150 Years of Women at the UC Berkeley School of Information

Throughout 2020, the I School joined UC Berkeley in celebrating 150 Years of Women at Berkeley.

October 3, 2020, marks the 150th anniversary of the UC Regents’ unanimous approval in 1870 of a resolution by Regent Samuel F. Butterworth: “That young ladies be admitted into the University on equal terms in all respects with young men.” The first women were admitted to the university in 1872.

These are a few of many notable women who have been affiliated with the School of Information and its predecessors, the School of Librarianship, the School of Library and Information Studies, and the School of Information Management and Systems. We look forward to expanding this list!


Edith Coulter

The School’s First Woman Leader

When Edith Coulter came to UC Berkeley in 1911 as a senior assistant librarian, it launched a 52-year career at the University capped by her role as the first female acting chair of the School. She became a beloved professor known for her lively, witty lectures and, with Sidney Mitchell, co-founded the Department of Librarianship in 1918 — the first full-time program in librarianship. Three years after she retired as emeritus professor of librarianship in 1949, the annual Coulter Lecture on western books was established. Said one of her former students, “Any superlatives you care to use about Miss Coulter will be understatements.”


Carma Leigh

California’s State Librarian

Born to homesteaders in Oklahoma Territory, Carma Leigh (M.L.S. ’30) rose to the position of State Librarian of California — a role she held from 1951 to 1972. During her term, the California Library Commission was created and the Public Library Development Act passed into law, establishing state funding for a network of regional library systems. In 1970, she lobbied to limit book and library postal rates, of particular concern for librarians in the larger Western states. Leigh was inducted into the California Library Hall of Fame in 2012. Read more about Carma Leigh.


Eliza Atkins Gleason

Trailblazing Scholar and Leader

Eliza Atkins Gleason completed her M.L.S. in 1936, during the height of the Great Depression, and went on to become the first African American to earn a doctorate in library science (University of Chicago) and the first African American to serve on the Council of the American Library Association. In 1941, she established and became the first dean of the School of Library Service at Atlanta University, where she created a library education program that by 1986 was training 90 percent of all African American librarians. That same year, she authored the seminal work, The Southern Negro and the Public Library. Read more about Eliza Atkins Gleason.


Anne Lipow

Revealing Inequities in Librarianship

Anne Grodzins Lipow (M.L.S.’60) began a thirty-year career at the University Library in 1961. Her long list of innovations helped to make the institution a national leader — many of her ideas were adopted by research libraries across the country. In 1971, she chaired the committee that produced a report on the status of women employees that became a landmark document in identifying a librarian salary inequity. Later, she and her colleagues created the first training materials on how to use the Internet for librarians. She founded Library Solutions Institute and Press, which published dozens of titles relating to libraries, technology, and new strategies for service. Read more about Anne Lipow.


Judy Yung

A Pioneer in Asian American Scholarship

With her Berkeley degree in hand, Judy Yung (M.L.S. ’68) joined the Chinatown branch of the San Francisco Public Library — the first person of Chinese descent to head that branch. She would go on to develop the Asian branch of the Oakland Public Library, and later established an Asian American Studies program at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Yung co-published Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940 and, with a federal grant from the Women’s Educational Equity Program, she directed the Chinese Women of America Research Project, resulting in Chinese Women of America: A Pictorial History. Read more about Judy Yung.


Suzanne Holliday Calpestri

Early Advocate for Open Access Publishing

Suzanne Holliday Calpestri (MLIS ’71) was at the forefront of programs that shaped digital information services and virtual reference services. She held leadership positions in the development of reference services and resource sharing programs for emerging digital based networked library consortia including UC systemwide (Salmon Plan 1978), statewide (California Multi-type Library Network), and national/international (RLIN and OCLC). From 1994 until her retirement in 2008, she served as director of the George and Mary Foster Anthropology Library where she was the first recipient of the John H. Rowe endowed chair, and where she developed AnthroHub, a comprehensive record of the scholarly output of the Berkeley Department of Anthropology from 1896 to 2007 and a demonstration social science open access project. Read more about Suzanne Holliday Calpestri.


