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Elga Ruth Wasserman

Having experienced the sexism rampant in higher education herself, Elga Ruth Wasserman guided Yale through the difficult process of becoming a co-ed university. Wasserman and her family fled Germany in 1936 and settled in Long Island. She graduated Smith in 1945 and earned a PhD in organic chemistry from Harvard in 1949 despite her advisor dropping her when he discovered she was engaged (believing a married woman couldn’t be serious about her career). She took part-time teaching and research jobs while raising her three children, then served as assistant dean of the Yale Graduate School from 1962–1968, when she was given the status of dean but the title of “special assistant” to avoid upsetting male deans. She navigated the political minefields of making Yale co-educational, from recruiting students to securing housing, and in 1969 oversaw the admission of 588 women. She stepped down in 1972 to avoid becoming the sole advocate for women on campus, and went back to school herself, earning a JD from Yale in 1976. After clerking for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, she ran a family law practice until 1995, and in 2000 published a study on women scientists’ careers, The Door in the Dream: Conversations with Eminent Women in Science.

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Elga Wasserman
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Elga Wasserman.
Courtesy of Elga Wasserman.
Date of Birth
June 30, 1924
Place of Birth
Berlin
Date of Death
November 11, 2014

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Elga Ruth Wasserman." (Viewed on December 12, 2017) <https://jwa.org/people/wasserman-elga>.

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