Firsts & Founders: Early Women in Drama at Yale


A glance back into the archives shows us that women have been students, faculty, and staff in the Yale School of Drama since its beginnings as the Department of Drama in 1925. Championed by founding chair George Pierce Baker, women made up one-third of the first classes in the Department of Drama and one of the four first teaching faculty. Women have been involved in all aspects of theater production at Yale from the earliest days, and they have brought their talents to teaching, writing, and creating theater around the world. This exhibition, drawn from materials in Arts Library Special Collections, Manuscripts & Archives, and the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, highlights just a few of those first women.

Image of Virginia Lee Comer with text overlay: Firsts & Founders Early Women in Drama at Yale January 23 - May 19, 2020 Yale University Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library

Exhibition logo featuring Virginia Lee Comer in a production photograph for Andromache, 1931

Many of the images in the following pages are parts of larger sets, especially play programs. Click on an image of interest to see more views of the object.
Diagonal view of wooden exhibition bases with glass covers and exhibition poster featuring Virginia Lee Comer mounted above on the wall.

Firsts & Founders physical exhibition view in Haas Arts Library, 2020

Lindsay King, Associate Director for Access and Research Services at Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library curated the eponymous physical exhibition, which opened on January 13, 2020. Access to the exhibition was impacted by COVID-19 pandemic closures. Firsts & Founders was part of the larger 50WomenAtYale150 initiative celebrating 150 years of women students at the university and 50 years of coeducation in Yale College.

This online Omeka adaptation of the original exhibition was designed by K. Sarah Ostrach, 2020-21 Kress Fellow in Art Librarianship, and Kathy Winsor Bohlman, Archivist, Arts Library Special Collections.