“Wear ’Em”: Princeton University’s First Gay Jeans Day

The events of October 11, 1989, Princeton’s first “Gay Jeans Day,” reverberated far beyond the confines of a 24-hour period. Both then and much later, the day highlighted attitudes among students and alumni toward the LGBTQIA+ community as they existed in the late 1980s. The Princeton LGBTQIA+ Oral History Project (AC465) further gives us insight into the long-term impact, as well as a glimpse into the lives of closeted Princetonians we can’t see in the records made at the time.

With pink flyers stenciled in black letters, organizers of Princeton’s first Gay Jeans Day urged the campus to “wear ’em” without further details. Many took it to mean that wearing jeans would be a declaration of their own homosexuality. The idea wasn’t well-received. As quickly as they could put them up, organizers reported, their flyers would be torn down.

Gay Jeans Day flyer, 1989. Lesbian Gay Bisexual Alliance Records (AC037), Box 1, Folder 5.

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This Week in Princeton History for April 5-11

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Princetonians join NOW’s rally in Washington, the Board of Trustees urge parents not to send their children too much money, and more.

April 5, 1877—Marveling at the possibilities the intention of the telephone has brought, the Princetonian anticipates a future with remote learning and the ability to order meals on a whim: “Oh, when will this glorious activity among students appear, when from morning until night, from year in until year out, we need not leave our rooms, but can pursue our College course, and can at last graduate a la Telephone?

April 6, 2000—Graduate student Xiaohui Fan discovers a quasar.

April 9, 1989—More than 160 Princeton students and faculty members join hundreds of thousands of others in the National Organization for Women (NOW) rally for abortion rights in Washington, D.C.

Clipping from the Daily Princetonian.

April 10, 1807—The Board of Trustees writes to parents urging them not to give more money to students than is strictly necessary. Students will need $188.32 for tuition, room, board, wood, servants, candles, laundry, and incidentals, and no more than $250-$280 per year for all other expenses, including the furnishings for their rooms. The Board has established a Bursar in order to manage students’ money. “The guardians of the college cannot too earnestly press upon parents the danger of much exceeding in their remittances…they may be assured they do it at the great hazard of both the virtue, and to the scholarship of their sons. More young men have been injured by money and credit in this institution than by all other causes.”

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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This Week in Princeton History for March 15-21

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, 100 Princetonians picket a local bank for ties to apartheid, an unexpected loss of housing causes financial stress, and more.

March 16, 1816—A trunk is discovered open on the lawn of Nassau Hall with $3,000 stolen from it (about $46,000 in 2020 dollars, adjusted for inflation). The trunk belongs to a traveler on his way to New York who was robbed at the local Rowley’s Inn.

March 17, 1977—More than 100 students picket the Princeton Bank and Trust on Nassau Street for more than 90 minutes to demand an end to sales of Krugerrand, a South African gold coin. Sales of the coin help support apartheid, and students want to raise awareness of such entanglements locally, beyond the university’s investments. Emery Witt, a pharmacist next door, is frustrated that the picketing seems to be hurting his own business, but says he is pleased that students are expressing themselves.

Princeton University students picket Princeton Bank and Trust, March 17, 1977. Photo from the Daily Princetonian.

March 18, 1997—Ashley Stevenson ’99 and Dan Morris ’98 marry each other at a Spring Break wedding in Salt Lake City, Utah.

March 20, 1843—Charles Godfrey Leland writes to his father to ask for money to cover his expenses after he has unexpectedly lost his room in town and none are available on campus:

The next and greatest question is, what shall I do next session for board—the only way to get a room in College is to take a room and buy the furniture, for every room in College is now occupied and will be still more so next session. Fonte, however, intends going out of College and will give his room (one of the very best) to any one who will buy his furniture (which, with the exception of the carpet, is the same that George Boker had)—for 30 or 40 dollars—which is very cheap. I have promised him I would let him know by the end of this week whether I would take his room or not.

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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This Week in Princeton History for March 1-7

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a transit strike stops the Dinky, the state legislature prohibits gaming near Nassau Hall, and more.

March 2, 1983—In response to a retroactive pay cut, New Jersey Transit workers go on strike, halting commuter train service to and from Princeton.

Princeton Station, 1988. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 91.

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This Week in Princeton History for February 15-21

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Class of 1899 dons mourning clothes, protesters urge an end to sweatshop labor, and more.

February 15, 1899—To honor Ralph Wilson Simonds, formerly a member of their class, the Class of 1899 will wear mourning crépe for a period of twenty days beginning on this day. Simonds died fighting in the Spanish-American War in the Philippines. Simonds is the third member of the Class of 1899 to have died before graduation; a fourth will follow a few months later.

February 16, 1999—About 250 protesters march from Firestone Plaza to Nassau Hall urging an end to sweatshop labor in the production of Princeton-licensed apparel.

Protesters march toward Nassau Hall to urge an end to sweatshop labor in the production of Princeton-licensed apparel. Photo from the Daily Princetonian.

February 17, 1883—A number of students are delinquent on their poll tax payments.

February 19, 1985—The speech by former president Gerald Ford the Undergraduate Student Government attempted to arrange will not take place today because the administration has said Ford’s $13,500 honorarium is too expensive for a single speech.

