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Pioneer Women:
Ms. Gail Williams-Glasser and JHU's First Class of Women


Gail Williams-Glasser was born in Camden, New Jersey in 1952. Until age five, she was raised in Richmond, Virginia by her parents, Irvin and Magnolia Williams. In 1957, the moved to Baltimore’s Forest Park neighborhood, which was predominantly Jewish at that time. She graduated from Western High School, an all-female school. And in 1970, she became one of the first three black, female undergraduates to enroll at Johns Hopkins University. That also was the first year that women were admitted as undergraduates at the university as well.

She had dreamed of attending college since she was a child. But that did not seem like a real possibility, since most working class females usually went directly into the workforce after graduation from high school. This exclusive group that she now joined gave her a feeling of newfound confidence, a feeling that she actually belonged and it was okay for females to attend college. Being a female among many males, to her, was frightening, yet exciting at the same time.

Ms. Williams-Glasser’s times here at Hopkins were, as she put it, fun. She managed to avoid adversity whereas others faced it on a constant basis. She started on the path to becoming her own. She was witness to very influential movements in history, namely the Women’s Movement and the Black Power Movement. Connections were made, opportunities were seized, ideas were learned, all of which Gail felt would not have been possible at another university.

 Ms. Gail Williams-Glasser 
(photo from the collection of Dr. Leslie Farrington)

Coupled with the fact that she attended the University of Maryland graduate school for Social Work, Williams-Glasser believes she a had an advantage over her counterparts that helped her get to where she is today. Hopkins has influenced her personal life too, allowing her to meet her son’s father, Robert Dottin, a former professor in the Biology Department. This was made possible through an alumni function, the kind of event that Williams-Glasser frequents regularly. Aside from being a member of the Hopkins Alumni Association and the Society of Black Alumni, Williams-Glasser is also a member of the exclusive Hopkins Club, a club that requires all of its members to be Hopkins’ graduates. And the education, of course, she gained here was among the best in the country. Simply put, if she had it to do again, Williams-Glasser says she would do it all the exactly the same way.  

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