Women of Creighton

Creighton University has a long, rich history of transformative women making a difference, starting with the founding family itself.
Mary Lucretia Creighton
Mary Lucretia (Wareham) Creighton

Long before she left the gift that went on to found the University, Mary Lucretia Creighton would go to the poorest parts of Omaha to give money and household items to those most in need. Her horse (named “Billy”) was known throughout the city. 

Visiting the University (then Creighton College), Sarah Emily Creighton was distressed by the Jesuits’ accommodations. She and her husband made a gift to build them a new residence, erecting a south wing to the main building.  

The Creighton family, including the Wareham sisters, achieved great success in their lifetimes. But today they’re remembered not for what they gained but what they gave

Today, we honor the achievements of these two extraordinary women through an award bearing their name.

Sarah Emily (Wareham) Creighton
Sarah Emily (Wareham) Creighton

Each year, Creighton's Committee on the Status of Women presents the Mary Lucretia and Sarah Emily Creighton Awards to female faculty, staff or students who have created an environment supportive of achievement for women, encouraged women in the development of their talents, or have served as a role model of accomplishment for women. 

Creighton also honors women through stories of the talented, compassionate individuals of Creighton who continue Mary Lucretia and Sarah Emily's legacy of living for others today. We will continue to update this page with articles about the extraordinary women shaping Creighton.

Know of a female Creighton student, alumna, faculty or staff member who would make a good story? Contact RachelMabrey@creighton.edu.

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Creighton women: a timeline of firsts

Elizabeth D. Pittman
Elizabeth D. Pittman

1878 — “Mrs. Hall,” becomes one of Creighton’s first faculty members, teaching English in the first year of classes.

1892 — Kate Drake, Creighton’s first female student, enrolls in the new medical school. She was the first woman to be admitted to any Jesuit university in the U.S.

1884 — Dr. C. B. Offersen becomes the School of Medicine’s first female physician.

1898 — Anna Marie Griffith, MD’1898, is the first woman to graduate from Creighton and complete all medical school training.

1901 — Mattie Arthur becomes the first woman on the University’s medical staff.

1908 — Creighton’s first female dental school students graduate.

1913 — Cassie Chancellor, of what was then called the College of Pharmacy, becomes the first known Black woman to graduate from Creighton University

1916 — Bertha Winterton, JD’1916, and Clara Witt Breuer, JD’1916, become the first women to graduate from the School of Law.

1920 — The Heider College of Business (then the College of Commerce, Accounting and Finance) opens, with an initial enrollment of 66 men and eight women.

Eileen Lieben, left, pictured with Maurine Hamiltion.
Creighton's first two Dean of Women: Eileen Lieben, left, with Maurine Hamilton.

1933 — World-renowned aviator Amelia Earhart visits Omaha and expresses interest in Creighton’s School of Medicine. “Are there women in your medical college?” she asked Creightonian reporter Mary Ellen Leary, BA’34. Earhart said she believes “very thoroughly in women following professions, or at least being in touch with the modern world.”

1937 — Olive Odorisio Circo, BA’41, becomes the first female cheerleader at Creighton. She was also one of the first women to attend Creighton as an undergraduate.

1948 — The Hon. Elizabeth D. Pittman, BS’47, JD’48, becomes the first Black woman to graduate from the School of Law. She would go on to be the first Black person and first woman to be appointed as a judge in Nebraska.

1950 — Maurine Hamilton is hired as Dean of Women, making her Creighton’s first female administrator.

1972 — Ann L. Czerwinski, School of Pharmacy and Health Professions, becomes the first female President of the University Faculty. She would be followed a decade later in the role by chemistry professor Marcia C. Davies in the College of Arts & Sciences.

1973 — Frances Ryan comes to Creighton in 1973 as the first female professor in the School of Law. The Frances Ryan Scholarship honors her memory as a trailblazer and a champion for diversity.

1973 — Softball becomes Creighton’s first organized women’s sport.

Mary Higgins
Mary Higgins

1974 — Madeline Jacobsen, an Omaha real estate developer and businesswoman, is appointed to the University's Board of Directors, the first female board member.

1982 — Eileen Lieben, MA'62, is named the acting Vice President of Student Personnel, becoming Creighton’s first female VP. Lieben had been at Creighton for 20 years at this point, serving as the University’s Dean of Women and Associate Dean of Students.

Barbara Braden
Barbara Braden

1987 — Mary Higgins, BA’73, becomes the first woman inducted into the Creighton Athletics Hall of Fame. As the softball team’s coach, she owned a 564-298 record in 17 years, helping Creighton reach the NCAA's Women's College World Series twice and the AIAW World Series twice. She was also one of Creighton’s first female student-athletes.

1987 — Barbara Braden, PhD, SJN'66, BSN'72, develops a tool that is widely used in hospitals and nursing homes to assess and predict patients' likelihood of developing pressure sores. Her creation — known as the "Braden Scale" — has benefited millions worldwide.

Source: The Creightonian 


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First female collegiate baseball coach in state history

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Leilani Hung

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Law professor inspires student through funeral and burial project research

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Eileen Wirth alongside a picture of Creighton.

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Kirstin McCarville, left, and Andrea Hall

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The integral interprofessional

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Passion, persistence, and scholarship prepare student for excellence

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Creighton President the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD, talks with student Eliana Rodriguez at the Forward Blue launch event.

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Nelly Nigro, center, with her class of 1945 pharmacy school friends Virginia Driscoll, left, and Alice Appel Duwal.

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Alumna’s generosity guided by service

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Chehal thrilled to be named Belzer Endowed Chair

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From left: Elizabeth “Lizzie” Erftmier, BA’18; Adelaide Herbert Erftmier, BSPHA’60; and Don Erftmier Jr., BSBA’87, on the day Elizabeth graduated.

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Wyoming banker reinvented herself as a Creighton dentist

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Student Lexi Weisbeck posing in front of Creighton

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The key to harmony in major and minor

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