loading background

Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

cover photo

Creating Women's Residence Halls

In 1900 when Mary Hefferan was a doctoral student at the University of Chicago, according to census records, she lived in Green Hall. Since women were newly admitted to universities, housing had become an issue. 

One of the University's most pressing obligations in its first years was to provide adequate housing for its students. A successful college experience, President Harper believed, required adequate on-campus living quarters, although University officials conceded that they were not in a position to provide every student with housing. Residential opportunities for women students were particularly problematic, since plans for women's residence halls were still incomplete even after the University opened its doors in 1892. Rooms in boarding houses and apartments scattered around Hyde Park served as a temporary solution to the housing problem. In addition, administrators in 1893 temporarily reassigned female students to Snell Hall, a men's residence hall funded by a $60,000 gift from Henrietta Snell. Yet officials knew that relocating students to different locations on the campus was only a short-term solution and that sufficient housing would have to be built quickly to respond to the needs of the University's women students.

Deans of Women Alice Freeman Palmer and Marion Talbot made forceful cases to compel the University to provide suitable residences for women. Under their leadership and with the support of other University administrators, especially William Rainey Harper, major donors for women's housing were soon identified. Elizabeth Kelly, among the most important of them, had been married twice-first to Carlo Hull of Lower Sandusky, Ohio, and then Hiram Kelly of Sacramento, California. When Hiram died in 1889, he left Elizabeth a considerable fortune, which she used to support philanthropies including the University of Chicago. Elizabeth Kelly not only gave $62,000 dollars to build Kelly Hall in 1893, she also contributed an additional $70,000 six years later for Green Hall, named in honor of her parents. In a final act of great generosity, Kelly left $150,000 in her will to build the Classics Building, designated the "Hiram Kelly Memorial," which was completed in 1915.

Excerpted from the U. of Chicago's library website (no longer online)

Like Us on Facebook
site by GRCMC