Mills was founded in 1852 as the Young Ladies’ Seminary in Benicia, California—two years after California became a state. In 1865, missionaries Susan and Cyrus Mills (champions for equal education for women) bought the seminary and renamed it Mills College.
Six years later—the same year the city of Oakland was incorporated—Mills moved to its current 135-acre campus in Oakland with 125 students. The College grew quickly, with students of diverse faiths and backgrounds enrolling from many states and countries. In 1920, Mills broke new ground, adding graduate programs for women and men to its academic offerings.
Over the decades, Mills “firsts” have been numerous: the first women’s college west of the Rockies (chartered 1885); the first laboratory school west of the Mississippi for aspiring teachers (1926); the first women’s college to offer a computer science major (1974) and a bachelor’s-to-master’s accelerated degree program (2001); the first business school in the West dedicated to advancing women (2005); and the first MFA program in book art and creative writing in the nation (2009).