Women didn’t always outnumber men in Ryerson’s classrooms. The first graduating class of the technical training institute in 1950 had only 30 women out of 190 students. They were entering programs like business, food technology and interior design with the determination to challenge male-dominated classrooms and campus arenas like the student press and athletics.
For women’s history month, The Ryersonian took a look into Rye’s archives to find some of our first female leaders.
Here are a few profiles of pioneer women on campus in Ryerson’s first few years.
Gloria E. (Betty) Jackson
Jackson was a costume design student but also dabbled in writing at The Ryersonian as one of the student paper’s first female staff writers. She spent her first year at Ryerson supervising women’s athletics and became more involved in student affairs in her second year when she became vice-president of Ryerson’s first student council.
In October 1949 one of Ryerson’s early student papers called The Little Daily referred to Jackson’s election as “bucking a male tradition and male trajectory.”
Robinson was the first woman to graduate from the Interior Design program in 1950. She was featured in several Ryersonian issues for being the only woman in an architecture program of 25 that involved shop work and drafting classes.
Her story was the first in a series of articles highlighting women in the workplace that was initiated by Betty Freeman (see below). The headline read: “Lady draughtsman can wield T-square as ably as any male”. She was also crowned Ryerson’s first campus queen and won a silver medal upon graduation for all-round proficiency.
Freeman was an athlete and a globetrotter who lived in many parts of the world including the Middle East and Eastern Europe. She was a frequent Ryersonian staff writer and launched the first women’s issues series called “Women in the Industry.”
Freeman later went on to start a women’s issues column in The Ryersonian that covered women’s athletics on campus as well as other topics. She had aspirations to become a journalist and graduated in 1951.