Our History

About Wesleyan

As the first college in the world chartered to grant degrees to women, Wesleyan was founded on December 23, 1836; classes began January 7, 1839 with 90 students; our first baccalaureate degree was awarded on July 16, 1840, to Catherine E. Brewer (Benson), first in alphabetical order in a graduating class of 11. How did our first class graduate so quickly? Many in this first group of students had already completed two years of work at the nearby Clinton Female Seminary under Professor Thomas Bogue Slade.

Other Wesleyan “Firsts”

  • First Alumnae Association, founded 1859.
  • First sororities, Alpha Delta Pi (begun as Adelphean Society, 1851), and Phi Mu (begun as Philomathean Society, 1852).
  • First professorship in English Literature to be established in America (1844, held by the Reverend Josiah Fletcher Andrew).
  • First formal inauguration of a college president in Georgia (Dr. Dice Robins Anderson, 1932).
  • First Phi Kappa Phi chapter at a college in Georgia (1969; chapters had previously been established at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Georgia).
  • First Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Partnership Award for Campus-Community Collaboration awarded in November 2000 to the college for "Aunt Maggie's Kitchen Table" resource center; accepted by executive director and Wesleyan professor, Catherine Meeks.


Some “Firsts” Among Wesleyan’s Alumnae

  • First woman in Georgia to receive the Doctor of Medicine degree (Mary McKay, class of 1878).
  • First woman elected to the Tennessee legislature (Sara Ruth Frazier, class of 1894).
  • First woman to argue a case before the Georgia Supreme Court (Viola Ross Napier, class of 1901).
  • First Chinese women to be educated in America. In 1908, sisters Soong E-ling (Madame H. H. Kung), class of 1909, Soong Ching-ling (Madame Sun Yat-sen), class of 1913, and Soong May-ling (Madame Chiang Kai-shek) freshman in class of 1916, came to Wesleyan. Soong May-ling later completed her degree at Wellesley College in Massachusetts in 1917. For more information on the Soong Sisters, see the “History of the College.”
  • First woman in Georgia to be issued a commercial pilot’s license (Hazel Jane Raines, class of 1936), in 1938.
  • First woman chair of the Press Institute of the Georgia Press Association (Adelaide Ponder, class of 1946).
  • Georgia’s first Miss America (Neva Langley Fickling, class of 1955), in 1953. Georgia's only other Miss America (2016) Betty Cantrell, is also a Wesleyan alumna.
  • First women to be appointed poet laureate of the state of North Carolina (Kathryn Stripling Byer, class of 1966), in 2005.
  • First woman to serve as staff counsel and director of House Ways and Means Committee (Janice Mays, class of 1973).
  • First woman to be ordained Bishop of the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Conference (Charlene Payne Kammerer, class of 1970), in 1996.
  • First woman president of the Florida senate (Antoinette “Toni” Jennings, class of 1971), in 1996.


Black and white image of Wesleyan College c1876

History of the College

Chartered as the Georgia Female College on December 23, 1836, Wesleyan was founded through the efforts of a group of Macon citizens and the Georgia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, as evidence of their concern for the education of women. The Reverend George Foster Pierce was elected president of the Georgia Female College in 1838, and the College opened its doors on January 7, 1839. Ninety young women were enrolled in our first session.

From the beginning, our curriculum encompassed liberal arts study with an emphasis on the sciences – quite progressive for the 1800s. An early course of study included natural philosophy, mental and moral philosophy, astronomy, botany, chemistry, physiology, geology, history, and ancient and modern languages. Thomas B. Slade of the Clinton Female Institute brought two of his teachers and 30 of his students to the new college. Some entered the junior class, which made it possible to graduate the first class in July of 1840, a year and a half after the College opened. Catherine Elizabeth Brewer (Benson) was the first member of the class to receive the “Testimonial of the Georgia Female College,” which stated in English that “after having passed through a Regular Course of Study ... embracing all the Sciences which are usually taught in the Colleges of the United States, with such as appropriately belong in its most ample range,” she was deemed worthy of the first degree conferred by the institution.

