Dear Mr. Mudd,
Looking at the photograph posted on the Princeton University Archives Tumblr of the Texas Club in 1960, I see a woman, but Princeton wasn’t fully coeducational until 1969. Where did she come from?
Although to some extent this woman remains a mystery to us as well, there are other women we can see in photographs of extracurricular clubs at Princeton University in the early 1960s. The Bric-a-Brac provides some clues for us about who they may have been. Princeton University may not have admitted women as undergraduates until 1969, but women were on campus for a variety of reasons before then. In all probability, women in Princeton’s extracurricular clubs were students at other colleges in the area.
While Princeton University admitted only men, the regular visits of women from Vassar and Smith for date nights weren’t the only opportunities Princeton students had to interact with their female peers at other schools. Though Evelyn College closed its doors permanently in 1897, there were many female college students in the region throughout the 20th century. The local Westminster Choir College was coeducational, and there were also women’s colleges not far away, including New Jersey College for Women in New Brunswick (affiliated with Rutgers University and renamed Douglass College in 1955) and Centenary College in Hackettstown (now Centenary University). Indeed, editors of the 1961 Bric-a-Brac wrote that women from Centenary College had insisted on being included in the volume since they’d spent so much time on Princeton’s campus. Meanwhile, Princeton’s Baptist Student Fellowship explicitly drew from both Princeton University and Westminster Choir College, as stated in the 1961 Bric-a-Brac.
Regional clubs like the Texas Club, Oklahoma Club, and Rocky Mountain Empire Club all included women in their group photographs in the early 1960s as well. It is not difficult to imagine that women from these areas might have appreciated socializing with men who were from closer to their own hometowns while they were studying in New Jersey in pursuit of their own degrees. Westminster Choir College, in particular, drew students from all over the country.
These clubs presented just some of the opportunities for interacting with peers at other institutions. In 1948, for example, Tiger Magazine organized a field hockey team for Princeton, the “Tigoons,” to go up against teams at women’s colleges, including the New Jersey College for Women, Bryn Mawr, Sarah Lawrence, and Briarcliff Junior College.
The McCarter Workshop provided an outlet for students interested in professional theater, whether they were at Princeton University or Westminster Choir College. It also included local advisors who were not students, such as McCarter staff member Susan Lerner as Secretary-Treasurer in 1961-1962. We also see a few women appear in the 1962 Bric-a-Brac photo associated with the workshop.
Though Princeton may have been a male domain, women have always been present, if not always visible. The woman in the Texas Club in 1960 was thus perhaps not as unusual as she appears at first glance. Because their connection to Princeton University was largely social, however, it is quite difficult to learn very much about women involved in extracurricular activities on campus. We welcome any further information our readers may have about this topic.
Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112)
Historical Subject Files (AC109)