Certificate of Proficiency instead of a diploma. Davis becomes the first woman to receive official recognition for her studies at the University.


Fannie Littleton Kline is the first woman to attend UVA as a “special student” studying chemistry privately with Professor William Mallet.

“The faculty have now come to the conclusion that, upon the whole, admission of women to the University would be unwise and injurious to the best interests of the University.”

–  William M. Fontaine, head of the committee charged with investigating the admission of women


The BOV votes against coeducation at UVA with the explanation that giving women higher education will “physically unsex” them, causing them to lose their power in the home.