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Women to Inspire You: Frances K. Mertes

April 10, 2012

Foremost dear readers, I must make my amends to you for being so late on this update!  I shall be reliable to you in delivering wonderful content each week once again.  Now…for our very first

Spotlight on Amazing Women:

Frances K. Mertes

Frances K. Mertes was a woman from Wisconsin who is remarkable to me.  In the year 1912, she did an almost unthinkable thing for a woman in her time and graduated from Marquette University with a degree in Pharmacy.   She graduated as an Assistant Registered Pharmacist and worked for a number of years until her death (cerca 1925).

According to Wikipedia, Marquette University was the first catholic college in the world to go co-ed in 1909.  If Ms. Mertes took four years for her education, then she was part of the first entering class of women in Marquette.

Ms. Mertes went on to marry a man by the name of Wright and had two children–Fred and Frances Marie.  She died at a young age of bacterial pneumonia leaving her son and young daughter (only 4 years old) in the care of their father.  Her daughter went on to live a full life–though she aspired to become a doctor, her father forbade her and she became a secretary.  Her daughter though, went on to pursue a higher education and now I, her grandaughter am following in the footsteps of my Great Grandmother, Frances K. Mertes, and pursuing a career in the sciences.

Family legend has it that, Frances Mertes was the first woman to graduate from Marquette University.  In the yellowed copy of her graduation program, she is the only female listed.  Was the she the only woman in the whole school or only in the pharmacy department?  I don’t know but it’s an interesting question!

Just think, she did this before women even had the right to vote!


Some background on co-ed higher education:

According to Wikipedia again, Oberlin was the first college to have mixed-sex classes starting in 1844.  The first black woman to graduate from college was in 1862! Before slavery was abolished!  Her name was Mary Jane Patterson and she also graduated from Oberlin.  It wasn’t until 1870 that Cornell admitted it’s first female student.

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