The Challenge of Residency at Sage College, 1900s–1920s

In 1929, Pauline Davis and Ruth Peyton were denied residency in Sage College. The Dean of Women, R. Louise Fitch, made the decision, and President Livingston Farrand (1921-1937) upheld it. Their actions contrasted with Cornell’s “open door” policy, which called for decisions about residency to be based on merit, not on race, religion, or creed. In previous decades, African-American women such as Jessie Fauset (Class of 1905) had lived at Sage College. In 1911, Farrand’s predecessor, Jacob Gould Schurman (1892-1920), had ruled in favor of admitting two African-American women to Sage College after 269 white women students had petitioned against them. Schurman declared, “University doors must be open to all students irrespective of race or color or creed...” By the time the decision was made, however, the two African-American women had already left Cornell.

Sara Winifred Brown, Class of 1897.

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