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Hill House, shown here in April of 1970, was originally known as Hill Hall and was an all-female dormitory. [Bruce Dichtor/DP File Photo]

The average incoming freshman woman may not have to think twice about living on campus, and most don't even care about coed arrangements. But throughout Penn's history, housing has been a significant battleground for women.

Since the first official residence for women, the Wood Memorial Nurses Home on the southwest corner of 34th and Spruce streets, opened in 1886, living on campus has served to both isolate and integrate women into University life, to both segregate them from and bond them with their male peers.

Women made the final foray into campus housing in 1970 when the Quadrangle, formerly occupied only by men, allowed about 100 women to live there.

One of these women was Chris Hikawa, a sophomore in 1970.

"Sometimes we were almost sorry that we had moved into the Quad," she says. "It was loud and dirty, we felt like we had moved onto the set of Animal House."

And apparently the women's presence caused quite a stir.

"It was like being an animal in a zoo," Hikawa recalls. "The men would walk by your room and just look at you like, 'What are you doing here?' It was like being an alien from Mars."

But the women who had been previously denied a spot in the Quad envied the hallowed ground.

"The men in the Quad had the best dorm rooms -- old and full of tradition and roomy," 1969 College for Women graduate Laura Sunstein Murphy says.

Previous to 1970, female students had three options for on-campus living -- women's dormitories, at home or with their husbands. The Women's Residence Hall, the last hall the University constructed for women, was built in 1960 and was renamed Hill House in 1965.

College for Women graduate Judy Berkowitz and her friends were living in another dormitory when the Women's Residence Hall opened. "When the residence opened we were so excited," she says. Berkowitz and friends later moved into the new dorm. "We thought we were living in a palace."

The first women allowed into Hill House came from University President Judith Rodin's class, the Class of 1966, and classmate Connie Abrams said facilities in the house were a little sparse.

"When me and my mother came, we started hanging up all my clothes, and then we turned to put stuff in the drawers, and there were no drawers," Abrams said. "We had to go all the way down to the Wanamaker Building to buy one of those stands with the plastic pull-out drawers."

Hill Hall came on the heels of just four female residences, with two -- the Wood Memorial Nurses Home and the housing for female Graduate School students -- open for habitation before the 20th century even arrived.

Penn's second residence hall for women opened in 1890 solely for women in the Graduate School. The dorm was a two building complex located on the southeast corner of 34th and Walnut streets, the current location of Bennett Hall.

By 1912, the University Trustees were planning a third residence, the Women's Dormitory, on South 34th Street, which opened a year later for women enrolled in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

The final addition to women's housing before 1960 was Sergeant Hall, which provided 175 female students with living and dining facilities, and served as the home for several female student organizations.

At the time of its opening, Hill House was well-fortified, complete with a moat surrounding the exterior and an entrance guarded by huge wooden doors. Residents had to sign in each time they entered.

"There was a huge pit in the middle -- we never saw anything like it -- but when you came in all the boys would lean over the edge of the pit and they would all look at you," she says. "It was like a meat market."

"There were maybe six males to every female at the time, so we were quite a protected minority, a sort of college within a college," 1966 College for Women graduate Flora Cornfield says. "But no matter what, it was fun."

And despite the fortified nature of the house, Berkowitz says female students who lived on campus were much more a part of University life than those who did not.

"I had lots of friends who were commuters because they weren't able to get a room," she says. "They just didn't feel connected to Penn. Living here definitely made us feel connected."

Women in the 1960s, though, as Cornfield is quick to point out, didn't need as much access to extracurricular activities as they do today because they weren't allowed into a lot of activities, such as many sports.

At that time, Penn women were still forced to wear skirts or dresses to class, and in the residence halls an 11 p.m. curfew was enforced.

"Every Friday and Saturday night we and our beloveds would line up smooching around the moat," Berkowitz says. "I think some of the other Penn girls were jealous of us."

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