A Historic Celebration

In fall 1971, 24 girls, all day students, enrolled at Governor Dummer Academy ending an over two-hundred year tradition as an all-boys institution. While there were a few brief periods of co-education in the 1800s, these girls were the first— the pioneers— who paved the way for the next 50 years of girls—Morse Flag winners, residence hall proctors, national award-winning artists, and three-season varsity athletes. Fifty years later, girls make up half the student community.

Join the Celebration 

Beginning in May 2022 and culminating at Reunion 2023, we invite the entire Govs community to join us for a year of events, programs, and stories in honor of this important milestone and in celebration of the diverse community of students and graduates that has since followed. Convocation speakers. Class electives. Decade gatherings. Reflective panels. There are programs for everyone--students, parents, alumni, employees, and friends.

reflecting on 50 years of women at the academy
May 17, 2022

Beginning 50 years ago, the advent of coeducation forever changed our school and continues to influence our community today. Guests shared their stories, experiences, and reflections on their time in Byfield and beyond. The program began with a historical context for coeducation in the early 70s led by Chair of the History Department Erin O'Connell, followed by personal reflections from several alumnae, including Carol Salloway '73, Lucy Armstrong '87, P'21,'23, Daria Grayer '00, Erin Hanlon '20 and facilitator-led breakout rooms for alumni reflections hosted by Carol Goldberg '76, Betsy Farrell '84, P'14,'17,'18,'22, Cathy Burgess '91, Julie O’Shaughnessey '05, Jean Bower '13, Carli Citrano '15 and others! 

view recording

in Her Words

The 50 Women of Govs project shares the unique stories of Governor’s women— students, faculty, staff, and friends— and celebrates their courage and the challenges they faced, their hard work and the passions they discovered, their leadership and the impact they had on the Govs community. The project showcases the diversity of thought, backgrounds, and experiences of women who have called Byfield home over the last five decades.

Interested in being a part of the 50 Women of Govs project? Click here to learn more.

Share Her History

Timeline of Events

1872

"Headmistress" Sarah Parsons

Wife of Headmaster Ebeneezer Parsons, Sarah Parsons became perhaps the first female faculty member at Dummer Academy. Sarah Parsons was the supervisor of girls during the Academy's first round of coeducation, which lasted from 1872 until 1882.

1971

First Girls Lacrosse Team

During the first year of coeducation, lacrosse seems to be the only girls sport that involved competition against other schools. While this team photo includes no uniforms and many girls had no prior experience playing lacrosse, some of our early alumnae confirm that the team included multiple talented athletes who helped assist the rest of the team.

1972

Laurel Abusamra Joins the Faculty

Arriving in the fall of 1972, Laurel Abusamra became the first of multiple long-serving women on the faculty. Laurel taught French and worked with her husband David as dorm parents in Boynton, which was one of two girls dorms prior to the construction of Nannie B.

1972

Studying in the Library

It did not take long for the academic aspect of coeducation to feel natural. In this photo, Deborah Eames '73 is studying with one of her male classmates.

1973

First Female Graduates

The class of 1973 was the first modern class to include female graduates. In this photo taken during the graduation ceremony in 1973, Corrine Bosch receives her diploma. 

1977

Shirley French Named First Female Trustee

In January 1977, Shirley French, P'76, P'80 joined the Board of Trustees. French became known both for her contributions to the original French Student Center construction and the 2020 renovation. Serving on the trustees' Buildings & Grounds Committee, she also was a major force behind the inclusion of archival space in the Pescosolido Library.

1977

Heather Blair Wins the Morse Flag Award

Only six years after girls were admitted to GDA, Heather Blair became the first girl to win the Morse Flag award. Since the first class of female graduates in 1973, the flag has been awarded to 27 girls. 

1979

First Girls ISL Championship

1979 marked a significant year in GDA athletics. The varsity girls lacrosse team became our first girls team to win an ISL championship. The team included two future inductees of the Athletic Hall of Fame, Sue Perry '81 and Julia Duff '79.

1985

Long-Serving Faculty Women

By 1985, there were 15 women on the faculty, four of whom (Elizabeth Ruhl, Lynda Fitzgerald, Kathy Guy, Laurel Abusamra) went on to teach at Govs for more than 35 years.

1988

Janet Adams-Wall is Appointed Director of College Counseling

After having worked at GDA since 1986, Janet Adams-Wall became the first woman to direct a department. While other women such as Mary Ellen Karin, Joy Mulligan, and Dorothy Ogden served as assistant and associate deans and directors, Janet was the first to be given the title of "Director."

1988

First Female Student Body President Elected

Seventeen years after the admission of girls, the females on campus finally had full representation in school leadership. Lisa Sweeney '88 was elected student body president in the spring of 1987.

1989

Dedication of Nannie B. Phillips Dormitory

Completed in 1985 and dedicated in 1989, Nannie B. Phillips became the first dorm on campus specifically constructed as a girls dormitory. The building was named for the wife of former trustee James Duncan Phillips.

1989

Lynda Fitzgerald Becomes First Female Dean of Students

Having already established herself as a Latin teacher, a girls hockey coach, and an Associate Dean of Students, Lynda Fitzgerald became the first female Dean of Students in the fall of 1989.

1991

First Female Athletic Director Appointed

Sue Perry '81 joined the GDA faculty in 1990 as a teacher in the history department. The following year, she was named Athletic Director, making Perry the first woman to hold the position. As a student here, she was the first student ever (male or female) to earn 12 varsity letters during her four years as a student.

1992

First Female Academic Department Chair Appointed

In the fall of 1992, Elaine White became the first woman named as the chair of an academic department at GDA. Elaine held the position of English Department Chair until 2000, when she became Academic Dean, a position she held until her departure in 2021.

2003

Emeritas Status

2003 marked the first year that the Board of Trustees awarded emeritas status to former employees. In addition to including the vast majority of the "Old Guard," the Board included some of the female staff from the Old Guard era who worked behind the scenes to make the school run. These included Sylvia Lunt, appointed in 1944, and Louise Lovell (pictured), appointed in 1940.

2015

Transition to One Dress Code

During the 2015-2016 school year, the Academy decided to switch from having different dress code requirements for boys and girls to having one uniform set of guidelines. This was a long way from when faculty member Marshall Clunie announced, "Boys will wear jackets and ties and girls will wear-- whatever it is that girls wear when boys wear jackets and ties."

NEWS