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 invited 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.
CELEBRATING 50 years of women at govs
The Academy hosted a series of Zoom events this winter featuring Govs alumnae from different industries, who shared their stories, challenges, and experiences in conversations moderated by Govs faculty.
January 17 - Environmental Science: moderated by Lisa Borgatti P'26
January 24 - Writing & Journalism: moderated by Maud Hamovit P'09,'13
January 31 - Athletics: moderated by Bert McLain P'07,'09
February 7 - Arts: moderated by Belle Struck '94
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!
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.
Elizabeth Ruhl, Govs Faculty
Beverly Farms, MA
For me, being an advisor is one of the most important jobs at Govs. It is what I look forward to most.
Linda Miller '79
New Milford, CT
The sports program was huge for me. I hadn't really participated in sports up to that point because there weren't many options for girls.
Pam Post '75
I'm so grateful for the writing skills I learned at Govs. I based my career on my ability to communicate and write really well.
Keara Thomas '07
When I started, I was the only girl in my class to join, and I was joining an undefeated, older team. All of them were so warm and welcoming.
Laurel E. Abusamra, Faculty Emerita
The friendly, serious, ever-challenging academic and social community into which she had entered allowed her the freedom to demonstrate her talents.
Meredith McPherron ‘85
For me, the academics felt very personalized and attentive because I was allowed to extend my curiosity and dive into topics, yet the faculty were always there to help in areas of struggle and cheer for me where I excelled.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
Phebe Miner Named First Female Trustee
In April 1972, Phebe Miner P'69, joined the Board of Trustees as the first female member. Miner was also the first female committee chair, leading the Long Range Planning Committee during an important transition point for the Academy.
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.
Shirley French Led Effort to Preserve School's History
After joining the Board of Trustees in January 1977, Shirley French P’76, GP’00 became known for both her contributions to and leadership of the Buildings & Grounds Committee. She was a major force behind the inclusion of archival space in the Pescosolido Library and the preservation of historically significant campus buildings like the Mansion House.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 marked the first year that the Board of Trustees awarded emeritae 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.
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."
A Legacy HonoredRead More about A Legacy Honored
That Kind of Character: A History of Resilience & Determination in Govs Girls AthleticsRead More about That Kind of Character: A History of Resilience & Determination in Govs Girls Athletics
Taking Action with Jackie Downing ‘98Read More about Taking Action with Jackie Downing ‘98