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The Ezra Files: Walking the walk

Ezra Cornell demonstrated his belief in practical higher education for women by enrolling his daughter, Mary Emily, at the newly founded Vassar College in 1866. Cornell accompanied his daughter to Poughkeepsie, where he inspected the Vassar facilities.

In correspondence with Henry Wells, a founder of the Wells Fargo Express Co., Cornell urged Wells to build his proposed seminary for girls in Ithaca. In a haughty response dismissive of Cornell's suggestion, Wells shot down Cornell's idea for a separate women's college and built Wells College in Aurora, N.Y., a safe distance from the innovative ideas (then, as now, regarded in some quarters as radical) being propagated in Ithaca.

Finally, in 1872, Sophie P. Fleming became the first woman to matriculate at Cornell University -- nearly a century before some Ivies admitted women.

Adapted by George Lowery from Morris Bishop's "A History of Cornell," Carol Kammen's "Cornell, Glorious to View" and Philip Dorf's "The Builder."

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