Image of McCormick Hall McCormick Hall
Presentation Drawing, McCormick Hall, Katharine Dexter McCormick and Herbert Beckwith, 1963

McCormick Hall Presentation Drawing

Herbert Beckwith


Katharine Dexter was a determined young woman, so enthusiastic about MIT that she spent seven years obtaining her SB degree: three years of math and science as a special student followed by four years studying the course in biology. Shortly after graduation in 1904, she married Stanley McCormick, son of the McCormick Reaper Company founder. Within three years, Stanley succumbed to severe mental illness, ultimately confined until his death in 1947 at age 73. Despite this tragedy, Katharine lived a life of great purpose, a champion for women’s suffrage and a key underwriter of oral contraceptive research. In 1959, she decided to focus on women at her beloved MIT. Because the policy for fixing the numbers of women was based on the Institute’s ability to house them, she proposed a deceptively benign gift: a new dormitory. Stanley McCormick Hall opened in 1963, and the numbers of women immediately jumped: from 76 in 1950 to 248 in 1963. Katharine died in 1967 just after McCormick Hall women hosted the first major national conference on women in science and engineering. The transformative effects of Katharine McCormick’s gift continue to be felt more than four decades later—and are evident in an undergraduate student body with equal numbers of men and women and in the hiring of the Institute’s first woman president, Susan Hockfield.

MIT Professor Herbert Beckwith was the architect for McCormick Hall. His presentation drawing is on loan from McCormick Hall, MIT.

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  • Mrs. McCormick received her SB in Biology in 1904. She was a major donor to the Fairchild Building in the early 1950′s, and funded the research that led to an effective, commercially successful drug that would control reproductive homones – “The Pill”. She used to invite all the women students to an afternoon tea at her home in the Back Bay each year. She donated Stanley McCormick Hall to house women students, and left MIT an undesignated fund of more than $25 million when she died. The MIT Archives have Mrs. McCormick’s papers: and the MIT Museum collection includes the trunk she used for traveling to Europe, in which she smuggled back illegal diaphragms for birth control.

    Sarah Simon
    31 Jan 11 at 9:45 pm