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225 years of Tar Heels: Sallie Walker Stockard

The first woman to graduate from Carolina, Sallie Walker Stockard blazed a trail for thousands of women who would follow in her footsteps.

Sallie Walker Stockard portrait
“Sallie Walker Stockard (1869-1963),” in the Portrait Collection #P0002, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Editor’s note: This article was published in honor of the University’s 225th anniversary. Throughout the year, we shared profiles of some of the many Tar Heels who have left their heelprint on the campus, their communities, the state, the nation and the world.

Today, over 11,000 female undergraduate students attend Carolina. But when Sallie Walker Stockard entered the university in 1897, she was one of only five studying at Carolina. A year later, in 1898, she became the first woman to graduate from the University.

Back then, the University trustees required that women who enrolled at Carolina had to have completed college elsewhere first. Stockard had graduated from Guilford College, near Greensboro.

At Carolina, Stockard wrote her final thesis on “Nature in Poetry.” After she graduated, Stockard stayed in Chapel Hill for two years to complete a master’s degree, writing her thesis on “The History of Alamance.”

In 1924, Stockard relocated to New York and received her second master’s degree from Columbia University’s Teachers College.

Over the course of her life, Stockard published several books on North Carolina history, including an autobiography of her time at Carolina, “Daughter of the Piedmont: Chapel Hill’s First Co-Ed Graduate.”

Stockard died in 1963 in Long Island, New York, where she had lived since the 1940s and where she had started a local newspaper.

In 2016, Stockard was named a “noteworthy first” as part of the university’s effort to name existing grants and fellowships to honor courageous people who represent important “firsts” in Carolina’s history. The need-based, undergraduate awards and graduate fellowships recognize 21 members of the Carolina community.