“Womanhood on Tiger Territory”: The First Women to Live in Princeton University Dormitories

We have previously written about the first women to take a class at Princeton University, unseating nearly two centuries of tradition. Today, we’re highlighting what our collections tell us about another group of women who changed Princeton’s established patterns as the first to live in campus dorms, another result of World War II’s radical changes to nearly every corner of American life.

During the war, many students left before graduating to enter military service. Completing their degrees posed challenges for both Princeton and its students. James M. Donnelly, Jr. ’43 wrote to administrator C. William Edwards on August 25, 1945. He hoped to return to Princeton, but there were special considerations. “I am also married and hope to bring my wife to Princeton when I return. However, the procedure I must follow to procure housing, with University aid, is also unclear.”

This wasn’t unclear only to Donnelly. Despite a commitment to allow its students to complete educations disrupted by war, the surge of returning veterans presented huge logistical problems for Princeton. Like Donnelly, many had married; some also had children. But residential colleges are not generally equipped to handle a large population of married undergraduates, and Princeton was no exception. This was, they anticipated, only a temporary problem, but nonetheless an urgent one.

One way Princeton responded to this new housing crisis was to build apartments, but these weren’t ready in time for Donnelly and many others. Thus, Princeton decided to have couples move into Brown Hall and a few other campus locations. For the first time in 200 years, women would live in dormitories at Princeton. If the students accepted these cramped accommodations, Princeton would allow them to return before the new Butler Apartments were constructed. A letter sent to one veteran by the Department of Grounds and Buildings warned, “None of the accommodations offered are at all satisfactory or desirable and very few have private baths or cooking facilities. Those which do are used for assignment to couples with a child.” Despite such ominous words, a significant number of veterans and their wives decided to come back to Princeton anyway.

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Couples arriving at Brown Hall, 1946. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP166, Image No. 6055.

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This Week in Princeton History for June 27-July 3

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Ulysses S Grant visits the campus, women take classes for the first time, and more.

June 27, 1871—Sitting U.S. President Ulysses S Grant visits the College of New Jersey (Princeton) for the first time.

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Sketch of Ulysses S Grant by Emery Kelen, undated. Derso and Kelen Collection (MC205), Box 52, Folder 39.

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We Are the Champions: The History of Princeton University’s Women’s Lacrosse Team

After the admission of women in 1969, many aspects of student life at Princeton were transformed, including sports activities. The first changes happened in the area of physical education. After response to a questionnaire given to female students revealed high demand for women’s physical education, the Department of Athletics designated a women’s locker room in Dillon Gym complete with hair dryers. Women’s participation in physical education courses, however, was voluntary and limited to swimming and tennis. The changes to physical education had mixed reviews, but most male students responded favorably. One student reportedly stated that it was pleasant not to see hairy legs all the time.

In the fall of 1970, the university appointed Meredith Lee Dean as director for women’s physical education. Dean expanded the Department of Athletics offerings to include field hockey, dancing, and sailing. These physical education courses were co-ed, and female students often showed as much promise as their male classmates. The Daily Princetonian mentions one incident where the students selected a female student as the star quarterback of a co-ed touch football team.

Female quarterback

Drawing by Jim Lecky, Daily Princetonian, September 14, 1970

Furthermore, women also informally participated in other sports activities. Janice F. Hill ’73, for example, had convinced the new freshman crew coach, John A. Rathschmidt to let her be a barge coxswain during the freshman crew practices.

One of the most dramatic changes to women’s participation in sports occurred during the fall of 1970: the University broke tradition and allowed women to battle each other in events at the annual Cane Spree. Centered around an odd cane wrestling match, the Cane Spree had long been a show of brawn for freshmen and sophomore men. This changed in 1970 when the University allowed freshman and sophomore women to compete in the same athletic matches as men.

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Co-ed Cane Spree, Daily Princetonian, September 21, 1970

Another significant change was the formalization of women’s sports teams. In the fall of 1971, the University created a women’s varsity intercollegiate sports program that allowed intramural teams to compete formally with other schools. The 1971 varsity teams included field hockey, which had already been played extensively in other colleges, as well as tennis, squash, and crew. Princetonian women quickly demonstrated that they were willing and able to compete; several newspapers, including a feature in the New York Times, discussed the achievements of the women’s crew and tennis teams.

