Beginning in 1937, Radcliffe College offered a one-year certificate program for women: the Training Course in Personnel Administration. Harvard Business School Professor Fritz J. Roethlisberger called the program "the first daring experiment in 'practical education' for women."1 Business education for men at Harvard itself had begun as a trial program in 1908, the same year that the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania awarded its first undergraduate business degree to women.2
Five students enrolled in the Radcliffe certificate program the first year, and paid $450 for the entire course. The impetus for the program was to provide women with a background in the "understanding and treatment of human problems in any employment situation" that would enable them to enter positions in human resources departments.3 Personnel work, the course catalogue explained, entailed "a careful and analytical study of the motivation which underlies behavior."4 The curricula included economics, sociology, guidance, government, and educational psychology.
Edith Stedman, a director of Radcliffe's Career Appointment Bureau, served as a vigorous supporter and first director of the Training Course. "At that time, very few fields offered real opportunity for women and this seemed like a good opening for them," she asserted.5 The program began in the waning years of the Depression, and Stedman understood the value of professional training for women as "an economic necessity of the times."6 Employment rates for graduates hovered around 40 percent. During the early years of the program and into the 1950s, most graduates found work in personnel positions.
The Training Course in Personnel Administration, now under the direction of Anne Hood Harken, increasingly focused on jobs in the war effort. "The war has created an unprecedented demand for trained personnel workers," the 1943-1944 course catalogue noted. "It therefore becomes imperative to obtain maximum production from the available manpower through effective personnel policies."7 During the early to mid-1940s, graduates of the program typically found employment in industry and government.
Experienced in personnel administration, Anne Harken, like most of the directors of the program, was also on the teaching faculty. She worked with Harvard Business School to offer a broader curriculum that addressed general administrative issues in government and industry. Women in the program also took courses from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Public Administration, and the School of Education. Students were required to have an undergraduate degree. Some women came directly from college, while others had several years' work experience. An evening class was added to accommodate the schedules of working women.
The program expanded to a new building at 69 Brattle Street, named Putnam House after Elizabeth Cabot Putnam, the first director of the Radcliffe career services department. Putnam House offered housing and classroom space and served as the center of activity where students came together for casual gatherings, evening seminars, and discussion groups. Other houses nearby provided additional dormitories as the student population grew. This tight-knit community fostered many opportunities for lively social and intellectual exchanges among the students.