At reunion this year, NDWC launched an initiative to record the stories of pioneering ND women graduates entitled “In Her Own Words:  Stories from the Early Years of Coeducation at Notre Dame.” Three alumnae from the 1970s — Sharon McAuliffe ’74, Kathy Anders ’74, and Jeanine Sterling ’76 — were interviewed about their experiences as members of Notre Dame’s first classes of undergraduate women. Their stories, along with those of other alumnae, will be collected by NDWC and preserved by the University Archives.  

After a plan to merge St. Mary’s College and Notre Dame failed, the University moved quickly to admit female undergraduate. In the fall of 1972, ND's first female undergraduate students — 125 freshmen and approximately 200 transfers at the sophomore, junior, and senior levels — walked onto a campus that wasn't entirely ready for them.

Sharon, Kathy, and Jeanine discussed the various challenges a female faced in those early years. Jeanine, as an entering freshman, was told by a number of individuals that she didn’t belong: “ND lost all its prestige when it admitted you girls” (a parent); “You shouldn’t be here. Go home” (an upperclassman);   “Better Dead than Coed” (alumni). All three recalled moments of feeling unwelcome by male students and faculty, as well as the sense that their presence was a novelty rather than being part of the group.

Any of this sound familiar?

We want to hear from all of you — about the swim test, the dining hall, living in (and moving out of) Walsh or Badin, being the only female in class, being the first (fill in the blank) —  as we prepare to celebrate 50 years of undergraduate coeducation in 2022. If you are interested in participating "In Her Own Words" or in finding out more information, please email Theresa Davey '06 at

Help us shape this project and record history!

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