History Lessons: Vintage University Alumnae

We take a look at a few of the earliest U-M alumnae.
By Gregory Lucas-Myers, ’10


Read time: 3 minutes

In celebration of Women’s History Month, here’s a look at a few of the earliest U-M alumnae, each of whom parlayed their landmark U-M experiences into positive change and progress in the world.

Madelon Stockwell, 1872, photographed along with other members of her class at their 35th anniversary reunion in 1907
Photo courtesy of the U-M Bentley Historical Library

Madelon Stockwell, 1872, arrived at U-M on Feb. 2, 1870, as the first female student to enroll at the University. Though reclusive as a result of personal tragedy, she nurtured a lifetime love of learning that she encouraged in others. Stockwell’s will directed much of her sizable wealth to expanding opportunities for learning at U-M and Albion College.

For more on Stockwell’s life and times, read “Madleon’s World” on the U-M Heritage Project.

Photographic portrait of Sarah Killgore Wertman
Photo from “A Woman of the Century” by Frances E. Willard and Mary A. Livermore (1893)

After becoming the first female student at U-M’s law school in 1870, Sarah Killgore Wertman, 1871, went on to become the first woman in any U.S. state to graduate from law school and be admitted to the bar.

For more on Wertman’s life and times, read “Michigan’s First Woman Lawyer: Sarah Killgore Wertman” by Margaret A. Leary of Michigan Law.

Photographic portrait of Mary Henrietta Graham
Photo courtesy of the U-M Bentley Historical Library

Mary Henrietta Graham, 1880, was the first known Black woman to matriculate and graduate from U-M. She became an impactful scholar at what is today known as Lincoln University in Missouri and became a noted figure of Chicago’s African American community.

For more on Graham’s life and times, read “Of Splendid Ability” on the U-M Heritage Project.

U-M female students, including Bertha Van Hoosen, circa 1883 on an unidentified porch
Photo courtesy of the U-M Bentley Historical Library

In this photo taken around 1883, U-M students, including Bertha Van Hoosen (standing in back row, left, marked with an “X”), have gathered on an unidentified porch. Van Hoosen, 1884, MD1888, HMA1912, was among the first women to graduate from U-M’s medical school. She went on to develop new methods of prenatal care and served as the first president of the American Medical Women’s Association. All the women in the photo were members of Kappa Alpha Theta, which established its U-M chapter on December 10, 1879, as the first sorority on campus.

For more on Van Hoosen’s life and times, read her entry on LSA’s “Living in History” directory of residence hall names.

Gregory Lucas-Myers, ’10, is the senior assistant editor of Michigan Alum.

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