Cornell University, one of the first universities to embrace coeducation, became a coed institution in 1870. In a 2005 book by Margaret A. Lowe titled Looking Good: College Women and Body Image, 1875-1930, the author explains using first-hand accounts by the pioneering "coeds" of the time:
It is of no significance that the use of the word "coed" to identify a woman was at times defamatory, hip, sexy, or neutral. What is stated here is a verifiable answer for how female students came to be called coeds.
The addition of female students to formerly all-male schools made the schools coeducational. The female students were thus referred to by the incumbent male population as coeds, because it was the female students' enrollment that made a school coeducational.
Image Description: The county experimental hop yard recruited Oregon State College coeds for a quick job of hoeing. Left to right: Alice Root, Mary Lou George, Marie Hansen, Ruby Carlos, Shirley Young, Margaret Eefsen
In the photo above, five plaid-clad, pickax-packing coeds pitch in to build anew stone walk on campus during AU's Arbor Day celebration, April 14, 1937.They are, from left: Ella Harllee, Margaret Snavely, Margaret Warthen, FlorenceYeager, and Ruth Hudson. Green thumbs gathered every year for AU's Arbor Dayfestivities from 1933 to 1945; students got the day off from classes to helpbuild bridges, fireplaces, and walkways.