By Martha Vega-Gonzalez ’09
This article, the second of two about the dawn of coeducation at Princeton, is part of an occasional series about Princeton history and the University archives at Mudd Library. Vega-Gonzalez, a recent graduate who majored in history, lives and works in New York City as a freelance writer.
In the first installment about Princeton’s decision to become a coeducational undergraduate college, we saw how certain alumni were scandalized by the University’s change in policy. Director of Development Arthur J. Horton ’42, known to his friends as Jerry, was a voice of dissent from within the University, and as a result, he fielded letters of support from like-minded alumni.
The decision, however, was not universally unpopular, and Horton received and preserved letters from those who did not agree with him as well as letters from those who shared his views (now available at Mudd Library in the Arthur J. Horton Collection on Coeducation). These letters ranged in tone from polite disagreement to open ridicule.
One alumnus, James S. Lane III from the Class of 1961, wrote a good-natured letter to Horton:
Were I not the father of three daughters, I might enthusiastically associate with your well publicized dissent from the Patterson Committee Report. Unlike yourself, however, I shall enjoy the luxury of waiting until 1980 to decide whether young ladies’ presence on the Princeton campus will be as disruptive to their own educations as it was to those of their fathers. I’m also assuming that by then, the Director of Development will have struck oil under Nassau Hall and thereby properly solved the tuition problem caused by the need to properly accommodate all the young lovelies in the proper manner.
George Orwell notwithstanding, from at least one prospective father of the Class of 1984 you have the most profound sympathies!
Lighthearted and friendly in tone, Lane’s letter clearly expressed his disagreement with Horton, but at the same time alluded to the obvious logistical problems that would accompany the addition of 1,000 women to the undergraduate student body. (The change came in phases, with the first 171 women arriving in September 1969.)
Criticisms of Horton’s opposition to coeducation were not limited to the Princeton community. Edison B. Allen, the vice president for development at the University of Alabama, sent Horton a mocking letter:
I commend your courage in casting the only dissenting vote out of ten, but I worry about the possibility of your being picketed by all of the latter day suffragettes who don’t realize that you really like girls.
I didn’t tell you that the barracuda that you caught off Miami Beach was a female.
Also, have you been at the New Jersey school for boys so long that you didn’t realize that women control most of the wealth in the country? Women are very important. As a matter of fact, one is writing this letter to you. [Emphasis added.]
Allen’s letter, probably drafted and typed by his secretary, underlined the importance of women in the world, countering the assertion of many opponents of coeducation that women, unlike men, did not need a Princeton education.
Ultimately, the question did not come down to whether or not women needed Princeton, but rather, to whether or not Princeton needed women.
Click here to read Vega-Gonzalez’s first column on the Horton collection and the dawn of coeducation.