With its circular shape and glossy marble surface, the Women’s Table is a focal point of Yale’s campus. In the warmer months, it doubles as a fountain with an ever-glistening film of water covering the dark stone until it flows over the sharp, inverted edges. Designed by Yale alumna Maya Lin, it was erected in 1993. With its design and location the memorial exists, as the artist herself put it, “between art and architecture evoking a sense of community and [family] gathering.” It is an homage to and a commemoration of female students at Yale. The numbers spiraling out from its center mark the number of female students enrolled at Yale since the university’s opening – the many zeros a purposeful reminder of the many years Yale did not admit women. To the Yale College student in 2022, the Women’s Table is woven into Yale’s campus as are the buildings in its immediate surroundings.

However, what we take for granted today was a long time coming. Although Yale admitted female students earlier than some peers, opening its doors to its first female art students in 1869 — the same year that Wyoming became the first U.S. state or territory to grant women the right to vote — it would take another 50 years of struggling until in 1919 the U.S. Congress finally granted women the right to vote in the United States and another century until Yale officially enrolled female students. Until 1912, the News’ rare articles on these very struggles were indifferent at best and biased at worst, suggesting a student body unconcerned with the societal changes of the time. The News covered small moments of progress such as President Roosevelt’s interest in the condition of women in the U.S. or the passing of local laws in favor of granting partial custody to women or allowing them some financial freedom. Interestingly, developments of first wave feminism in other countries received significant attention; the News included names of individual supporters and activists. In the YDN issue from February 14, 1903 a lecture given by M. Mabilleau of Paris detailed the position of women in France. The article provides historical and cultural background on the activism of the time. However, there is no mention of Finland becoming the first European country to grant women the right to vote in 1907. 

In two issues from February and April 1906, short reports matter-of-factly record developments in women’s fight for the right to vote — mentioning the term suffragette – also suffragist – in connection with women’s rights activists in the States for the first time in the YDN. However, on March 21, 1907 an article titled “Women Attempt to Raid Parliament” was published in the YDN. The article’s title and its content show disdain for the progressive efforts to give women equal rights. Though the piece noted the movement’s increasing numbers, it presented the demonstrations in a childlike, ridiculing manner by calling “the only result some amusing disorderly scuffles.” Yet again, on Feb. 17, 1908, another short entry reported on a suffragette demonstration. It passed no judgment, but painted the women’s claims as doctrines and beliefs. The YDN issue from May 15, 1915 featured a small report titled The Awakening of Women in which the demonstration was described as partaking of the “nature of a disorganized procession.” The next entry, about a year and a half later, highlighted the negative sides of the movement by reporting on a misdeed by a suffragette in England. 

Although Yale itself followed a progressive education model, the YDN’s sparse coverage of the movement focused primarily on its negative side of women’s fight to vote in America. The ridiculing tone apparent in the News’ few entries that covered the movement reveal how the YDN paid little to no heed to women’s rights movement or how it saw – to put it in the News’ own words – “the suffragette question [ … as a] rather ominous [one].