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Louise Meledin ’74 with Coach Penny Hinckley, Undergraduate Alumni Records (AC199), Box 556

Although the women’s lacrosse team had been playing since 1971, the university did not incorporate the team into the varsity league until the 1972-1973 season. The women’s field hockey and women’s lacrosse team shared many things: their coach Penny Hinckley, practice fields, and even some teammates. The team played its first game on April 26, 1973 against Westchester and suffered a 21-2 defeat. Among the early stars of the team was Emily Goodfellow ’76, who would win 12 letters for a variety of sports, and Louise Meledin’ 74, also a multiple letter winner and field hockey player.

The women’s lacrosse team finally acquired a coach of their own in 1978, when Hinckley accepted a position at Haverford College.  The new coach, Betty Logan, taught a more offensive approach and led the team to their best records, including beating long-time opponent Penn State. She also significantly increased the performance of the team by hiring Sandy Hoody, a 1986 World cup goalie and member of the US national team, as an assistant coach.

1979 Team Photo, Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 161

1979 Team Photo, Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 161

The team’s major winning streaks occurred in the mid-90s under the direction of Coach Chris Sailer, a Harvard graduate, and a rookie coach. Sailer, who has been with the team nearly 30 years, was inducted into the US Lacrosse National Hall of Fame in 2008 and has received many Coach of the Year awards. In 1993, the team won its first Ivy League championship and became the first Princeton women’s team to reach an NCAA final.

The following year the Tigers finished the job by beating Maryland 10-7 and becoming the first Princeton women’s team to win an NCAA Championship. The team retained its place as the Ivy League Champions until 1997, then regained the Ivy title in 2001 and kept it until 2005. The impressive wins of the team include 10 semi-finals and three championship games.

The Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library has recently processed the Women’s Lacrosse Records acquired from the Department of Athletics. The collection covers games and practices from 1975-2010 and includes a variety of records including clippings, statistics, and video recordings. Other items in the collection are handwritten notes from the team’s coaches, game programs and reports and issues of various sports and lacrosse publications.

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Sue Jean Lee and the Women of Triangle Club

The first thing that usually comes to mind with reference to the history of Princeton University’s Triangle Club is probably a kick line of men in dresses. Until 1969, admission to Princeton was for men only, so putting on student plays meant men often took women’s roles, and performances usually poked fun at this fact. Triangle was a launching pad for several prominent students. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jimmy Stewart, and Jose Ferrer are among its notable members, all of whom seem to have taken the experiences the Club gave them as the foundation for their later careers, just to name a few examples.

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Publicity photo for “Katherine,” 1892. Triangle Club Records (AC122), Box 246.

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“We May Be Unable to Give You an Admission Decision”: The Women of the Princeton University Class of 1970

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Photo from Nassau Herald (1970).

In 2013, 26,642 people applied to the Princeton University Class of 2018. Princeton made offers of admission to 1,983 of these applicants, an acceptance rate of 7.4%. Though many find this competitiveness discouraging, clearly a significant number choose to try their odds anyway. Yet how many applications can one imagine Princeton would get if the school announced that they might end up rejecting all of those who applied? This was the dilemma faced by female students in the winter of 1969: whether to apply to a university unsure if it would admit a single woman.

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This Week in Princeton History for February 23-March 1

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Jewish students get their own space, the campus reels from discovering the true identity of a student, and more.

February 23, 1883—The Princetonian calls for coeducation in an editorial that asserts, “The time has now come … when the onward march of learning demands for woman the same attention as is bestowed upon men.” An added plus, the editorial says, will be an improvement in the morals of the male students. In order to ensure this, it proposes that female students be required to sign the following pledge: “We, the undersigned, solemnly promise, while connected with this institution, to receive no attention from any gentlemen who use tobacco or intoxicating liquors.” Princeton will actually become coeducational 86 years later, without requiring such a pledge from any student.