Fay M. Blake

Advocate for Equity and Inclusion

Fay M. Blake was passionate about the inclusion of marginalized groups. She joined the faculty in 1971 and established new Berkeley courses on public libraries, literacy, and popular culture. She also founded a field studies program for library students to work with underserved populations and is remembered for using field studies as an engine of social change. A published author and volunteer, Blake also helped organize the Librarians Association of the University of California (LAUC) and was appointed to the California State Library Commission. Read more about Fay M. Blake.


Nancy Van House

Ushering in a New Era

Acting dean of the School of Library and Information Studies from 1991 through 1995, Professor Emerita Nancy A. Van House (M.L.S. ’72; Ph.D. ’79) joined the faculty in 1981 and played a critical role in the School’s history. As acting dean and a member of the Information Planning Committee that was responsible for the creation of the School of Information Management and Systems, she ushered the School through this historic transition. Nancy’s research is in three areas: visual technologies, social media, and personal digital memory; science and technology studies; and human-computer interaction. Nancy currently studies the act of live-streaming protests in the context of witnessing as a moral act.


Beverlee French

Advancing California’s Digital Library

Beverlee French (M.L.S. ’73) first began thinking about becoming a librarian as a social sciences undergraduate at Berkeley and, after receiving her master’s degree, built a career that evolved in tandem with the growth of information science. Her first professional job at the UC San Diego Library launched a lifelong career within the UC system. The high point of her university experience, she says, was working for the California Digital Library, founded by the University of California in 1997 as a collaborative enterprise to utilize emerging technologies that ultimately changed the way digital information was published and accessed. Read more about Beverlee French.


Elfreda Chatman

Taking an Ethnographic Approach to Information Studies

Elfreda Chatman (Ph.D. ’83) was a preeminent scholar in library and information science best known for her ethnographic approaches in researching information-seeking behaviors among the socially and economically marginalized. Based on her background in sociology, she introduced her “small worlds” method to studying behavior and her research contributions resulted in several middle-range theories. Chatman was a professor for more than a decade at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science, where a research award is named for her. Read more about Elfreda Chatman.


Rosario Gassol de Horowitz

Libraries in the Developing World

Rosario Gassol de Horowitz (Ph.D. ’84) represented Latin America for the International Federation of Library Associations and Librarian Institutions. She was eventually appointed library director at Venezuela’s Universidad Simon Bolivar. Her book Librarianship: A Third World Perspective focused on the nuances of librarianship and information studies in regions struggling with underdevelopment, and is still in print today.


Pamela Samuelson

Our First MacArthur Fellow

A pioneer in digital copyright law, intellectual property, cyberlaw, and information policy, Pam Samuelson joined the faculty of the Berkeley Law School and Berkeley School of Information in 1996 and went on to serve as director of the renowned Berkeley Center for Law & Technology. Samuelson is also co-founder and chair of the board of Authors Alliance, a nonprofit organization that promotes the public interest in access to knowledge. From 1997 through 2002, she was a fellow of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Read more about Pamela Samuelson.


Marti Hearst

Making Sense of Big Data

Marti Hearst, who joined the School’s faculty in 1997, conducted early research in corpus-based computational linguistics that included some of the first work in automating sentiment analysis and word sense disambiguation. She also invented an algorithm that became known as “Hearst patterns,” which applies lexico-syntactic patterns to accurately recognize hyponymy (ISA) relations in large text collections, including an early application to WordNet. Hearst also made discoveries in automatic segmentation of text into topical discourse boundaries, inventing a now well-known approach called TextTiling. Hearst is serving as interim dean for the 2023-24 academic year.


