Redefining Old Nassau: Women and the Shaping of Modern Princeton

By Michelle Peralta

This academic year marks the 50th anniversary of the decision of the Board of Trustees to admit women to Princeton as undergraduates. To celebrate this landmark, the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library is pleased to present “Redefining Old Nassau: Women and the Shaping of Modern Princeton.”

Michelle Peralta measuring and selecting materials for inclusion in “Redefining Old Nassau: Women and the Shaping of Modern Princeton.” Photo by April C. Armstrong.

Maria Katzenbach ‘76 gave an account of some of the hostility she encountered as member of one earliest co-educational classes:

I am certain that he expected me to nod in agreement and accept my responsibility for having destroyed his alma mater. I should leave him alone in his paradise of men, and not go where I was not wanted… I didn’t like being taken for Eve, and blamed for being one to deprive him of paradise because my own pursuit of knowledge had led me to my father’s school…I should have known reason had nothing to do with it. He was no more interested in expanding his horizons than Adam. His garden was gone, and I was responsible. 

quoted in Women Reflect About Princeton, edited by Kirsten Bibbins, Anne Chiang, and Heather Stephenson (1989)

I curated the exhibition with a few themes in mind: 1) the activism that push through staid traditions, beloved though they may have be, and 2) the changes that came about with the admittance of women, many a result of the aforementioned activism, helped to create the modern Princeton campus. The themes are explored through such areas of as academics, athletics, but also in student groups and organizations like the Women’s center. Also highlighted are early women of Princeton and the decision to become an co-educational campus, as well as the intersectional identities of many women that have shaped their student experiences at Old Nassau.

“Redefining Old Nassau: Women and the Shaping of Modern Princeton” will be on display at Mudd Manuscript Library through the end of the 2018-2019 academic year.

“Studying Is Fine, but Living Has Been Another Problem”: Mary Procter *71 and Coeducation at Princeton

Earlier this year, I began telling the story of the female graduate students who paved the way for undergraduate coeducation at Princeton University starting in 1961. This blog continues that story with a focus on Mary Procter *71 (often misspelled as Mary Proctor *71) and her unusually influential role while a Princeton graduate student.

Procter got then-Provost William Bowen’s attention with a 1968 letter to the Daily Princetonian that took campus men to task for their treatment of the few undergraduate women who were in Princeton classrooms at the time as exchange students in the Critical Languages Program. Procter made vague reference to the fact that the band had referred to these women as “cunning linguists” and made other crude jokes about them during the halftime show at the Princeton-Harvard game. Anonymously signing her letter as simply “Female Graduate Student,” Procter had written, “I had always thought that men’s universities produced men, lusty and bawdy if you will, but not sniggering sickly creatures, obsessed with double meanings which suggest that they are not interested in girls so much as lollipops or bits of mashed potato.” Procter later said she wrote in to the Prince because she was “furious” and felt “Princeton does not deserve to be coed.”

Jackie Johnson *70, Katie Marshall *69, and Mary Procter *71. Photo from the Princeton Alumni Weekly, May 13, 1969.

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This Week in Princeton History for June 25-July 1

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a junior converts to Christianity, the centennial is celebrated, and more.

June 28, 1873—Rioge Koe, a Japanese student in the Class of 1874, gives his sword to Princeton president James McCosh. He writes a note to accompany the sword asserting that he has “surrendered a barbarous custom of ‘the East’ before the higher, nobler and more enlightened manner of the Western civilization” on the occasion of his conversion to Christianity.

We believe that this is Rioge Koe, Class of 1874, center, ca. 1873. This image is cropped from the Class of 1874’s junior year photo, found in the Historical Photograph Collection, Class Photographs Series (AC181), Box MP03. The Princetonian described Koe as “a popular and able man.” During McCosh’s presidency, ethnic diversity increased on campus. Koe’s time at Princeton overlapped with Hikoichi Orita of the Class of 1876, who also converted to Christianity while a student here, as well as Yokichi Yamada and Girota Yamaoka, who both pursued a partial course load in the 1871-1872 academic year.

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This Week in Princeton History for June 11-17

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a journalist notes an increase in the number of graduates who received some form of financial aid, the Board of Trustees approves admitting women to some classes “on an experimental basis,” and more.

June 11, 1933—Trinity Episcopal Church celebrates its centennial.

June 14, 1898—Writing for the Chicago Record, an unnamed journalist reports that of the 211 alumni who graduated with the Princeton University Class of 1898, 38 fully supported themselves with work and scholarships, and roughly a third of the class received some sort of scholarship. “Students who are supporting themselves are classed as ‘poor men’ as distinguished from ‘charity students.’ … The ‘poor man’ is a good fellow and usually proud, perhaps a little sensitive about his position, but he enters thoroughly into the spirit of college life.”

Visualization of data reported in the Chicago Record, June 14, 1898. Today, the University reports that 60% of undergraduates receive some form of financial aid.

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This Week in Princeton History for March 19-25

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Langston Hughes recites poetry, a third of the women in the Graduate School drop out, and more.

March 19, 1877—At a temperance meeting on campus, nine students sign a pledge to abstain from alcohol.

March 22, 1928—Langston Hughes recites poetry in Alexander Hall.

March 23, 1987—Dragoljub Cetkovic, a former Princeton University graduate student, confesses to poisoning a tea bag at a local grocery store.

March 25, 1963—The Daily Princetonian reports that a third of the female students in the Graduate School are dropping out.

Clipping from the Daily Princetonian. For more on the early history of women in the Graduate School, see our previous post on this topic.

For last week’s installment in this series, click here.

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

“The End of a Monastery”: Princeton’s First Female Graduate Students

The Princeton University Graduate Announcement for 1961-1962 warned potential applicants, “Admissions are normally limited to male students.” Yet this “adverbial loophole,” as the Daily Princetonian termed it, left room for some admissions that were not “normal” for Princeton at the time. Within the loophole, dozens of women became degree candidates before the advent of undergraduate coeducation.

Clipping from the Daily Princetonian, October 1, 1962.

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This Week in Princeton History for March 12-18

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Women Oriented Women are leaving stickers around campus to increase awareness of lesbianism, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter asks professors for advice, and more.

March 12, 1969—About 500 disgruntled alumni calling themselves Alumni Committee to Involve Ourselves Now (ACTION) announce a campaign to attempt to overturn the Board of Trustees’ decision to make Princeton coeducational.

Although a significant number of alumni opposed coeducation, not all were on the same page. Henry Lyttleton Savage of the Class of 1915 sent this postcard to ACTION, saying, “The Charter gives no support to any who oppose co-education. Its allusions are to ‘students’ and ‘youth.’ Those terms cover any change to co-education.” Alumni Association Records (AC048), Box 20.

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This Week in Princeton History for December 11-17

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, an atomic bomb survivor speaks on campus, a numismatist gives a lecture to women in town about an archaeological dig, and more.

December 11, 1995—Hiroshima bombing survivor Michiko Yamaoka tells an audience in a crowded McCormick 101 about her experience with the world’s first nuclear attack and its aftermath and why she believes the weapons must never be used. