Marriage and Undergraduate Life at Princeton University in the 1970s

By Iliyah Coles ’22

Married undergraduates have been at Princeton for decades, even though they might appear to be relatively scarce at the University now. In fact, students who got married before attending college weren’t even allowed to be admitted until around 1970, most likely in part due to the difficulty in finding adequate housing for couples. Because of this rule, many students waited until they were enrolled to get married, which still presented a problem for the University in terms of living situations, especially since the number of married students was steadily increasing. The 1970s saw a substantial rise in the number of married undergraduates at the university. The problem was that married students wished to live with their spouses, even though some of them did not attend Princeton, and the University claimed that lack of availability and finances prevented this arrangement from occurring. 

Clipping from the Daily Princetonian, April 3, 1975.

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 December 24-30

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Princeton pays its first phone bill, an undergraduate writes to his cousin to urge him to join him at school, and more.

December 24, 1895—The College of New Jersey pays its very first telephone bill ($40.00 for the year).

December 25, 1818—William Krebs writes to his cousin from Nassau Hall and encloses Princeton’s current catalogue. “This will doubtless prove amusing to you. … Do not abandon the idea of joining College next spring…”

Early catalogues for the College of New Jersey (Princeton) were in Latin, like this one William Krebs sent to his cousin on December 25, 1818. Catalogus Collegii Neo-Caesariensis is translated as Catalogue of the College of New Jersey.

December 26, 1906—News that Trenton vaudeville actress Edna Mae Chandler has secretly married a Princeton student in a 2:00AM ceremony performed by a local Justice of the Peace makes headlines throughout the region, but it will later come out that contrary to Chandler’s understanding, Harry F. Bibbins is not a 22-year-old Princeton senior and the son of a millionaire but rather a 17-year-old Trenton hotel clerk. They will divorce in 1913.

December 27, 1765—The St. John’s Grand Lodge of Massachusetts grants a petition from residents of Princeton, including Richard Stockton, to establish a Masonic Lodge.

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.

Training for Love and Family: Princeton University’s Marriage Course

In 1927, Ernest R. Groves developed a groundbreaking new course at the University of North Carolina focused on comprehensive preparation for marriage and family life. By the mid-1930s, scattered colleges throughout the United States were offering similar classes to undergraduates, but Princeton joined the group a bit late. The first serious discussions of the possibility of having such a course here occurred in the late 1940s. Students were pushing for a course to address sociology, psychology, religion, economics, law, and medicine as they related to marriage and family life. A 1949 editorial in the Daily Princetonian lamented the lack of such a class as “an astonishing fact.” The first marriage lecture at Princeton was given on February 15, 1950.

Due to its high demand, “A Course on Marriage and Family Life” was open only to Princeton seniors after the first couple of years, even though it was non-curricular (i.e., could not be taken for credit). One needed tickets to attend lectures, for which a fee was charged. Princeton faculty led smaller discussion groups, similar to precepts, following the lectures. The institution was not yet co-educational, so the focus was on how to be a good husband and father; wives- and mothers-in-training were presumably taking courses elsewhere. Some students found it difficult to discuss sensitive topics openly, but most reports indicate that they felt it had been a good experience for them.

Marriage course ticket sales. Photo from 1957 Bric-a-Brac.

Continue reading