OHIO Archives

Ohio University Libraries Archives & Special Collections

Maggie Boyd and I have a lot in common; We will graduate 150 years apart

By Taylor Burnette, BSJ ’23, Digital Collections Social Media Manager, Ohio University Libraries.

Margaret Boyd portrait, circa 1873
Margaret Boyd, the first woman graduate at Ohio University. Ohio University Archives.

Note: This Founders Day, February 18, we are celebrating the 150th anniversary year of OHIO’s first woman graduate with the digital exhibit “Margaret Boyd 150: OHIO Founders Day 2023,” created by Taylor Burnette.


Maggie’s small diary next to an iPhone 14
Margaret Boyd’s 150-year-old diary next to the author’s iPhone 14.

150 years ago, almost to the day, Margaret “Maggie” Boyd was dealing with something I have dealt with far too many times. Similar to Maggie, sitting up all night also does not agree with me.

Wednesday, February 12, 1873. “I have hard work to get my lessons today.  Sitting up all night does not agree with me…”

Diaries, and the experiences written in them, are extremely personal accounts of history. They’re about as intimate a medium you can get in historical materials. A beautiful recount of her day-to-day life, Maggie’s diary lists triumphs, low points, and the mundane things in between.

As she finishes her time at Ohio University with commencement, the “day of all days,” she calls it, she goes onwards into the working world to become a teacher. And despite her great joy in pride and graduation, she laments feelings of waywardness and loneliness.

Ohio University class of 1873 group photo
Ohio University class of 1873 photo. Ohio University Archives.

I am about to finish my time at Ohio University. Maggie and I had very parallel experiences here at OU. We live off campus and walk to class. While an escort is not a social requirement for me, I go just about everywhere with my friends. I go to lectures, although I usually have more than 6 classmates. And I do tons of homework.


Tuesday, February 4, 1873. “Study and recite, Study and recite what monotony! Sometimes I get tired.”

(Me too, Maggie.)


I’m grateful Maggie paved the way for me to get my education 150 years ago. Today I have a lot more freedom as a student and as a woman (for example, I can hold the job I am writing this blog post for). As I go into that next phase of my life, I am going to remember Maggie. I’m glad that 150 years later she let me know I’m not the only person who has ever been nervous about my first job, and that it’s okay to be a little lonely when moving away from home for the first time.

The world has changed a great deal since Maggie graduated–instead of letters I am grateful to be able to just text my friends and family in far away places–but even 150 years later, some things remain the same. Like Maggie, I will miss my friends I met here in Athens. I treasured my time as a student, and I am sad to leave this place when it’s time for my own “day of all days,” as Maggie called her commencement.

I’m grateful for my time at old OHIO. And I frequently wonder about one of the things Maggie ponders in her diary on Sunday, May 25, 1873 in regards to my own life and going into adulthood:

“These longings after something higher and better, will they ever be sadisfied?”


Maggie Boyd diary, May 25, 1873 detail
Maggie Boyd diary, May 25, 1873 detail. Boyd Family collection.



More information

Learn much more in the Resources section of Margaret Boyd 150: OHIO Founders Day 2023.”

Founders Day 2023 Birthday Bash Button-making. Will include images of Maggie! Saturday, February 18, 1-4pm. Baker Center Ballroom.

Celebrate Founders Day 2023 with University Libraries’ in-person and digital exhibits .” Ohio University Libraries article.

Read Maggie’s diary at https://bit.ly/ou-mboyd and learn the history of OHIO’s Founders Day at https://bit.ly/ohiofoundersday2022.