Maryland’s Leading Lady
A Century Ago, an Outgoing Entomology Major Became UMD’s First Four-Year Female Grad
One hundred years ago, when women in the United States were granted the right to vote, a female Terp was also blazing a trail.
In Spring 1920, entomology major Elizabeth Hook became the first woman to earn a degree for four years of study at Maryland State College, renamed that year the University of Maryland. While other women studied for two years or graduated after taking some classes at Maryland and others elsewhere, Hook was the first woman to enter the institution from high school and spend four consecutive years on campus.
“She was our first real co-ed,” Adele H. Stamp, then UMD’s dean of women, wrote in Hook’s obituary in the 1950 alumni magazine.
Between “madly chasing bugs” during her studies, as her senior page in the yearbook read, Hook reported for the student paper, Maryland State Review, served as class secretary, helped form the institution’s first sorority chapter, Sigma Delta, and was a member of the Baltimore City Club, student grange and agricultural society.
While her suit-clad classmates noted that the honor of becoming the institution’s first four-year female graduate “could not rest upon more worthy shoulders,” Lisbeth, as they fondly called her, surely faced her fair share of challenges in the classroom, said Anne Turkos, university archivist emerita.
“Many men still felt that women had no place in higher education,” she said, “and Elizabeth had chosen to study the science of entomology, a non-traditional academic path for women, which probably made it more difficult for her in terms of the attitudes she encountered from her classmates and professors.”
After persevering to earn her degree, Hook worked as a teacher at Hyattsville High School and later married Franklin D. Day, another Terp. Their son, Franklin Jr., was the first UMD student to have two alumni as parents.
Hook’s journey led the way for fellow female students—by her senior year, 21 other women were enrolled at Maryland—and has served as an example for generations to come.
“By her courage, friendliness, dignity, and ability she cleared the path for other women to follow,” female students wrote of Hook on May Day in 1937. “To her we pay honor and esteem, and time can never erase from our grateful memories the contribution she has made.”
University Archives contributed to this story.