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 December 7-13

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, concerns about local residents corrupting undergraduates are expressed, sophomores cancel plans to burn a dean in effigy, and more.

December 8, 1835—A new academic year begins. The Class of 1838, which began with 12 and grew to 24 during the previous academic year, absorbs 50 new classmates.

December 9, 1786—A committee reports to the New York Manumission Society: “With great satisfaction we communicate to the society the agreeable accounts of the exertions made in different states, and also in Great Britain, towards the emancipation of the unfortunate Africans—That to this end public orations have been made and received with great applause at the colleges of New Haven and Princeton and of Cambridge, in Great Britain, in which the injustice of holding Africans in slavery, hath been depicted in the most lively colors that sound judgment and elegant imaginations could form.”

December 11, 1868—A letter to the editor of the Princeton Standard warns that not enough residents of the town take temperance seriously enough. “How many times has the law which forbids the sale of intoxicating drinks to the students of Colleges, or other literary institutions, been enforced in Princeton during the last year? And how many of the graduates of the College of New Jersey now fill drunkards graves, or are fast hastening toward them, under the influence of habits of intoxication contracted, and confirmed, while residing in Princeton during their College course?”

In this sketch by an unknown artist ca. 1863 (”It’s a Way We Have at Old Nassau”), students at the College of New Jersey (Princeton) are shown drinking to excess while playing cards. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP159, Image No. 4395.

December 13, 1999—Sophomore class officers have decided to cancel their plans to burn Dean of Student Life Janina Montero in effigy to protest the recent ban on the Nude Olympics after a flood of disapproving emails from members of the Class of 2002. The Daily Princetonian quotes Joanna Ganson ’02: “Burning someone in effigy…should be used for important protests, not to protest not running around naked.”

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 November 23-29

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a new dress code is approved, a petition urges administrators to address escalating crime on campus, and more.

November 24, 1898—Leslie’s Weekly praises Joseph M. Huston, Class of 1892, for his work as a Philadelphia architect: “Perhaps the most attractive feature next to the visit of the President himself, at the Philadelphia Peace Jubilee, was the court of honor, the beautiful structure made up of arches and pillars extending over several blocks, through which the parade marched in the presence of the official visitors on adjacent stands.”

Peace Jubilee Court of Honor, Philadelphia, 1898. Image courtesy New York Public Library.

November 25, 1818—The Board of Trustees approves a new dress code: “Every student shall possess a black gown, which shall be made agreeably to a fashion which the faculty shall prescribe, and all the students of the college shall appear in their gowns on all such occasions as shall be specified and announced to them by the trustees or faculty of the college.”

November 26, 1974—More than 500 students’ names appear on a petition to Princeton administrators to take steps to reduce crime on campus, a sign of ongoing tensions between students and administrators about whether more can be done to address escalating concerns about student safety.

Student petition urging Princeton University administrators to address concerns about public safety and crime, Daily Princetonian, November 26, 1974.

November 27, 1833—Virginia’s Alexandria Gazette reports that two Princeton students, both seniors, have coincidentally both died within weeks of one another, both of tetanus after being shot accidentally.

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This Week in Princeton History for May 11-17

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, an angry bystander punches a graduate student protester, a professor arrives in Athens after drifting 100 miles at sea, and more.

May 11, 1966—Nearly 400 protesters demonstrate their opposition to the American involvement in the Vietnam War during U. S. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s visit to Princeton University. (Johnson is present for the dedication of the Woodrow Wilson School.) A bystander reportedly expresses disagreement with the protesters by punching a graduate student involved.

Photo from the Daily Princetonian.

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This Week in Princeton History for May 4-10

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Whig-Clio representatives meet with Henry Kissinger, Jimmy Stewart gives his last student theater performance, and more.

May 4, 1867—After Princeton’s baseball team defeats Yale 58 to 52, both teams have dinner together at Mercer Hall, parting “the best of friends after their short acquaintance.”

May 5, 1970—Nine members of Whig-Clio and two journalists from the Daily Princetonian meet with Richard Nixon’s chief foreign policy advisor, Henry Kissinger, at the White House. What is usually a routine 4-day annual “Project Update” has become, at the direction of organizers Christopher Godfrey ’72 and Deborah Leff ’73, a vehicle to communicate Princeton’s opposition to the U.S. invasion of Cambodia and the purpose of the Princeton Strike to officials in Washington.

May 6, 1932—In response to its notable success earlier in the spring, which drew Mary Pickford and representatives from Paramount, Warner Brothers, and Fox to Princeton to attend performances of the play, Theatre Intime restages “Nerissa” with its original cast. Jimmy Stewart ’32 is giving what is expected to be the last acting performance of his life in the supporting role of “McNulty.”

Jimmy Stewart ’32, at right, as “McNulty” in “Nerissa,” Spring 1932. Theatre Intime Records (AC022), Box 17.

May 10, 1876—Students attend the opening of the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, the first official World’s Fair in the U.S., which celebrates the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Arthur Bryan, Class of 1878, will later write in the class history book: “A special train was chartered to take us to and from the Centennial grounds, and early in the morning it bore us rapidly away from Princeton. … The ride back from Philadelphia afforded no opportunity for sleeping, as the noise made by singing, patriotic speeches and cat-calls prohibited every approach toward somnific obliviousness.”

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 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.

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