Since its founding in 1889, Barnard has been a distinguished leader in higher education, offering a rigorous liberal arts foundation to young women whose curiosity, drive, and exuberance set them apart. Ours is a diverse intellectual community in a unique learning environment that provides the best of all worlds: small, intimate classes in a collaborative liberal arts setting dedicated to the advancement of women with the vast resources of Columbia University just steps away—in the heart of vibrant and electric New York City.
On our leafy four-acre campus on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, our world-class faculty of teacher-scholars educates more than 2,500 inspired and intrepid undergraduate women—women who, as a matter of course, have gone on to achieve great things. Throughout our history, Barnard graduates have made their mark as leaders in the arts, business, government, and science, and as activists for causes too numerous to name.
Over one hundred and twenty-five years ago, Barnard was the first college in New York City—and one of the few in the world—where women could receive the same liberal arts education available to men. Today, Barnard is one of the most selective academic institutions in the United States and remains devoted to empowering extraordinary women. With the unparalleled opportunities of our cosmopolitan setting, the strength of our academic programs, and our ongoing commitment to diversity, we continue to do what we have done from the beginning with a keen eye to the future.Barnard women change the world and the way we think about it.
The idea was bold for its time.
Founded in 1889, Barnard was the only college in New York City, and one of the few in the nation, where women could receive the same rigorous and challenging education available to men. The College was named after educator, mathematician, and tenth president of Columbia College, Frederick A.P. Barnard, who argued unsuccessfully for the admission of women to Columbia University. The school's founding, however, is largely due to the rallying efforts of Annie Nathan Meyer, a student and writer who was equally dissatisfied with Columbia's stance, and staunchly committed to the education of women. She joined forces with a small group of her peers to petition the University Trustees for an affiliated self-sustaining liberal arts women’s college, and in two years accomplished what she had set out to do.
First Barnard location on Madison Ave.
Inside 343 Madison Ave.
The first Barnard class met in a rented brownstone at 343 Madison Avenue, just blocks from Grand Central Station; there was a faculty of six and 14 students in the School of Arts. Nine years later, the college moved to its present site on Morningside Heights. One of the original Seven Sisters, Barnard was, from the beginning, a place that took women seriously and challenged them intellectually.
In 1900, Barnard was included in the educational system of Columbia University with provisions unique among women's colleges: it was governed by its own trustees, faculty, and dean, and was responsible for its own endowment and facilities, while sharing instruction, the libraries, and the degree of the university. Somewhat ironically, when Columbia College finally went co-ed in 1983, as Frederick A.P. Barnard had wished nearly a century before, one might have thought Barnard would easily be subsumed. Instead, then President Ellen Futter fought for the College to remain independent and worked toward a new and lasting agreement with Columbia in light of their decision to admit women.
Today, under President Sian Beilock, Barnard’s place in higher education is undeniably sound and strong. Over the course of 128 years and twelve great women leaders—from winning the right to hire our own faculty in 1900 through the pivotal protests of 1968, to the historic admission of transgender women in 2016 and the opening of The Milstein Center in 2018—Barnard continues to flourish and excel.