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Pioneer Women: Shirley Dilsworth and JHU's First Class of Women

Complete bio | audio | researcher

Shirley Dilsworth was born in Newark, NJ in 1952. Her father died shortly after she was born. She was raised in New Jersey until the age of eight, when her family moved to Baltimore, MD.  She graduated from Western High School, an all-female school.  In 1970, Shirley was one of three black women to enroll at JHU as freshmen. The year 1970 marked the first year that women were admitted as undergraduates.

Shirley was excited when Johns Hopkins University solicited her to apply for a spot in the undergraduate class.  She was very focused during her years at JHU. She was a social and behavioral sciences major, with intentions of attending law school. Shirley was a commuter to campus, since there were no housing provisions for females at the time.  She also held a part-time job after school, so her presence and involvement on campus was very limited.  Shirley’s peers described her as very focused and self-assured, as a woman who already had a formulated identity of what she wanted out of college.

Shirley Dilsworth

Shirley Dilsworth

Today, Ms. Dilsworth resides in the State of Washington and is the Divisional Vice-President of Human Resources for Nordstrom’s Credit Division and Corporate Center. She is very active in her community, serving on several Boards of Directors, including for Campfire Girls, and Planned Parenthood Western Washington.
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