Mrs. Mary Smith Brooke, one of five woman to graduate from the College of the Pacific in 1856, and the first to receiver her degree, shown in portrait. Courtesy of the Stockton Record.
Mrs. Mary Smith Brooke, one of the first five woman to graduate from the College of the Pacific in 1858, and the first to receive her degree, pictured in the Stockton Independent on June 13, 1926.

On June 13, 1926, the College of the Pacific, now known as the University of the Pacific, began a weeklong celebration in honor of its 75th birthday. Originally founded in San Jose and having moved to Stockton between 1922 and 1925, the 1926 celebration was a coming-out of sorts for newly moved university community.  Unlike many other colleges of its day, the College of the Pacific accepted men and women into its scholastic ranks from the very start, and in its first graduating class of 1858, five woman received degrees. The first of those women to receive her degree, Mrs. Mary Smith Brooke, was a staunch feminist, and spoke colorfully at the 1926 celebration.

In an interview ahead of the festivities, Mrs. Brooke laid out her thoughts on the rise of “flapper” culture:

The modern girl, with her bobbed hair, is all right, only she is the subject of criticism. I only regret that bobbed hair and advanced hair do not go well together, as I would like to have my own locks shorn. There is nothing radically wrong with the girls of today. The chief difference between the girls of the present era and those of 1856 is due entirely to advanced conditions, caused by the rapid strides made in the world of progress.

The Stockton Independent, June 13, 1926.

During her speech to the students of the college on June 15, Mrs. Brooke emphasized that “the girls of today must continue to strive for progress,” and that the “co-eds of today” should remember the struggles of women who came before. Dr. Tully Cleon Knoles, the university president, introducer her warmly ahead of his own sermon to the 1926 graduates.

Dr. Tully Cleon Knoles, the President of the College of the Pacific, introduced Mrs. Brooke before giving the graduating sermon to the 1926 graduates. (The Stockton Independent, June 15, 1926).

Mrs. Mary Smith Brooke’s story became well known throughout the state. When she passed away a year later in December of 1927, her obituary was printed from Red Bluff to Bakersfield, and she was feted as an education pioneer. Her obituary can be read below:

Mrs. Brooke’s obituary, reprinted from the The Stockton Record in the Red Bluff Tehama County Daily News on December 13, 1927.

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  1. Thank you for putting together this wonderful news program. Story of the history of university Pacific, the story of the medical dental building, so many very wonderful articles

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