Parents and Families

Helen Newberry

When you were in college, it probably seemed normal to see men and women enrolled alongside each other, attending classes together and living in the same halls. But it wasn't always that way.

At Michigan, it took until 1870 for a single female student, Madelon Stockwell (namesake of the future Stockwell Residence Hall), to be allowed to enroll, the only woman in her class. And it wasn't until 1915 that the campus fully embraced the idea, by opening the first all-female residence, Helen Newberry.

Followed by Martha Cook Residence in that same year and Betsy Barbour in 1924, Helen Newberry remains one of the few halls still home to a proudly all-female community. And this year, with a hundred years of history to celebrate, current residents and alumnae gathered together over Homecoming Weekend to share stories over a special Centennial tea.

“Without an all-female hall like Newberry, I couldn't have come to U-M” — Tala Taleb

Among the many alumnae present was Meg Harding, who moved into Helen Newberry in 1963. Meg's stories spoke to how much has changed and how many important things stayed the same. She remembered the formal dinners in the hall, with their strict rules and even stricter nutritionist who lived in the hall, and how the women would take turns serving and waiting tables; and how "men were of course banned from the halls, except Sunday mornings -- for their fathers."

Meg also recounted how much she and her hallmates shared, from gathering round the sole TV in the lounge, reacting to the Kennedy assassination, to the long nights of studying and friendships formed.

That bonding was echoed by current residents Zoe Van Dyke and Tala Taleb, who joined Meg in cutting the Centennial cake. They exchanged their own stories of all-nighters and finding their way in the big university (along with occasional hijinks.)

A hundred years on, Helen Newberry is just as beloved, and needed, as it was when it first opened. "Without an all-female hall like Newberry, I couldn't have come to U-M", noted Tala. "We are so thankful to the university for keeping this tradition alive", added Zoe. 

To help Student Life continue making a difference in students’ lives, please consider making a gift.