This Week in Princeton History for June 13-19

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, a team sets off to compete in the Olympics, a group of women gain access to campus resources, and more.

June 13, 1900—The track team sets off for Paris to compete in the Olympics.

June 14, 1943—The newly formed Citizens’ Committee for a United Nations Front organizes a Flag Day rally held in Frick Auditorium. At the rally, Princeton’s president, Harold Dodds, warns, “We must avoid the temptation after this war to inflict our particular beliefs on others.”

June 16, 1877—There is a new iron fence in front of Nassau Hall.

June 17, 1889—Princeton’s Board of Trustees votes to give Evelyn College students use of Princeton’s Library and museums.

Evelyn College students, ca. 1890. Historical Subject Files (AC109), Box 332, Folder 1.

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 21-27

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, Abraham Lincoln disappoints students, the chief of staff for the Black Panthers speaks in Dillon Gym, and more.

February 21, 1861—Students who have waited for him are disappointed when Abraham Lincoln does not stop at Princeton’s train station between speaking from the train in New Brunswick and attending a reception in Trenton, Newark’s Centinel of Freedom will later report.

February 24, 1891—At the National Council of Women of the United States meeting in Washington, Annie Nathan Meyer, founder of Barnard College, criticizes Evelyn College, saying Evelyn is not holding women to the same standards as men. “Not only is the Evelyn degree given for less than is demanded by Princeton, but of the students that attend Evelyn twenty-five are special students; and only seven are regular students, working for the Evelyn degree.”

Diploma from Evelyn College, 1892, which awards a degree to Josephine Reade Curtis for having “completed the Special course of Study at Evelyn College” and having “passed in a satisfactory manner examinations corresponding to those of Princeton College upon the studies pursued.” (Click to enlarge.) Historical Subject Files (AC109), Box 434.

Continue reading

Dear Mr. Mudd: Why Was There a Woman in Princeton University’s Texas Club Before Coeducation?

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?

So far, we’ve been able to learn that the woman in the front row, far left, had the last name Riedel, but we haven’t been able to confirm anything about her specifically beyond this. Texas Club, 1960. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box AD39, Folder 27.

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. Continue reading

This Week in Princeton History for April 6-12

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Evelyn College trustees vote to include women on their board, a shanty in Firestone Plaza demonstrates anti-apartheid sentiment, and more.

April 6, 1895—The Board of Trustees of Evelyn College votes to expand so its membership can include women. Rather than the current 15 men, the board will include 15 men and 15 women.

Evelyn College catalog, 1891-1892. Historical Subject Files (AC109), Box 330, Folder 4.

Continue reading

This Week in Princeton History for November 18-24

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, undergraduates are urged not to embarrass women on campus, Clio defeats Whig in a debate over companionate marriage, and more.

November 20, 1891—A letter to the editor of the Princetonian urges Princeton students not to embarrass the women with applause and cheering when their peers from Evelyn College appear on campus in the future, condemning their conduct toward them earlier in the week.

Evelyn College students walking across the Princeton campus, ca. 1890s. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box AD25.

Continue reading

This Week in Princeton History for June 3-9

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a freshman requests the right to wear a top hat, women make national headlines for Commencement firsts, and more.

June 4, 1930—In a letter to the editor of the Princetonian, a member of the Class of 1933 requests an end to rules limiting the wearing of top hats to upperclassmen on the grounds that “this piece of apparel is indispensable to anyone having any regard for correct social usage… The Freshman or Sophomore feels self-conscious and is at a decided disadvantage in not being permitted to dress himself properly.”

Getting to wear top hats was one of the things that marked the transition from Princeton sophomore to junior in the early 20th century. Here, rising juniors march in Princeton’s annual High Hat Parade in 1915. The tradition began in the 1870s as a way to formally signify that one now had a right to wear a top hat and carry a cane on campus. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP16, Image No. 4072.

Continue reading

This Week in Princeton History for May 13-19

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, two professors accuse a third of stealing from them, Princeton’s first Japanese Ph.D. writes about his experiences on campus, and more.

May 13, 1869—Despite worries that bad weather would prevent women from attending Class Day, the Nassau Literary Review reports that they filled the Chapel.

College of New Jersey (Princeton) Class of 1869 Class Day program. Note that school colors had not yet been chosen, so the program sported a red, white, and blue theme. Princeton University Class Records (AC130), Box 7.

Continue reading

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.


“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.)
Continue reading

“She Flourishes:” Chapters in the History of Princeton Women.

Mudd Manuscript Library’s new exhibition features women at Princeton, from the days of Evelyn College (1887-1897), mainly attended by daughters of Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary professors, to the appointment of Shirley Tilghman as the first woman president of Princeton University in 2001. For the first time our exhibit is accompanied by historical film footage from the archives. This compilation of segments from films and videos, most of which was featured previously in The Reel Mudd, is shown here.

The footage covers forty years of history of Princeton women, from the admission of Sabra Meservey as the first woman at the Graduate School in 1961 to Shirley Tilghman’s presidency. Subjects covered include the introduction of coeduation, student activism and Sally Frank, and activities of the Women’s Center and SHARE (Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising, Resources, and Education).

The compilation opens with footage of the Class of 1939’s junior prom in 1938 (taken from its Class film), which was attended by 606 women (all listed by name in the Daily Prince). Women only entered academic life at Princeton in 1961, when Sabra Meservey was admitted at to the Graduate School. The footage at 0:37 shows Meservey’s humorous account of her initial conversation with President Robert Goheen, who ultimately oversaw the introduction of undergraduate coeducation in 1969, and wanted to use Meservey as a “test case” at the Graduate School. (For the full story, see the the blog about the Celebration of Coeducation at the Graduate School.)

The only filmed recollections about the early years of coeducation were found on the documentary Looking Back: Reflections of Black Princeton Alumni (1:32), created on the occasion of Princeton’s 250th anniversary in 1996. The changes on campus did not please everybody. In 1974 Princeton icon Frederick Fox ’39 reached out to disgruntled alumni in the film A Walk in the Springtime, pointing out, perhaps tongue in cheek, that Nassau Hall’s two bronze tigers were male and female (3:19). In the following fragment, taken from the short Academy award winning film Princeton, A Search For Answers (1973), women feature prominently (3:55).

The last fragments feature woman activism and the gains of the women’s movement of the 1970s and the 1980s. Two fragments were taken from the Class of 1986’s Video Yearbook: a speech from Sally Frank ’80, who sued the last three all-male eating clubs (4:18), and a Women’s Center sit-in in May 1, 1986 (4:45). The last two fragments have not been featured yet in The Reel Mudd but will be shortly. The first is a sketch from “Sex on a Saturday Night,” a theater performance for freshmen about sexual harassment, presented by SHARE (5:11), The film ends with the inauguration of Shirley Tilghman (5:11) in 2001, taken from the documentary “Robert F. Goheen ’40, *48; Reflections of a President” (2006).

The exhibit “She Flourishes:” Chapters in the History of Princeton Women may be visited during Mudd Library’s opening hours on weekdays between 9.00 am and 4.45 pm. from now until the end of August 2012.