This Week in Princeton History for February 17-23

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, wives are organizing for women’s rights, a new eating club is organized for those looking for something less expensive, and more.

February 17, 1970—Elaine Showalter and Molly Oates, wives of Princeton faculty, lead a discussion of women’s rights in the Old Graduate College Common Room at a meeting of the local chapter of the National Organization of Women. The group of 40 is seeking opportunity to match their educations and abilities. Oates: “Women are unpaid servants of the institution for which a husband works—they entertain and bake cookies. A woman’s position is determined by her husband’s.”

Elaine Showalter, ca. 1990s. Historical Photograph Collection, Individuals Series 9 (AC067), Box 17. Showalter was teaching at Douglass College (Rutgers University) in 1970. She joined the faculty at Princeton University in 1984. For more on faculty wives and their advocacy for broadening women’s roles on campus, see our previous blog post on this topic.

February 21, 1871—A group of women puts on a minstrel show. It is so popular among Princetonians that they are invited back for an encore in March.

February 22, 1998—David Milanaik ’98 gives a presentation entitled “Jew Man Group” about his conversion to evangelical Christianity to a small group of students at Forbes Theater. Milanaik has sparked controversy on campus due to his partnership with Jews for Jesus.

February 23, 1941—Members of the Class of 1943 organize Prospect Cooperative Club, a less expensive option for students who cannot afford Princeton’s traditional eating clubs.

Prospect Cooperative Club, ca. 1942. Photo from 1943 Bric-a-Brac.

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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

This Week in Princeton History for February 3-9

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the last winter Commencement is held, a woman successfully bickers an Eating Club for the first time, and more.

February 3, 1949—Princeton holds its sixth and last winter Commencement, presenting 274 degrees. Frank Osborn, Class of 1910, tells the assembled graduates, “we are forced to realize that the world is a dangerous place to live in. That’s a new idea for my generation. We don’t like it.”

Frank Osborn with Harold Dodds at Princeton University’s Feburary 2, 1949 Winter Commencement. Photo from Princeton Alumni Weekly, March 19, 1949. Osborn’s speech can be found in the Princeton University Commencement Records (AC115).

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This Week in Princeton History for November 27-December 3

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, undergraduates protest the presence of African Americans in chapel, a computer virus is spreading all over campus, and more.

November 28, 1868—Students at the College of New Jersey (Princeton) begin circulating a petition to ban African Americans from chapel exercises after James McCosh allows a black student from Princeton Theological Seminary to attend his lectures on the life of Jesus, but few faculty are willing to sign it and McCosh remains unmoved.

Clipping from New York Tribune, December 8, 1868. The relevant portion reads as follows: “A young man (colored), of fine abilities and address, a graduate of a Western college, and at present a student of the Theological Seminary of this place, has dared to present himself at the College Chapel on Sunday afternoon for the purpose of listening to the President’s [McCosh’s] lectures without the permission of the sympathizers of the ‘Lost Cause,’ who feeling themselves deeply injured are now circulating a protest, which being duly signed, will be presented to the Faculty protesting against the further privilege of colored men entering the Chapel during any Chapel exercise. Thus far no movement has been made by the more liberal minded against this pernicious protest, for they have confidence in the good sense of the Faculty, and believe that such an article will be treated by them with contempt.”

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This Week in Princeton History for July 3-9

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a court ruling forces two eating clubs to accept women, a Yugoslavian king is on campus, and more.

July 3, 1990—The New Jersey Supreme Court rules in Frank v. Ivy Club that the last two male-only eating clubs at Princeton must admit women. Sally Frank ’80 initially filed her suit in 1979. The Princeton University Archives holds two collections documenting this case: those of Frank’s co-counsel and a general collection of materials related to the case.

Photo from 1990 Bric-a-Brac. At the time of the Bric-a-Brac‘s publication, Frank’s legal battles were ongoing.

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This Week in Princeton History for February 8-14

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, sophmores take over Quadrangle Club, the Suffrage Walking Pilgrims make their way through campus, and more.

February 8, 1991—Frustrated by their unsuccessful efforts to join other eating clubs during Bicker, 100 sophomores stage a “takeover” of Quadrangle Club, one of the sign-in clubs. Current membership of the club is apprehensive about the likely results of this influx of new members (now over 60% of the total membership).

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Quadrangle Club, undated. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box AD02, Image No. 7824.

