Under a New York State charter, Elmira Collegiate Institute became Elmira Female College, and although the college building was unfinished and the institution lacked a president, the first students enrolled the following October.
"Elmira is the oldest existing women's college in the United States which succeeded in attaining standards in a fair degree comparable with men's colleges at the very beginning of her career. Vassar, ten years thereafter, likewise attained fairly comparable standards and was the first women's college that was adequately endowed." Thomas Woody, A History of Women's Education in the United States
“To any one familiar with the circumstances it does not admit of discussion that in Vassar we have the legitimate parent of all future colleges for women which were to be founded in such rapid succession in the next period. It is true that in 1855 the Presbyterian synod opened Elmira college in Elmira, New York, but it had practically no endowment and scarcely any college students. Even before 1855 two famous female seminaries were founded which did much to create a standard for the education of girls. In 1821 Mrs. Emma Willard opened at Troy a seminary for girls, known as the Troy female seminary, still existing under the name of the Emma Willard school. In 1837 Mary Lyon opened in the beautiful valley of the Connecticut Mt. Holyoke seminary, where girls were educated so cheaply that it was almost a free school. This institution has had a great influence in the higher education of women; it became in 1893 Mt. Holyoke college. These seminaries are often claimed as the first women's colleges, but their curriculum of study proves conclusively that they had no thought whatever of giving women a collegiate education, whereas, the deliberations of the board of trustees whom Mr. Vassar associated with himself show clearly that it was expressly realized that here for the first time was being created a woman's college as distinct from the seminary or academy.” M. Carey Thomas, President of Bryn Mawr College, “Education of Women,” in Nicholas Murray Butler, ed., Education in the United States: a series of monographs