Women in History

  • Eleanor Frances Seiler earned her B.A degree in 1913 and M.A. in 1914 from the University of Denver. Two years after that, Seiler received her M.A. in physics from the University of Illinois with her thesis on the study of the electrodynamometer.  In June 1922, she received her PhD in physics with...
  • Beverly L. Greene graduated in 1936 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Architectural Engineering, and in 1937, she earned a Master’s of Science degree in City Planning and Housing, both from the University of Illinois. After graduation, Beverly went on to work for the Chicago Housing Authority...
  • Helen Octavia Dickens graduated in 1932 with a Bachelor of Science and in 1934 with an MD. She was the first African American woman to be admitted to the American College of Surgeons. When she graduated in 1934, she was one of two women in her graduating class. Women featured in our weekly...
  • Helene Ruth Foellinger graduated in 1932 with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics. As a student, she was heavily involved in several organizations including Pi Beta Phi, Mortar Board, Phi Beta Kappa, Pi Mu Epsilon, and Torch. She served on the student council for four years and as the women’s editor...
  • Jane Fauntz Manske graduated around 1932 with a degree in Art Education from the University of Illinois. Jane was a national champion swimmer and diver who competed for the USA Olympic team in 1928 and 1932, winning the bronze medal in springboard diving in 1932. In high school, Jane was unable to...
  • Natalia M. Belting received her Bachelor of Arts from Illinois in 1936 and her Master of Arts in 1937. Three years later, she joined the faculty of the History Department. She was the first woman promoted to Associate Professor, teaching from 1941 to 1985 and authoring several books during her...
  • Barbara “Bobbie” Crawford Johnson graduated in 1946 with a degree in General Engineering, the first woman to earn such a degree. After graduation, Bobbie went to work for North American Aviation later to become the Space Division of Rockwell International, where she worked on the Apollo missions....
  • Dorothy Martin Simon received her PhD in Physical Chemistry from the University in 1945. In 1968, she became the first female corporate officer for Avco Corporation. Eventually, Simon was promoted to Vice President in Charge of Research and Development, and helped develop the synthetic fiber Orlon...
  • Lila Jeanne Eichelberger, affectionately known as “Shorty,” graduated from U of I around 1949 and has been a longtime supporter of the University and of 4-H. She is a President’s Council Member and a Chancellor’s Circle Member. Eichelberger has been a leader and advocate for athletics, especially...
  • Marianne Ferber joined the Economics Department at the University around 1948 and became known for “feminist economics.” She was a Professor of Economics, and she also served as Head of Women’s Studies from 1979–1983 and from 1991–1993. During the 1970s, Ferber was a member of the Committee on the...
  • Millicent Sloboda Lane graduated from the University of Illinois in 1944 with a degree in Advertising and Publishing. She was the first female editor-in-chief of the Daily Illini. While editor-in-chief, Millicent used the student newspaper to champion the cause of military trainees and veterans on...
  • Rosalyn Sussman Yalow received her Master’s degree from the University of Illinois in 1942 and her PhD in 1945 (both degrees in Physics). In an era when few women pursued careers in science, Rosalyn persisted in applying to graduate schools and was offered a teaching assistantship at the University...
  • Ann Bannon graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in French in 1954. As an alum, Ann wrote six lesbian pulp fiction novels known as “The Beebo Brinker Chronicles.” Her writing reflected upon her sexuality and its relation to her experiences in her sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma while a...
  • Betty Lou Bailey graduated from the University of Illinois in 1950 with a degree from the Mechanical Science and Engineering Department. She graduated in the top three percent of her class of 700, and was the only female in the class. During her career, Betty Lou worked as a registered professional...
  • Chung Sul Yuon, an international student from South Korea, graduated in 1955 with a degree in Chemical Engineering. She was the first woman in more than 30 years to major in chemical engineering, and the first Korean woman as well. While a student, she was involved in Orchesis and was also the...
  • Clarice Davis Presnells graduated in 1952 with a degree in political science. In her senior year, she became the first African American Homecoming Queen not only at the U of I, but in Big 10 history. This is considered the biggest vote for a Homecoming Queen in the history of the University with...
  • Duck Choo Oh, a Korea native, graduated with a degree in Sociology in 1956. She was named homecoming queen in 1955 and was the only Korean Homecoming Queen in the history of the tradition. As a student, she lived in McKinley Hall and was active in the residence hall’s social events. She was able to...
  • Jane Hayes Rader graduated from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 1954 and eventually became a member of the Board of Trustees in 1973. As a student, she was heavily involved in university proceedings and student government. She was a member of the sorority Pi Beta Phi and often...
  • Phyllis Hill joined the University of Illinois faculty in 1952, and eventually began working on her PhD. During her time at the U of I, she served as Professor, Associate Dean, and Acting Dean of the College of Applied Life Studies (now Applied Health Sciences). Dr. Hill led the college through the...
  • Wilma Vaught graduated with a Business degree in 1952. As an alum, she became the first female Air Force Officer to attend the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. She joined the military when there were strict restrictions on women in the military. She is now “Brigadier General” Wilma Vaught,...
  • Susan Lindquist graduated with a degree in Microbiology in 1971. She is one of the most respected molecular biologists in the world, now a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Susan is also the co-founder of FoldRx, a pharmaceutical company, and the first female director of the...
  • Shelia Crump Johnson graduated from the University of Illinois in 1970 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. She was the first female African American cheerleader at the University of Illinois. In 1979, Shelia co-founded the ground breaking Black Entertainment Television (BET) network. She is also the Vice...
  • Susan “Suze” Orman graduated from the School of Social Work in 1976 and went on to become an influential business icon, known for her financial advice, motivational speaking, writing, and television show. Suze is also the founder of the Suze Orman Financial Group. In 2009, she received an honorary...
  • Terry Hite David came to the University of Illinois as a sophomore in 1968 as part of the Project 500 group. As a student, she played for the women’s volleyball team before Title IX legislation existed. She graduated in 1972 with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education, left the university for...
  • Beth Dohme Wallin graduated with a degree in Home Economics in 1961. As a student, she was heavily involved in student organizations such as Alpha Lambda Delta, Omicron Nu, Torch, Psi Upsilon Omicron, and Mortar Board. Beth was also a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma, served as President of the...