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Woodrow Wilson and the Eating Clubs

Written by Anna Rubin ’15

We are pleased to announce another newly digitized collection: the Woodrow Wilson Correspondence in the Office of the President Records. Wilson was president of Princeton University from 1902-1910, Governor of New Jersey 1911-1913, and U.S. President 1913-1921. This collection contains correspondence between Wilson and University faculty, administrators, alumni, and parents, as well as departmental records and information on University projects that were taking place during his term, such as the construction of the Graduate College. Wilson’s Princeton presidency presented him with many challenges, the most ultimately significant of which was conflict over campus social life. In the first of a two-part series, we take a look at Wilson’s battle with the eating clubs.

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Woodrow Wilson as Princeton’s president. Papers of Woodrow Wilson Project Records (MC178) Box 445.

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Eating Clubs and “The Street”

Dear Mr. Mudd:

Q. What are “eating clubs”? Did F. Scott Fitzgerald make them up? What is “The Street”?

A. Princeton alumnus F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel This Side of Paradise (1920) gave the world a glimpse into the exclusive social enclaves known as the Princeton eating clubs through the eyes of fictional student Amory Blaine. According to Blaine, each club had a different character and social standing on the campus. “The upper-class clubs, concerning which he had pumped a reluctant graduate during the previous summer, excited his curiosity: Ivy, detached and breathlessly aristocratic; Cottage, an impressive melange of brilliant adventurers and well-dressed philanderers; Tiger Inn, broad-shouldered and athletic, vitalized by an honest elaboration of prep-school standards; Cap and Gown; flamboyant Colonial; Literary Quadrangle, and the dozen others, varying in age and positions.” While today’s clubs may now have different reputations, various stereotypes continue to surround them.

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Couples at a Patton Club party, 1946. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box 154, Image No. 4237.

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This Week in Princeton History for February 2-8

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a junior saves two friends after an avalanche, Tiger Inn holds its first coed bicker, and more.

February 2, 1953—Princeton University junior John K. Ewing ’54 saves the lives of Richard H. Evans ’55 and John E. Stauffer ’54 in the aftermath of an avalanche on Mount Washington. The following May, Ewing will die tragically in another mountain climbing accident in Connecticut’s Sleeping Giant State Park, at the age of 19.

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John Kennedy Ewing IV’s Class of 1954 Freshman Herald photo (taken ca. 1950).

February 3, 1991—Tiger Inn holds its first coed Bicker.

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This group photo from the 1992 Bric-a-Brac is the first such Tiger Inn photo to include female Princetonians.

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History of Women at Princeton University

Written by Vanessa Snowden

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 nine women transferred into the Class of 1970, with slightly greater numbers in the two subsequent classes. 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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First use of Houseparties term?

Question: Can you definitively document the first use of “Houseparties” as a term for the Spring club bacchanal?

Answer:Writing in the Princeton Alumni Weekly in 1960, Brown Rolston 1910 makes the claim that “It was my section of the Cottage Club and that of Cap and Gown which started Houseparties. It took considerable argument and persuasion to get the college authorities to consent, but under the conditions of strict chaperonage they finally did. The girls stayed at the clubs and each club had a dance to which the girls and members of the other club were invited and a most enjoyable and respectable time was had by all. My mother and several other ladies were on guard but, as I said, the girls were ‘nice’ girls and were quite used to being chaperoned.”

If we take Rolston at his word, it would mean that houseparties originated with the Class of 1910. It’s worth noting however that since he is writing in 1960, Rolston is almost certainly using the term retroactively. While the events Rolston describes may match the definition of houseparties (at least by early 20th century standards) it seems unlikely that they were called that. The first time that the term actually appears in reference to a collective celebration at the clubs seems to be a brief mention in the Daily Princetonian in 1916. After this point it quickly enters the Princeton vernacular and by 1920 there is a “houseparties” issue of The Tiger.

There are two Prince articles which briefly discuss the origin of houseparties that one can review online, as they explain their evolution from smaller “tea parties.”

http://prince-web1.princeton.edu/archives/2003/05/02/news/8153.shtml

http://prince-web1.princeton.edu/archives/2006/05/04/arts/15524.shtml

I hope that this information helps. I cannot find anything in any of our records which would indicate that 1908 was the first year of houseparties. Even if Brown Rolston was only a junior when the events he describes happened (it’s unclear if he was discussing his junior or senior year), then the date still would have been spring 1909. Let me know if there’s anything else I can do; I understand that bragging rights to a century of partying is on the line here.

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Brennan