Holly Liu

First Alumna to Launch a “Unicorn”

Holly Liu (MIMS ’03) co-founded Kabam, growing the venture-backed mobile gaming company into a unicorn (a privately held start-up valued at over $1 billion) in 2014. Liu became a visiting partner at seed accelerator Y Combinator and serves as a non-executive director and strategic adviser to games publisher Animoca. She has been named one of Fortune’s “10 Most Powerful Women in Gaming,” Forbes’ “12 Women in Gaming to Watch,” and Forbes’ “10 Women Entrepreneurs to Watch from Google Ventures’ Portfolio Companies.” Liu in 2019 co-founded the I School Innovators Fund to help enterprising I School students develop their ideas and launch new ventures. Read more about Holly Liu.


AnnaLee Saxenian

The School’s First Female Dean

When she was appointed dean of the School in 2004, AnnaLee Saxenian was one of the first women deans on the Berkeley campus. Since then, she has championed efforts to increase diversity and representation in technology. She is highly regarded for her research on technology clusters and social networks in Silicon Valley. Saxenian oversaw the development and establishment of the I School’s Master of Information and Data Science (MIDS) degree in 2013 and the Master of Information and Cybersecurity (MICS) in 2018. When she stepped down as dean in 2019, Saxenian was awarded the Berkeley Citation — the campus’s highest honor. Read more about AnnaLee Saxenian.


danah boyd

Addressing Issues of Inequities and Bias in Technology

danah boyd (Ph.D. ’08) has gained international recognition for her research on the relationship between technology and society, especially as issues of inequity and bias. She was recognized by the World Economic Forum in 2011 as a Young Global Leader, just three years after receiving her Ph.D. She later founded Data & Society, dedicated to convening researchers, policymakers, technologists, journalists, entrepreneurs, artists, and lawyers to challenge the power and purpose of technology in society. danah has also worked as a principal researcher at Microsoft and as a visiting professor at New York University. Read more about danah boyd.


Deirdre Mulligan

A Pioneer in Privacy and Cyberlaw

Deirdre Mulligan’s research explores legal and technical means of protecting values such as privacy, freedom of expression, and fairness in emerging technical systems. Since 2008, she has served the School as an associate professor, as well as a faculty director of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, a co-organizer of the Algorithmic Fairness & Opacity Working Group, an affiliated faculty member of the Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity, and a faculty adviser to the Center for Technology, Society & Policy. She came to the School from UC Berkeley Law, where she was founding director of its Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic. In 2023 Mulligan was appointed Deputy Chief, and then Principal Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer in the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. 


Sharon Lin

Inspiring and Mentoring Women in Data Science

Building on her undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley in statistics and economics, Sharon was nominated by her peers as commencement speaker for the inaugural graduating cohort of the Master of Information and Data Science (MIDS) program. Sharon became and early mentor to subsequent 5th Year MIDS students and only four years post-graduation, following success as a data scientist at Okta, and a promotion to director of creator analytics at Twitch, Lin and her husband established The Sharon X. Lin & Andrew R. Bullen Graduate Fellowship in Data Science to encourage talented women to pursue degrees in data science.


Elaine Sedenberg

Shaping Global Privacy and Data Policy Issues

Elaine Sedenberg (Ph.D. ’19) was involved with the Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity in its earliest stages and conducted research that studied how private sector research practices and information sharing between industry and academics may shape the national research and development ecosystem. She also served as co-director of the Center for Technology, Society, and Policy (CTSP). Once she completed her Ph.D., Sedenberg was recruited to become the privacy and data policy manager for Facebook’s Privacy Policy Team, and is an affiliate at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. Read more about Elaine Sedenberg.


Jennifer Chayes

A Leader in Network Science

In 2020, Jennifer Tour Chayes was jointly appointed as dean of the School and associate provost of the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society. She is a renowned researcher in the field of network science, celebrated for her work on models and algorithms that help explain the structure of the Internet, social and economic networks, and networks in computational biology. A champion of increasing diversity in STEM fields, she has been lauded for her advocacy by organizations like the Anita Borg Institute and Women Entrepreneurs in Science and Technology. Read more about Jennifer Chayes.

Last updated:

September 14, 2023