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Nineteenth-century drawing, Princeton Artwork Collection (AC376), Box 2.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 5-11

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Albert C. Kinsey’s groundbreaking report is sold out everywhere (even the library!), students urge the administration to admit women, and more.

January 5, 1948—The Albert C. Kinsey report, “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male,” is published. It will be immediately sold out at every bookstore in town. All of the University Library’s copies will be sent to the University Store and also sold so quickly that nobody notices the mistake until none are left.

January 6, 1919—The Faculty decide to accept the Department of War’s offer to establish a field artillery R.O.T.C. at Princeton. The program will include training with horses as well as weaponry.

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Princeton University R.O.T.C. with a canon outside Palmer Stadium, undated. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP189, Image No. 5100.

January 7, 1914—Dr. John Miller Turpin Finney (Class of 1884), first president of the newly-formed American College of Surgeons, addresses the Medical Club in Dodge Hall.

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This photo of the College of New Jersey (Princeton University) Class of 1884 was donated to the archives by Dr. Finney’s wife. Historical Photograph Collection, Class Photographs Series (AC184), Box LP4.

January 8, 1965–The Daily Princetonian runs a special report on the damage admitting only men to the University is causing to its students and editorializes, “hopefully, we’ll be sending our daughters, as well as our sons, to Princeton.” The report concludes, “Today young men want women—not simply as sex objects, as those who lead the argument into rather fruitless digressions maintain—but as companions, as sharers of common experiences.”

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Princeton University’s (all male) 1965 Cheerleading Squad. Photo from the 1965 Bric-a-Brac.

For last week’s installment in this series, click here.

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us

“The New Order”: How Japan’s Attack on Pearl Harbor (Briefly) Led to Women Enrolling in Classes at Princeton University

“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the empire of Japan”: so began Franklin Delano Roosevelt on December 8, in a speech asking the United States Congress for a declaration of war. Princeton University didn’t wait until Roosevelt’s speech; instead, the Princeton Senate declared war on Japan immediately following the attack. The Daily Princetonian reported on this story and others under the banner headline, “PRINCETON PRESENTS UNITED FRONT AS UNITED STATES FACES TOTAL WAR.”

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Army Specialized Training Program, ca. 1942-1945, Princeton University, Historical Photograph Collection (AC112), Box SP18, Item No. 4431.

It would be difficult to overstate the transformations that World War II brought to the United States at large and to Princeton University in particular in a nearly immediate and all-consuming way in the wake of the Japanese strikes on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. A stunned administration under the leadership of University President Harold Willis Dodds (Graduate Class of 1914), who had only six weeks before asserted that the threat of war “will call for minor adjustments in the curriculum” (“Some Thoughts on Universities and National Defense,” October 31, 1941), suddenly and drastically revised its approach. Rather than minor adjustments, Princeton instead embraced major upheavals to nearly all of its traditions.

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British military class, Princeton University, ca. 1943, Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP18, Item No. 4433.

On December 15, Dodds presented the rough outlines of a changed Princeton curriculum to a mass meeting of students in Alexander Hall. A Princeton A.B., typically a four-year degree, would have an accelerated option with year-round classes, so that it could be completed in three. Additional “emergency courses” would be added to teach skills deemed useful for war. Princeton would yield itself to the needs of the U.S. Army and Navy, whatever those needs happened to be. All of these anticipated changes quickly went into effect. Here, we highlight how the war effort brought one other dramatic change to the campus: for the first time, women enrolled in classes.

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“The New Order,” Princeton Tiger, December 1941.

Photogrammetry, or making maps from aerial photographs, was among many emergency courses added for the Summer 1942 term. Tuition was not charged for the class, taught by engineering professor Philip R. Kissam, but admission was competitive, as applications poured in from across the nation.

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Flyer advertising Princeton University Photogrammetry Course, 1942, Historical Subject Files Collection (AC109), Box 421, Folder 3.

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Unidentified female student with engineering professor Philip R. Kissam, Princeton’s Photogrammetry class, 1942, Historical Photographs Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP212, Item No. 5577.

