A New Chapter

Sather Gate

Sather Gate: The entrance to UC Berkeley, as it appeared around 1921.

What was Ursula’s freshman year of college like at the University of California, Berkeley? I was in the middle of trying to answer that question by paging through an online version of that year’s UC Berkeley “Blue and Gold” yearbook when my Internet service went down. That will have to wait until my next post. In the meantime…

Before the outage, I was able to glean the following general information about the university from around that period from the Register, which was the university’s information and course catalog:

  • The Berkeley campus covered about 530 acres, rising at first in gentle and then in bolder slopes from a height of about 200 feet above sea level to about 1,300 feet. It provided a majestic view of the bay and city of San Francisco, the neighboring plains and mountains, the ocean and Golden Gate. (Golden Gate is the North American strait that connects San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean. Golden Gate Bridge was not opened until 1937.)
  • According to the Register, the average Berkeley temperatures were about 59 degrees in summer and 48 in winter. I’m not sure how reliable the publication’s information was, but today, average summer temperatures range into the low 70s!
  • When Ursula enrolled at UC Berkeley, tuition was free to residents of the state. Non-residents were charged a tuition fee of $75 each half-year. (Boy, have times changed!)
  • There were no dormitories maintained by the University. The cost of board and lodging in boarding houses in or near Berkeley was $40 to $55 a month; and in fraternities and students’ clubs from $30 to $50 a month. Students also commuted from Oakland and San Francisco, which Ursula may well have done her first year.
  • UC Berkeley freshman class

    At more than 3,000 students, Ursula’s freshman class was the largest ever to enter UC Berkeley. At the time, an estimated 8,500 students were registered at the university; today, more than 36,000 attend.

    Berkeley was a 35-minute ride by train and ferry from San Francisco.

  • The ordinary yearly expenses of a student in the academic departments, including personal expenses, was at least $750.

By a very unscientific method (counting and averaging the number of men and women listed on just 12 pages of the senior class portraits from the 1924 yearbook), I’ve guesstimated the ratio of female to male students to be about 8.4 to 10. This surprised me, as less than 8 percent of the American female population at that time attended college. I’ll bet Ursula, with her curly hair, big eyes and dramatic talent, attracted her fair share of would-be beaus!

4 Replies to “A New Chapter”

  1. So interesting that the female ratio was so high at Berkeley! Truly fascinating work – Liz! Yeah for Scavenger History!

    • Thanks, Jen! Today, there are more female undergraduates at UC Berkeley (52%) than male (48%). In terms of independent women at UC Berkeley in the early 1900s, another interesting thing I discovered was that architect Julia Morgan (class of 1894, civil engineering) worked on designing several campus buildings, including the Greek Theatre. She was the first woman to earn a certificate at l’Ecole de Beaux-Arts in Paris, and the first woman architect licensed in California. http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2012/11/07/julia-morgan-celebration/

  2. Liz! You are a wonderful detective! I can’t believe the facts you are able to find and post. Keep up the good work. Maybe this is your new calling in life!

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