The Evanston College for Ladies provided housing for female students engaged in courses of study ranging from classical or scientific studies, to more traditional female fields, including domestic sciences and studies in the arts. The college also provided college preparatory courses and training for kindergarten teachers.
Formed in 1869 to provide housing and supplementary support and studies for women attending Northwestern University, the Evanston College for Ladies was a project of the Women’s Educational Aid Association. It was entirely staffed and run by women at a time when this was unusual in higher education. The first classes were held in 1871 and there were 236 girls in the first class. Plans for a building for the college were in the works early and construction was well underway in October 1871 when the Great Chicago Fire caused funds to dry up. In 1873, the Evanston College for Ladies merged with Northwestern, becoming the Woman’s College of the university. The college’s building at 711 Elgin Road was completed by the university (today it is the Music Building). The women of the WEAA continued to work to ensure that the university fulfilled its commitment to educate women “upon the same terms and conditions as young men.” They ran College Cottage for many years, providing independent housing and financial support for female university students.
The Evanston College for Ladies offered young women the necessary support for pursuing higher education at a time when such opportunities where not common. It created a climate in the community where women where encouraged to pursue a wider role in the world, leading to this wider role being accepted and even expected in Evanston.