In 1843, the Georgia Conference of the Methodist Church assumed responsibility for the College, and by an act of the state legislature changed its name to Wesleyan Female College. In 1917 the “Female” was eliminated from the title, and the school assumed its present name of Wesleyan College. Today, the College continues its affiliation with the United Methodist Church and, in 1993, Wesleyan was designated a historic landmark by the church.

An interest in former students became apparent by 1858, when Wesleyan’s trustees adopted a resolution that “the Faculty be requested to take into consideration the propriety of having a meeting of the Alumnae at the next commencement.” An organizational meeting of the alumnae took place on July 11, 1859, at Macon’s Mulberry Street United Methodist Church. In July 1860, during commencement week, the first annual reunion was held – and thus was established the first alumnae association of a degree-granting college.

Earlier in the decade, Wesleyan had become the birthplace of the first two Greek societies for women, the Adelphean Society in 1851 (now Alpha Delta Pi) and the Philomathean Society in 1852 (now Phi Mu).

In 1894, with the aid of the Board of Education of the Methodist Church, Wesleyan’s curriculum was studied and revised and the college admissions policy redefined. This led to Wesleyan’s admission to full membership in the Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools of the Southern States in 1919. The College has been continuously accredited by its successor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), since that time.

In 1928 the Liberal Arts College was moved from its original College Street site to the new Rivoli suburban campus. The historic College Street building continued to house the School of Fine Arts, which consisted of the Conservatory of Music and the departments of art, theatre, and speech. In 1953 the School of Fine Arts, too, was moved to the present Rivoli campus.

Wesleyan College offers two baccalaureate degree programs – the Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

Bachelor of Arts - AB (Artium Baccalaureae)

Wesleyan offers the bachelor of arts degree through a rigorous four-year curriculum in the liberal arts and sciences that is faithful to the origins of the college and that encompasses the best of current thinking about education. The curriculum ensures depth of knowledge through more than thirty majors and optional minors. It ensures breadth of learning through an exciting, learner-centered general education program that grows directly out of the mission of the college.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing - BSN
The Bachelor of Science in Nursing is a four-year traditional degree program that prepares a nurse generalist for practice and leadership in the role of professional nurse in a variety of health care settings and specialties. Graduates are eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) for Registered Nurses for entry into practice in any state. This broad-based program is built upon courses in the humanities, fine arts, mathematics, sciences, and social and behavioral studies. 

The program earned initial approval from the Georgia Board of Nursing in July 2012 and full approval in 2015. Wesleyan College received approval of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in the spring of 2013. The baccalaureate degree in nursing program at Wesleyan College is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. (www.aacn.nche.edu/ccne-accreditation)

Bachelor of Fine Arts – BFA
Students will acquire, develop, and refine skills and knowledge through an intensive in-depth study of specific areas of studio art. Learning outcomes for the BFA include gaining a broad knowledge of the processes of art in various media while learning to analyze and critique the art of others as well as their own artwork, and demonstrating professional preparedness for a career in art. Each senior student will be required to have an exhibition at the end of her coursework along with an illustrated catalogue and artist’s statement. Students are encouraged to become involved in art related internships and collaborations on campus and are required to attend lectures, exhibition openings, and workshops provided by the art department.

Calendar of Events

Calendar of Events

Wesleyan College is privileged to steward many arts and cultural events and share them with the community. Most are free and open to the public. Wesleyan art galleries are open M-F 1:30 – 5:00 PM and on Wesleyan Market Saturdays from 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM.

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NCAA Division III Athletics

NCAA Division III Athletics

Wesleyan College is home to five NCAA Division III sports: soccer, basketball, volleyball, tennis, and softball. In addition, we offer an award-winning Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) Equestrian program.

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