Ada Howard is best known for becoming the first president of Wellesley College, but perhaps her most shining moment came nearly a decade earlier.
In 1866, she was a faculty member and principal of the Female Collegiate Department of Knox College in Illinois. She’d been serving as principal only a short while when she resigned, in 1867, because of "personal difficulties" with President William Curtis.These difficulties sprung from Howard's belief that the women attending Knox should have access to the same courses as the male students, and should be allowed to take those courses alongside the men. President Curtis disagreed. Fed up with this conflict, and the fact that female seminary instructors received lower pay than other college faculty, Howard resigned.Howard was "well-liked by the students, well-regarded by the faculty, and respected by the trustees" of the college. But even so, the campus reaction to her resignation was unexpected. All but six students boycotted classes that day, demanding that President Curtis resign. He did so the following afternoon. Howard was reinstated as principal of the Female Collegiate Department, as well as a professor of moral philosophy, rhetoric, and literary criticism.