Follow the Senior Year of Ohio University’s First Female Grad

Margaret Boyd, Ohio University’s first female graduate returned to school in January of 1873 with a new diary in which she intended to write daily. Over the next several months, she chronicled the last days of her senior year, reflecting on the her academic and social experiences while anticipating her future. While her life at Ohio University is certainly very different than the experiences of modern students, many of her concerns will be familiar to the twenty-first century student, especially those about to graduate.

Beginning with the new year, we will be tweeting her diary day-by-day on the Twitter account @MaggieBoyd1873. On the Library News Blog, we will be hosting regular entries about the diary and what it tells about the things that have changed – or not changed – for Ohio University students in the last 139 years. Follow Boyd’s Twitter account, the @AldenLibrary Twitter account or our Facebook page for updates

Boyd cautiously enrolled in the university in 1868 under the name M. Boyd, until the university could be sure that the faculty and public would not object to a female student joining the school (Hollow 62). She became the first female graduate in 1873, upon which President William Henry Scott (photo) told her classmates “that they may well be proud that they belong to the class that contains the first lady graduate.” As commencement drew near, Boyd found herself emotional, writing on the day of this speech that she could “hardly keep the tears from my eyes such a day” (Boyd).

Boyd’s parents were Daniel Boyd, an 1819 immigrant from northern Ireland, and Jane Elliott. Of her eight siblings, two older brothers attended Ohio University before her. Her diary is part of the Boyd Family Manuscript Collection, which, in addition to the diary, includes letters sent among the family members from 1821-1881 (McCabe).

As the first Ohio University alumna, Boyd paved the way for future generations of female students, and change was swift to arrive. Her own niece, Ella Boyd, graduated in 1875. By 1883, thirty women and the first female faculty member lived in the East Wing (now known as Wilson Hall). In 1913, 330 women had enrolled, leading the university to designate the first Dean of Women, Irma Voigt, namesake of Voigt Hall on the North Green (Hollow 115). Today, you can find a residence hall on West Green named for Boyd.

We hope you’ll join us for this look into the life of both Boyd and Ohio University.


Boyd, Margaret. “Pocket Diary for 1873.” Digital Initiatives. Ohio University. 1873 Web. 29 Dec 2011.

Hollow, Betty. Ohio University, 1804-2004: History of a Singular Place. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2003. Print.

McCabe, Doug. “Boyd Family Collection.” Ohio University Libraries. Ohio University Libraries. 26 Sep. 2011. Web. 14 Dec. 2011.