Throughout the University’s history, multiple fundraising and donation initiatives have aimed to benefit women — and many of them have been driven by women.

1890 marked the beginning of an era for women at the University. It’s the year a group of women — comprised of students, wives of faculty members and alumni — assembled to create the Women’s League organization, a group designed to unite women in the University community.

In 1921, one year after the country ratified the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to give both sexes an equal right to vote, women of the University decided they needed their own facility. With help from the University Alumnae Council they began to fundraise, hoping to construct the building now known as the Michigan League.

The goal of the new building was to provide women with a space to coordinate social, cultural and recreational events around the University’s campus — something men had at the time, but women did not.

Kim Clarke, director of communications for the University’s upcoming bicentennial in 2017, said women were reacting to the Michigan Union when they decided to construct the League.

“The Union was for men, for male students,” she said. “Women could come in only through a side door, and they just reached a point where they said, ‘Well we want our own facility, our own place to gather.’ So women students and women alums started a fundraising drive to create their own building. And they did. It’s awesome.”

By May 1929, Clarke said the Michigan League was open, largely due to 1 million dollars fundraised by women.

The Michigan League, however, is not the only instance where women at the University have reaped the benefits of other women’s development efforts.

Established in 1898 and still running today, the Bates Professorship is the first official endowed professorship at the University. Traditionally held by the chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the professorship was created to promote equal opportunities for male and female students on campus.

The funding that made it possible came from the late Elizabeth Bates, a physician from Port Chester, N.Y. Bates, who earned her degree from the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania, left her estate to the University though she had never once set foot on the Michigan campus.

Tim Johnson, a gynecologist in the University’s Health System and the current Bates professor, said Bates was impressed by the University’s inclusion of women in its Medical School.

“U of M was the first public university to accept women into the Medical School, and so she was so impressed with the University’s commitment to women’s medical education that she left most of her estate to the University,” he said.

Johnson, the current chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said the Bates Professorship has funded the person in his role since its endowment. Between 1898 to the present, seven physicians have held the Bates Professorship.

“The women’s health program at the University of Michigan Medical School was just ranked number seven in the country,” Johnson said. “It allows us to have one of the most distinguished women’s health programs — and one of the most distinguished OBGYN programs — in the country.”

With the support of the Bates Professorship, Johnson teaches both in the Medical School and in LSA, with Women Studies 400 — Women’s Reproductive Health —being his signature class.

In contrast, another donation to the University from women sought a different kind of change — an increase in the rate of international female students in attendance at the University.

The Barbour Scholarship, which still exists today, was the University’s “first significant fellowship for international students,” according to Clarke’s “The Gift of Vision: Supporting Scholars” research on the University’s Heritage website.

Levi Barbour, a former member of the University’s Board of Regents, established the scholarship.

“He encountered a few women, a couple of Asian women, who had gone to school here and he was so impressed by them that he decided to start a scholarship program that would bring women from Asian countries to U of M to study,” Clarke said. “And the requirement of the scholarship was you then had to go back to your home country — that you had to take the education you gained here, go back to your home country and put it to use there.”

Since its inception in 1917, the Barbour Scholarship has funded the education of many international women students at the University, drawing students from throughout Asia, including China, Japan, Taiwan, India, the Philippines and Korea.

Jill McDonough, director of development and alumni relations at the Rackham Graduate School, emphasized the scholarship’s intent to educate students who would return to their home countries upon graduation.

“After they leave U-M, Barbour Scholars take on important roles in the political, educational, industrial and social development of institutions in their home countries,” she said. “And they make key contributions to their scholarly fields in the U.S. as well.”

Judy Malcolm, senior director of executive communications in the Office of University Development, said many buildings and other projects on campus also stem from similarly targeted funding initiatives.

“People make these gifts because they want to do something, have an impact — make something happen,” she said.

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