Boston lawyer and lay preacher Henry Fowle Durant and his wife Pauline Fowle Durant founded the college in 1870 and enrollment began in 1875. Wellesley is one of the original Seven Sisters Colleges. After the destruction of the central College Hall in 1914, the college adopted a master plan developed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., Arthur Shurcliff, and Ralph Adams Cram in 1921 and expanded into several new buildings. The campus hosted a Naval Reserve Officer training program during the second World War and began to revise its curriculum significantly after the war and through the late 1960s.
Wellesley enrolls approximately 2,400 women in fifty-six baccalaureate degree programs. The college also offers research collaborations and cross-registration programs with other Boston-area institutions such as Babson College, Olin College, MIT, and Brandeis University. Wellesley students have a number of traditions and also participate in 14 varsity sports in the NCAA Division III's New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference.