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Celebrating 150 years of women at Carthage

  • Carthage women a part of the Class of 1876
June 21, 2018

A century and a half ago, a small Lutheran college on the Midwestern plains demonstrated a progressive and instinctive sense of what society needed and aggressively took steps to meet those needs.

The College’s early leaders understood that educating women was a critical part of that endeavor, and so, when the College assumed the Carthage name in 1870, it became part of the first wave of institutions of higher learning that enrolled women.

“The Diamond Jubilee History of Carthage College, 1870-1945,” provides the following description of the institution’s first days after moving to Carthage, Illinois, in 1870 and adopting its current name:

At the end of the first week, twenty-four were enrolled and of these, nearly one-half were women. Thus, from its inception, Carthage College opened its doors to both sexes and thereafter adhered to its course as a coeducational institution.

Back then, Carthage was a small college in a rural area working hard to survive. Just like the decision in the late 1950s to relocate the campus, the decision to admit women is another example of knowing how not only to survive but how to thrive and do so with faith, courage and imagination.  

In 2020, Carthage will celebrate 150 years of women at Carthage. In recognition of this important anniversary, Carthage will host a year-long celebration beginning July 1, 2019, and concluding June 30, 2020. (There will be activities that happen before and after these dates, as we do not want to limit our celebration, but the focus of our observance will be hosted during the 2019-2020 academic year.) Stretching across all aspects of Carthage life — academics, athletics, student affairs, and alumni relations — the celebration will incorporate the campuses in Kenosha and Carthage, Illinois.

To help us plan a historically accurate, inclusive, and inspirational celebration, the College invites Carthaginians to submit ideas that highlight:

  • the ways Carthage has distinguished itself with its vision for educating women.
  • noteworthy Carthage women and their contributions.
  • the evolution of women’s fields of study.
  • the challenges facing women pursuing college degrees in the past, present, and future.

Elaine Walton ’79, associate vice president for institutional advancement, is coordinating the “150 Years of Carthage Women” initiative. To share your suggestion, contact her at or ext. 5703.