Where Did Kamala Harris and Other Influential Women Attend College?
March is International Women's Month, thirty-one whole days dedicated to celebrating women's achievements, which makes it the perfect time to talk about how far women have come in higher ed, and to highlight where a few of the most influential women of 2021 went to college. It's been 180 years since 1840, when Catherine Brewer became the first woman in the United States to earn a college degree from Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, an honor she owed in part to the fact that her last name began with B and diplomas were handed out in alphabetical order. Today, women make up 55 percent of undergraduate and graduate students in the United States. As high school seniors all over the country wait with bated breath to hear back about admissions decisions, let's take a look at the schools that five of this year's most talked-about women chose for college.
Meghan Markle was a double-major at Northwestern University
Northwestern graduate Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussez, in New Zealand in 2018.
Reception hosted by the Governor-General, Government House. October 28, 2018 in Wellington, New Zealand. Photo by Mark Tantrum
Before she was Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where she double-majored in theater and international studies — a fitting combination for her life now. While at Northwestern, she was a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and active in the Glass Slipper Society, a charitable organization that donated gowns to high school students who couldn't afford dresses for prom.
Bumble-founder Whitney Wolfe Herd graduated from Southern Methodist University
Bumble founder and SMU graduate Whitney Wolfe Herd at TechCrunch in 2018
Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch
Whitney Wolfe Herd has been in the headlines lately for becoming the youngest self-made woman billionaire when her company, dating app Bumble, went public on February 10th. Thirty-one year old Wolfe Herd made history another way that day, when she rang the NASDAQ's opening bell while balancing her one-year old son on her hip. In 2011, Wolfe Herd graduated from Southern Methodist University's Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, where she majored in International Studies. She received SMU's distinguished alumni award in 2019, and now sits on the executive board at SMU's Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.
Reese Witherspoon majored in English Literature at Stanford University
Former Stanford student and actress Reese Witherspoon at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival.
Reese Witherspoon made movie history in her role as Harvard Law Student Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, but in real life the actress, producer, and entrepreneur studied English Literature at Stanford University. Today, Witherspoon uses her love of literature to choose books for her popular book club and her production company, Hello Sunshine, which focuses on adapting the work of woman writers into movies and shows that celebrate women, including the movie version of Cheryl Strayed's "Wild" and the series adaptation of Celeste Ng's "Little Fires Everywhere." In 2017, Reese paid a surprise visit to her alma mater Stanford. She even knocked on the door of her old dorm room and snapped a picture for her Instagram with the shocked current resident, a student named Caitlyn.
Oprah Winfrey received a full-ride to Tennessee State University
Oprah received her degree from Tennessee State University, where she later donated $2 dollars.
There is perhaps no better example of a woman who has risen to new heights than Oprah Winfrey. Oprah attended Tennessee State University on a full-scholarship, and last year, she donated $2 million to the school to help families that were struggling. The Oprah Winfrey Scholars Program has also donated around $25 million dollars over the past 30 years to Morehouse College, providing scholarships for 700 students. Sounds like that scholarship paid off.
Vice President Kamala Harris chose Howard University for college partly because of it's notable alumKamala Harris attended Howard University and UC Hastings Law By Office of Senator Kamala Harris - This file has been extracted from another file: Kamala Harris official photo.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64197605
Vice President Kamala Harris grew up in a higher-ed family. Her father was an economist at Stanford and her mother was a graduate student at University of California, Berkeley and later taught at McGill University in Canada. But when it was Harris' turn to choose a school, it was important to her to complete her college education at a historically-black college or university (HBCU). She chose Howard University in Washington, D.C., making her the first person on a presidential ticket to have attended an HBCU. She later received a law degree from the UC Hastings Law. In her book, "The Truths We Told", Harris says one of the reasons she chose Howard for her undergraduate degree is because of it's distinguished alum; Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall attended Howard University Law, and the renowned writers Toni Morrison and Zora Neale Hurston attended Howard too.
Did an amazing woman influence your college choices? Join the conversation here to tell us about her!