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Today in Georgia History
is a joint collaboration of the Georgia Historical Society & Georgia Public Broadcasting.

December 23

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Wesleyan College

December 23, 1836 - Macon
Women’s struggle for equality took a major step forward on this day in 1836. The first college in the world to grant degrees to women was chartered in Macon -- an incredibly progressive idea for the times.

Now known as Wesleyan College, it began as Georgia Female College after a group of Macon businessmen raised $9,000 for a women’s college that would offer coursework similar to that offered to men. Unlike other female institutions, Georgia Female College students would receive the equivalent of the bachelor’s degree when they completed their coursework.

The Methodist Conference agreed to adopt the school, and it was renamed Wesleyan Female College in 1843 in honor of John Wesley. The school opened in January 1839 and graduated its first class 18 months later.

Wesleyan graduates include Mary McKay, the first woman in Georgia to receive a doctor of medicine degree, and Viola Ross Napier, the first woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court of Georgia, and one of the first women elected to the Georgia Legislature.

The world’s oldest women’s college was chartered on December 23, 1836, Today in Georgia History.

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nineteenth century, education, women, Methodist, Time Continuity and Change, Individuals groups and Institutions, Civic Ideals and Practices

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Fast Fact

In 1851, six Wesleyan students founded the Adelphean Society (later known as Alpha Delta Pi), which is credited as the mother of sororities.

GHS Finding Aids

Mary Read scrapbook of Wesleyan College (Macon, Ga.)