It All Began With Nurses: A Case Study Of Coeducation In Higher Education At Carroll College, 1943-1961
Carroll College, a diocesan college in western Montana, was founded in 1909 as a Catholic college for young men. Throughout its initial years, the college did not have much interaction with women. In 1925, Bishop John Patrick Carroll of the Diocese of Helena welcomed the Sisters of St. Dominic from Speyer, Germany, to work as staff, with duties such as preparing meals and cleaning rooms at the college. Throughout the transition into college life, the sisters encountered harassments by both students and priests. One sister recalled, “priests were petty and hostile.”1 Some priests actively rallied to have the sisters removed from campus. When their demands were not met, the aggravated priests left the college.2 Additionally, most students were not accustomed to nuns; they preferred priests and consequently disrespected the work of the sisters. Some students were so bold as to throw food at the sisters and call them “menial laborers.”3 The nuns, however, did remain to serve the college for several years. Their presence exemplified the challenges that many women faced in institutions of higher education. During and after the war, administrators of Carroll College found that women were eager to attend higher education. A partnership was made in 1946 between the Sisters of Charity School of Nursing and Carroll College to create the Department of Nursing Education at Carroll College for the fall semester of 1946. For the first time, Carroll College offered a Bachelor of Science degree to women. Women were now seen as talented and ambitious students rather than silent servers. Carroll College was one of the first Roman Catholic diocesan colleges to institute coeducation. Through its innovative practices, it served as a model for many schools to follow.