The Tigress

In 1969, after several years of experiments integrating women into the classroom, Princeton University announced that it would become fully coeducational, admitting women to all of its degree programs. Female undergraduates brought many changes to Princeton traditions with them, but not all of these are present on the 21st-century campus. One new tradition from the 1970s and early 1980s lost to time was a new mascot: The Tigress.

The Tigress in a publicity shot for Triangle Club’s American Zucchini, 1975. Triangle Club Records (AC122), Box 86.

Though Princeton’s original embrace of the tiger as its mascot was a gradual evolutionary process, by the mid-20th century it was visible all over campus. Campus architecture was rife with tiger sculptures and gargoyles, all presumed male. The same year female undergraduates came to Princeton, Bruce Moore’s bronze tigers were installed on the Adams Mall between Whig and Clio Halls. These were a male and female pair, a tiger and a tigress.

Bruce Moore’s tigers arrive at Princeton University, 1969. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box 181, Image No. 3307.

Women who dated Princeton students had already been called “tigresses” for decades, but now some tigresses were Princetonians themselves. Someone decided they should not be represented by a (presumed) male tiger suit. In 1973, a new mascot appeared at the Princeton-Yale football game, and Princeton’s Tigress was born in a manner similar to Ms. Pacman: wearing a large orange bow on her head and a smaller orange bow on her tail.

The Tigress. Photo by Bill Allen, 1979 Bric-a-Brac.

One of Princeton’s early Tigresses was Kathleen A. Kovner ’79. In addition to her appearances on campus in a tiger suit, Kovner challenged gender expectations by attempting to bicker at Ivy Club, Cottage Club, and Tiger Inn, three all-male eating clubs. She served as chair of the Undergraduate Life Committee and a student manager of the Murray-Dodge Café. Lynn A. Stout ’79, who was Arts & Entertainment Editor of the Daily Princetonian, was another early Tigress. Her experiences in the suit included being dragged across a football field by raucous Rutgers fans.

The Tiger and Tigress amuse their fans with a dance. Photo from 1977 Nassau Herald.

The Tiger didn’t retire, however. Instead, the male-female mascot pair appeared together for a little over a decade in the 1970s and 1980s. Most Tiger-Tigress interactions pleased crowds, but controversy erupted in 1985 when the two “simulated the process of creating little tigers” at halftime during a football game.

At some point, the bows used as gender markers were removed from the tiger suits worn by female students. We have found no record of an official Tiger and Tigress appearance after 1988. In the early 1990s, the student in the Tiger suit was a woman (Blanche Rainwater ’95), and most consider the mascot genderless today. In fact, rules for the student in the tiger suit prevent one from revealing gender, as mascot Kinder Noble ’06 explained in 2004: “They always want to know if you’re a boy or a girl, and obviously you can’t say anything.” The Tiger must not speak or remove the head from the costume and is generally anonymous. Still, Emily Henkelman ’04 lamented while detailing her own time in the suit in 2002, “Most people assume, or after careful investigation decide, that the tiger is male. I don’t know where they think we would be without female tigers.”

Blanche Rainwater was featured in the Princeton Weekly Bulletin‘s May 30, 1994 issue. The headline erroneously identified her as a member of the Class of 1997 rather than the Class of 1995.

If you have more information about the relatively short-lived Tigress mascot, please contact us.

 

 

Sources:

Bric-a-Brac

Daily Princetonian

Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111)

Nassau Herald

Princeton Alumni Weekly

A Princeton Companion

Princeton Weekly Bulletin

Triangle Club Records (AC122)

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