Mission & Founding

“The HER Cooperative House established in 1928 was the first cooperative dormitory in the nation. A home for the women who could not otherwise afford the cost of a University education, it has become a model for similar residencies throughout the United States. The idea for the House came from Lucy Jenkins Franklin, the first Dean of Women at Boston University, and the generous gift of Harriet E. Richards made the idea a reality in this handsome building, which was the 19th century home of a Boston merchant. Generations of women students have enjoyed the cooperative mode of life envisioned by the founders.” – Inscription above the door of the Harriet E. Richards House


Harriet E. Richards portrait

Harriet E. Richards

The mission of the Harriet E. Richards Cooperative House is to provide alternative, off-campus housing to undergraduate women, cisgender and transgender women alike, dependent on financial-aid at Boston University. For generations of women, the HER House has been an important means enabling them to undertake their undergraduate studies. By drastically reducing the cost of room and board, the HER House gives its members the ability to afford their tuition, lifting a burden that all too often prevents bright young women from receiving an education. Providing low-cost housing options for higher education is not an entirely new concept. However, what is unique about the HER House is a commitment to cooperative living and fostering a close community of women guided by selflessness, consideration, respect, understanding for others and pride in the House.

Founding History

The Harriet E. Richards Cooperative House, established in 1928, is one of the first cooperative dormitories in the nation.

This was a residence that provided (and continues to provide) living arrangements at a nominal cost for women who could not otherwise afford the cost of a university education. The residents were expected to maintain the living quarters and cook for themselves. Now, almost 85 years later, the House continues to be a model for many similar residences around the country.

The first Dean of Women, Lucy Jenkins Franklin, founded the House after she visited France in the 1920s and saw similar houses run by and for college women who could not afford the cost of university living. Fascinated by the cooperative concept, she brought the idea back to the United States and started a cooperative for women at Boston University.

328 Bay State Road

Hollander Mansion, 328 Bay State Road

Originally located at 328 Bay State Road (the present site of Boston University Law School), the HER Cooperative House represented the first women’s dormitory on the Boston University Campus. Initially, Dean Franklin’s good friend, Harriet Eliza Richards, contributed the initial $100 to get the house operating. In turn, the residents decided to name the house for its benefactress. The then named Hollander mansion (328 Bay State Road) was purchased with the many donations from Ms. Richards and money raised by the House residents. The money was given to Boston University to purchase the building, and in accepting the money, Boston University agreed to serve as trustee of the Harriet E. Richards Cooperative House.

In 1940, the HER House relocated into a beautiful 19th century brownstone originally owned by a wealthy Boston merchant at 191 Bay State Road. Today, current House members find comfort in Harriet E. Richards’ spirit, which, along with the spirit of many women who have come before us, still graces the rooms.