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Muriel Simonson: The life of a student at Jackson College 1924-1929

Tufts in the '20s

The class of 1929. Muriel is seated in the front row on the left. She is circled in black pen.

Women at Tufts

Tufts University became co-educational in 1892 and it wasn't long until the women enrolled at the school outnumbered the men more than two-to-one. The academic success of the new women scholars quickly became a point of tension within the University and in 1910 pressure from parents, members of the Board of Trustees, professors, and others resistant to the concept of a co-ed school lead to the establishment of Jackson College, a separate coordinate college for female students where enrollment and access to awards and scholarships was limited.

When Muriel enrolled in Jackson in 1924 approximately 27% of Tufts undergraduates were women, down significantly from the approximately 70% in the late 19th century. Similarly, almost none of the Tufts faculty were women. In the 1924-25 academic year 100% of professors and lecturers and 94% of assistant professors at Tufts were men. Of the 11 women teaching at Tufts that year, 8 were working at the Medical School.

School Expenses

School expenses at Jackson College for the 1924-25 school were quite similar to fees at Tufts College. Tuition was $200 a year, room rent ran between $50-100 dollars depending on location and number of roommates, and board at Metcalf Hall cost $270 per year. With associated fees, a Jackson College woman rooming in a cheap single room could expect to pay around $561 for the year. Non-resident students at Jackson College could expect to spend $246.

Room: $50-85 (Single), $50-100 (Double), $60-80 (Triple)

Board: $270

General maintenance fee: $10

Tuition: $200

Lab fees: $10

Student activity fees: $10

Typewriter fee: $6

Infirmary fee: $5

Non-resident fee: $15

Faculty for the College of Liberal Arts & Jackson College, 1929


In 1920, as Muriel was entering High School, only 21.1% of women in the US were part of the workforce. Of that workforce, the majority (77%) of them were single or widowed. Only 23% of married women were employed. By 1930, shortly after Muriel's graduation from Jackson College the rate of employment for women in the US age 15 and over was at around 32%. Still, the majority of them (83%) were single, widowed, or divorced (or status unknown) while 17% were married.