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Women in the History of UNC


This exhibition is curated by the students in HIST 179H, a Spring 2020 undergraduate seminar in the History Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Using a thematic approach, the exhibition explores women’s experiences as students, workers, faculty wives, and community members on our campus as they were shaped by race, class, age, and sexuality.

The history of sex and gender relations at UNC-Chapel Hill has been contested and uneven since 1897, when a half-dozen female students first joined entering undergraduate classes of more than eight hundred. Women are now the majority of undergraduate students at UNC-Chapel Hill and have made deep inroads into the university’s faculty and administration, but their earliest demands for full inclusion on their own terms are still elusive.

Recovering women’s contested place at UNC, this exhibition illuminates their progress, resilience, and creativity, but it also highlights the inequalities that remain.

Katherine Turk
Associate Professor of History

A note from Wilson Special Collections Library

This exhibition is an outcome of the HIST 179H: Women in the History of UNC-Chapel Hill class, led by Dr. Turk in the Department of History at UNC-Chapel Hill. It came together under the direction of North Carolina Research and Instruction Librarian, Sarah Carrier, and Special Collections Exhibits Coordinator, Rachel Reynolds, with the assistance of Humanities for the Public Good Graduate Fellow, Lara Lookabaugh. Graphic design is by Alison Duncan, adapted for the web by Aleah Howell.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 emergency and the decision of the University to reduce operations, the Wilson Special Collections Library closed on March 18 and transitioned entirely to remote consultations and services. As a result, the physical Climbing the Hill: Women in the History of UNC exhibition, which was due to open on April 23, was postponed and this online version was created to celebrate the work of the students before the spring 2020 semester ended.

In March 2023, this exhibition was updated to include "Voices from the Archives: Climbing the Hill," a digital performance by the PlayMakers Repertory Company in collaboration with the University Archives in Wilson Special Collections Library.