Celebrating 100 Years of Women at NC State University



Lucille Thomson of Wilmington was the first woman to enroll as a regular student. She majored in electrical engineering but did not graduate. She married Ryland W. Olive (Class of 1922).

The October 1921 issue of the Alumni News announced the arrival of Lucille Thomson as NC State's first "Co-ed" and 1,000th student to register (Alumni News, vol. IV, no. 12, October 1921).


Photo of Lucille Thomson.

Lucille Thomson
1923 Agromeck
University Archives, NCSU Libraries



The minutes of the executive committee of the Board of Trustees meeting on November 24, 1926 stated, "In accordance with the recommendation of the President to the General Board in June, which recommendation was received by the Board without objection, the Committee directed that women who complete work for a degree offered by the institution be graduated. This action was taken as a result of a motion by Mr. Boyd, and seconded by Mr. Gardner, and unanimously carried."


The first degrees awarded to women at NC State: Jane McKimmon, B.S. in business administration; Charlotte Nelson, B.S. in education; Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough, M.S. in chemistry. Yarbrough was also the first woman to earn a master's degree at NC State. McKimmon, Nelson, and Yarbrough graduated on June 7, 1927.

Mary E. Yarbrough was the daughter of Louis T. Yarbrough (Class of 1893). She graduated from Meredith College before earning her M.S. degree at NC State. She continued her studies at Duke University, where she received a Ph.D. in 1941. Yarbrough spent her entire career at Meredith as a professor and the head of the Department of Chemistry and Physics from 1941 to 1972. Dr. Yarbrough, also became the first woman to serve as an officer in the General Alumni Association of NC State

Photo of Mary Yarbrough.

This photograph of Mary E. Yarbrough was taken at her graduation from Meredith College.



Charlotte Nelson was the daughter of Dean Nelson of the School of Textiles. She graduated from NC State and Meredith College at the same time. Her dual graduation attracted attention from newspapers across the nation.


Photo of Charlotte Nelson.

Charlotte Nelson Papers
Special Collections Department,
NCSU Libraries



Photo of Jane McKimmon.Jane McKimmon had worked for some time as the state home demonstration agent. She attended Peace Institute from 1880 to 1885 and Simmons College. Her previous college credits were combined with short courses to qualify her for graduation. She received an M.A. in sociology in 1929.

McKimmon's Master's thesis "Factors Which Influence Membership and Attendance in a Home Demonstration Club."

Shortly after McKimmon, Nelson, and Yarbrough graduated, Eliza L. Baucom received a B.S. in high school teaching.


Virginia F. Harris was the first woman to earn an M.S. degree in rural sociology.

Lillian P. Wallace was the first woman to earn an M.S. degree in education. She went on to publish several historical works on politics in Europe.

By 1928 there were twenty-one women enrolled at NC State.


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