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History & Traditions

Mills was founded in 1852 as the Young Ladies’ Seminary in Benicia, California—two years after California became a state. In 1865, missionaries Susan and Cyrus Mills (champions for equal education for women) bought the seminary and renamed it Mills College.

Six years later, the school moved to its current 135-acre campus in Oakland, with 125 students. The College grew quickly, with students of diverse faiths and backgrounds enrolling from many states and countries. In 1920, Mills again broke new ground, adding graduate programs for women and men to its academic offerings.
Today, Mills students work closely with our dedicated faculty to explore their interests and gain experience across a variety of fields. And with a rich history rooted in tradition, there are numerous ways to take part in what makes Mills unique, every day.

“I came to Mills thinking that I would follow a certain path, but it opened up a lot of ways for me to view my future.”Soo Choi ’13

Mills has always been a college of firsts.

  • A graphic representation of mountains.

    the first women's college west of the Rockies (chartered 1885)

  • A graphic representation of a traditional schoolhouse.

    the first laboratory school west of the Mississippi for aspiring teachers (1926)

  • A graphic representation of a computer monitor and mouse.

    the first women’s college to offer a computer science major (1974)

  • A graphic representation of a female leader.

    the first (and only) women’s college to reverse a decision to go coed (1990)

  • A graphic representation of a college diploma.

    the first women's college to offer a bachelor's-to-master's BA/MBA accelerated degree program (2001)

  • A graphic representation of a writing quill.

    the first MFA program in book art and creative writing in the nation (2009)

  • Transgender

    the first women's college to launch a policy for admitting transgender applicants (2014)