The class of 45 ultimately included 23 women, most from the East Coast region between New London and Philadelphia, and one from Royal Oak, Michigan. The Prince marveled, “One of the few remaining strongholds of the male, the classrooms of Princeton University, have been opened by the war to women students for the first time in the 196 years of its existence.” This was a bit of an exaggeration, however, as only a few classrooms were actually open to women, and the photogrammetry class was the only one taken by American women. Three female members of the British military also attended classes here during the war (Princeton Alumni Weekly, December 10, 1943), but afterward, coeducation at Princeton became nothing more than a memory until the 1960s. For more on the history of women at the University, see our previous blog post.

For further reading on World War II’s impact on Princeton University, see our previous blog posts about the bronze memorial stars that adorn some dormitory windows and the wartime love letters of alumnus Peter Page ’41.

Sources:

Board of Trustees Records (AC120)

Daily Princetonian

Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112)

Historical Subject Files Collection (AC109)

Office of the Dean of the College Records (AC149)

Princeton Alumni Weekly

The Princeton Tiger

Root, Robert K. The Princeton Campus in World War II. Princeton: Self-published, 1978.

 

This Week in Princeton History for December 1-7

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Daily Princetonian elects its first female chairperson, Andrew Carnegie gives Princeton a lake, and more.

December 2, 1978—The 102-year-old Daily Princetonian elects Anne C. Mackay-Smith ’80 its first female chairperson. In June 1980, she will be elected to the Princeton University Board of Trustees.

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Anne C. Mackay-Smith, 1980, Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 125.

December 3, 1846—Natural philosophy (physics) professor Joseph Henry begins a new job as the first Secretary of the newly created Smithsonian Institution after 14 years at Princeton.

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“Sketch of the Life of Professor Joseph Henry,” Faculty Files, AC059, Box 229.

December 4, 1798—William Richardson Davie, a member of the College of New Jersey Class of 1776 and the 1787 “Tiger Nine,” is elected governor of North Carolina.

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William Richardson Davie, 1800, Undergraduate Alumni Records 1748-1920 (AC104), Box 33.

December 5, 1906—There is standing room only in Alexander Hall as steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie formally presents documents conveying legal title for Lake Carnegie to Princeton University.

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Washington Road bridge over Lake Carnegie, Princeton, New Jersey, 1907, Historical Postcard Collection (AC045), Box 1.

For last week’s installment in this series, click here.

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

History of Women at Princeton University

Written by Vanessa Snowden ’04

For much of its history, Princeton University had the reputation of being an “old-boys’ school.” Starting in the fall of 1969, Princeton became co-educational, and eight women transfer students graduated in June 1970, with slightly greater numbers graduating in the two subsequent years. Women who matriculated as freshmen in 1969 graduated in the Class of 1973, the first undergraduate class that included women for all four undergraduate years. However, the first steps towards co-education came as early as 1887, with the founding of Evelyn College. From its inception, this women’s institution was associated with Princeton University, and it was hoped that the link would be similar to the Radcliffe and Harvard University relationship. Unfortunately, Evelyn College closed in 1897, due to financial problems and a lack of support from Princeton.

For the next half-century, women instead made their presence known in unofficial positions. Wives and daughters of Princeton faculty and administrators succeeded in exerting significant influence on campus life as advocates for students as well as assistants in research. Isabella Guthrie McCosh, wife of James McCosh, the 11th president of Princeton, was deeply involved in protecting the health and welfare of Princeton students. As a result of her unflagging dedication, the campus infirmary was built and named in her honor.

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“Reminiscences of Mrs. McCosh,” June 1935. Auxiliary to the Isabella McCosh Infirmary Records (AC175), Box 2.

Women were also important forces in the academic world. Margaret Farrand Thorp, wife of English professor, Willard Thorp, often assisted with her husband’s research while simultaneously producing her own independent work. Fittingly, she wrote a book entitled Female Persuasion: Six Strong-Minded Women, which was published in 1949. Speaking of her lot as a female at Princeton, Thorp once quipped, “We who practice the pleasant profession of faculty wife are often amused by Princeton University’s apparent hostility to the feminine sex. Hostility is probably too strong a word. The situation is, rather, that for the University, the feminine sex does not exist.” (See William K. Selden, Women of Princeton, p. 33.)
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