In March 1872, Cornell University’s trustees officially voted to admit women, making them the first Ivy League university to accept female students. Since then, many student organizations have developed to ensure that women have the resources and support necessary to succeed.
Throughout the month of March, which is Women’s History Month, student organizations continue to push for women’s equality and empowerment on and off campus through mentorship, professional development and historical remembrance initiatives. The Sun spoke to three Black women’s organizations about their plans for this month.
Building Ourselves through Sisterhood and Service was founded to promote mental health services at the University and foster community among women of color, according to Lelani Gorham ’23, the co-president of BOSS.
To foster friendship and support, BOSS runs a mentorship program where they pair students together for a year-long period. Hyacinth White-Grey ’24, co-president of BOSS, stressed the importance of relationship building in their organization.
“These relationships that you make in BOSS continue past that one year,” White-Grey said.
Gorham also noted that the community she found through BOSS helped her adjust to college life.
“An outlet to meet other women of color was a really great experience for me and really helped me transition into the University,” Gorham said.
Throughout Women’s History Month, BOSS is holding a month of service where they volunteer with various initiatives, including Healthy Food for All — which promotes food security in Tompkins County — and Prisoners Express — which supplies education and support to incarcerated individuals.
BOSS will host their annual Mental Health Summit from Friday, March 24 to Saturday, March 25.
“[The summit is about] bringing together women of color on campus and talking about mental health and really just connecting with others,” White-Grey said.
In addition, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, is a historically Black sorority founded in 1913 with the purpose of aiding the development of Black women. Delta Sigma Theta similarly planned events and social initiatives to celebrate Women’s History Month, in line with the organization’s historical legacy of activism.
“Delta Sigma Theta has historically and continuously aided in the development of young women, be it through programs such as Delta GEMS, which stands for ‘Growing and Empowering Myself Successfully’ and the Dr. Betty Shabazz Delta Academy,” said Maia Lee ’24, treasurer of the Mu Gamma chapter.
Aaliyah Brown ’23, president of the Mu Gamma chapter at Cornell, explained that the organization was born from a desire to use higher education as a tool to advocate for others.
“Our twenty-two founders saw the discrimination, racism and sexism that Black women and the Black community faced, and they decided to wield their collegiate education as a tool to advocate for others,” Brown said.
Les Femmes de Substance is a pre-professional organization that promotes community and leadership among Black women at Cornell. They have a mentorship program through the Greater Ithaca Activities Center, where they build relationships with girls in high school to support girls through their educational journey.
Les Femmes is celebrating Women’s History Month through Women’s History Wednesdays on their Instagram, where they highlight Black women’s highlights and accomplishments.
As an intersectional organization, Les Femmes also celebrated Black History Month in February. From Friday, Feb. 3 to Sunday, Feb. 5, they attended the 16th Annual Women of Substance Retreat in Syracuse, New York.
“We had a bunch of successful Black women come in and talk about how to be your own professional motivation,” Nahiely Urbaez Cruz ’25, Les Femmes director of internal relations, said. “I [also] met a lot of women I have never seen before or spoken to. It just really helps build community.”
In addition to professional development, the retreat focused on mental health and bonding activities that nurture growth.
“We did yoga, talked a lot about shedding past traumas and how to not bring those with you when you are presenting yourself in a professional setting and how to walk into a room and be the person that you envision yourself being in the future,” Urbaez Cruz said.
Les Femmes also annually hosts the Men of Substance Showcase — a male pageant — to contribute financially to the women’s retreat. This provides the opportunity for men to also assist in creating a space for women to flourish and feel comfortable.
“MOSS is created solely to support this woman’s retreat,” Urbaez Cruz said. “It’s for the women. The men that contribute know it is to allow women to have this space to grow.”
Heily Gonzalez ’26 is a Sun contributor and can be reached at [email protected].