Where Famous Feminists Went to College

Check out the six schools these savvy women attended before changing the world.

Betty Friedan was the author of the groundbreaking book "The Feminist Mystique."
Photo: WBUR.org

Historical and modern-day feminists have made the world a better place for women everywhere, and unsurprisingly, many of them first found their footing while attending college. We’re endlessly grateful for these strong ladies and the six schools that nurtured them.

Historical and modern-day feminists have made the world a better place for women everywhere, and unsurprisingly, many of them first found their footing while attending college.

Smith College

Feminist: Betty Friedan

Writer and women’s rights activist Betty Friedan graduated from Smith College in 1942 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. In 1963, while restless in her job as a stay-at-home mom, she published “The Feminine Mystique,” a book that encouraged women to seek personal fulfillment outside their societal roles.

Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Feminist: Elizabeth Blackwell

Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman in the United States to attend medical school when she was admitted to Hobart and William Smith Colleges (then called Geneva College). After graduating, she was committed to serving poor women and children and she became the first female to be listed in the British Medical Register.

University of Virginia

Feminist: Tina Fey

Before going on to conquer the world of comedy, Tina Fey graduated from the University of Virginia in 1992 with a degree in drama. In 1999, she became the first female head writer at “Saturday Night Live,” proving that it was possible for women to climb the male-dominated comedy ladder. Her career as a writer and actress has soared since then, and she’s become a strong advocate for female comedians and women in the entertainment industry.


Oberlin College

Feminist: Lucy Stone

Born and raised in Brookfield, MA, Lucy Stone graduated from Oberlin College in 1847, becoming the first woman from Massachusetts to earn a bachelor’s degree. Stone went on to build a career speaking publically about important civil rights and feminist issues. She founded the Women’s Rights Convention in 1850, launched a National Woman Suffrage Association chapter in New England, and was a strong advocate for the 15th Amendment, which would allow black people the right to vote. (Fun fact: modern actress, writer and feminist Lena Dunham would also graduate from Oberlin College much later in 2008).

Swarthmore College

Feminist: Alice Paul

Alice Paul graduated from Swarthmore College in 1905 before going on to become a feminist icon. She’s known for co-creating the National Women’s Party and being a key advocate for the 19th Amendment (which would allow women to vote) and the Equal Rights Amendment (which would guarantee equal rights for women).

Alice Paul was instrumental in the passage of the 19th amendment.

Wellesley College

Feminist: Hillary Clinton

Politician and women’s rights activist Hillary Clinton was senior class president at Wellesley College before graduating in 1969 and going on to attend law school at Yale University. Her past involvement in student politics must have been helpful later as her political career blossomed: She went on to serve as first lady, as a U.S. senator, as a serious presidential candidate, and finally, as secretary of state. Over the course of her political career, she’s been a strong advocate for women; in fact, she’s currently planning an upcoming global review of women’s rights.

Now that’s what we call girl power!

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