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Emmanuel College, established by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, opened as a day college in 1919 and was the first female Catholic institution of higher learning in New England. In its early days, the College secured its charter from the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (1921), was accredited by National Catholic Education Association (1923) and opened its first graduate school (1926). The College did all this while it shared its space (and resources) on campus with the Boston Academy of the Notre Dame, a school for primary and secondary aged girls. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s the College experienced growing pains as it saw the Academy move, the graduate school close (1933), the creation of a formal ‘committee process’ structure (1939) and the creation of student government (1945-1946). Following this period, the College began a process of expansion to accommodate a growing student population, a program that became known as Emmanuel of Tomorrow. It began with the construction of Alumnae Hall (1949) that was to serve as the new science facility on campus and was soon followed by: the student union, Marian Hall (1954), St. James Hall (c. 1957, d. 2007), Julie Hall (c. 1958, d. 2016), St. Ann Hall (1962), Loretto Hall (1963), Cardinal Cushing Library (1965) and St. Joseph’s Hall (1968). During this period of expansion the College’s graduate school was reestablished in 1964. Despite this growth, however, Emmanuel College faced new challenges in the 1970s.
The challenges began in the winter of 1969 with a commuter student led push to wear slacks at the college and continued with resident students' desire to set their own curfews and parietal hours. At the same time, the student body was pushing for a ‘bill of rights’ to clarify their responsibilities and privileges. By 1972, as the College approved and implemented new policies designed to meet student demands, a new challenge emerged—the admittance of women to male Catholic College. This led to a decline in enrollment and to an examination of the institution within the new reality of higher education. To aid in this endeavor the College called upon the expertise of Sr. Eileen Gertrude Mahoney, SND who ensured that Emmanuel continued to serve students by renting College facilities to neighboring institutions, selling St. Julie Hall to Beth Israel Hospital (1974), and by aiding various administrators in their tasks, including establishing a continuing education program (1974). Although these challenges created turbulence for Emmanuel College, they did not last and the College entered a period of tranquility in the 1980s and 1990s during which time the College was active in the community. These activities range from involvement with the Democratic Presidential Primary Forum on Women’s Issues (1984), to hosting the Catholic Church Peace Conference (1986), to leading the establishment of the Colleges of the Fenway (1996).
At the turn of the century, facing the issue of lower enrollments, the College leased a portion of its property to Merck Laboratories and decided to admit men for the first time since its inception. This allowed for the (re)purchase of Julie Hall (2002), the opening of a new student union, the Jean Yawkey Center (2004), and the construction of a new science building, the Maureen Murphy Wilkens Science Center (2009). The College continued to develop into the 2010s with the purchase of the Notre Dame Campus, the former home of William Lloyd Garrison and the Society of St. Margaret's Convent (2012), which is devoted to students that wish to focus on community service and social justice during their undergraduate careers. The connection between the College’s past and its present was highlighted with the renovation of the Administration Building (2009-2013) and the construction of a larger Julie Hall (2016-2018 ).
The Emmanuel College Archives is pleased to provide you with historic information on the College and members of its community. We strive to increase the historic awareness of the College and all interested groups. Please feel free to explore this site and enjoy your visit. For more information on the history of the College contact the archives.