Radcliffe Yard is located between Brattle Street and the Cambridge Common. It is currently part of Harvard University, but that was not always the case. Originally, Radcliffe Yard was the core of Radcliffe University, Harvard’s female counterpart.
Founded in 1879 as the Harvard Annex, the school’s founders assumed that once the Board at Harvard saw that women were just as capable at learning as men, they would simply absorb the school, opening their doors to ladies. By 1894, that had still not even been discussed, and so Radcliffe was officially chartered. It was named after the first woman to give money to Harvard, Puritan sweetheart Anne Radcliffe.
Women of Radcliffe were first allowed into Harvard classrooms in 1943, when resources were stretched thin from the War. In 1963, girls were first granted the word “Harvard” on their Radcliffe diplomas, but the schools remained separate. Harvard dorms opened to Radcliffe girls in the early 1970s. Many years later, in 1999, Radcliffe College was fully integrated into Harvard University, erasing the segregation of sexes at the school. Under the terms of the 1999 consolidation agreement, Radcliffe Yard, along with the entire Radcliffe Quadrangle, will maintain the “Radcliffe” designation forever and ever and ever.
Radcliffe Yard is now the site of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (RIAS). This past spring, The RIAS launched an annual University-wide art competition for installations showcased in Radcliffe Yard. Besides art, Radcliffe Yard is the site of the Harvard Graduate School of Education commencement, convocation, ice cream socials, and sometimes even snowball fights.