Although the Female Institute began instruction in 1852, it wasn’t until 1883 that college courses were opened to women. Bucknell, though, was committed to equal educational opportunities for women.
A striking instance of this commitment occurs in the words of David Jayne Hill of the Class of 1874 and president of the University from 1879 to 1888: "We need in Pennsylvania, in the geographical centre of the state, a University, not in the German but in the American sense, where every branch of non-professional knowledge can be pursued, regardless of distinction of sex. I have no well-matured plan to announce as to the sexes; but the Principal of the Female Seminary proposes to inaugurate a course for females equal to that pursued at Vassar; the two sexes having equal advantages, though not reciting together."
Within five years of opening, enrollment had grown so sharply that the University built a new hall – Larison Hall – to accommodate the Female Institute. Women could venture into town only in the company of a female teacher, one who had a minimum of six years’ experience in handling girls.