University of Tartu celebrates 100 years of female students

The University of Tartu (Postimees/Scanpix)
8/17/2015 11:48 AM
Category: Education

Today, 100 years ago, Estonia's oldest and largest university, the University of Tartu, accepted women as full-time students for the first time.

Women were allowed to listen to lectures already 10 years prior to 1915, but were not allowed to sit exams. 51 female students joined the university in the fall of 1915, although women were allowed to be matriculated only two years later in 1917.

“It was thought women were not suited for studying at universities on mental, intellectual and physical grounds, let alone allowed to participate in scientific research. Moral questions also arose,” University of Tartu museum curator Terje Lõbu said. “It was a time where women had to work hard and just wait until society, including lecturers, began to hold them to be equal to men.”

The reason for allowing women into universities in 1915 lies in World War I. As men were being drafted into the army, and were not no longer allowed to postpone military service for universities, authorities began to worry about who would pay university tuition fees.

Women were especially welcome in medicine, as there was a great need for doctors.

J.M. Laats

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