While elite Eastern universities such as Yale and Columbia waited to admit women until the late 20th century, the University of California began admitting women two years after its founding.
There was no rule preventing women from attending, but there also was no formal statement that they could. In 1870, before the university moved from Oakland to Berkeley, the board of regents began considering a proposal to admit women, who made up around 36 percent of the state’s population. The vote was unanimous, and a new principle was added to the regents’ growing social contract: ”The university should admit women on an equal basis with men.”
When the university settled into its new home in Berkeley in 1873, 22 of the 191 students were women. Rosa L. Scrivner was the first female graduate, earning a degree in agriculture in 1874.
Daniel Coit Gilman, the university’s second president, would later note that the proportion of women who ranked high in scholarship was greater than that of men.