Pioneering Coed

University of Michigan Chemistry Building

University of Michigan Chemistry Building, c. 1891

University of Michigan chemistry laboratory

University of Michigan chemistry laboratory, c. 1891

Mary Hegeler Carus' Notes from Mineralogy

Mary's notes from mineralogy

Scrapbook for The University Music Society

Mary's scrapbook page of her University Music Society, c. 1881 (Mary, back row, middle)

Given the unique experiences Mary gained as a young girl, she was poised for something special as an adult. In 1878 she chose the unusual path for women of her time to attend a coeducational college. This was the University of Michigan, located far from home at approximately 300 miles northeast of La Salle in Ann Arbor. Perhaps her time overseeing the smelting furnaces with the zinc men at M&H gave her a sense of gender equality and the perspective that a woman could excel at traditionally male vocations. At least, that is what her college career proved in 1882 when she graduated with a degree focused on engineering and became the first woman to receive a Bachelor’s of Science from the College of Engineering. It would be another 10 years until a second woman would graduate with such a degree.

At Michigan Mary studied the topics of mathematics, chemistry, physics, biology, mineralogy, French, metallurgy, and engineering. Some of her courses were “Assaying Ores, wet and dry ways,” “Blowpipe Analysis,” “Theory of Construction,” and “Graphics.”

In addition to her studies, Mary had an active social life. Her scrap-book contains playbills, invitations to social events, and pressed flowers saved from dances. She also was a member of the University Music Society. These extracurricular interests together with her academic pursuits reveal the many colors of her character.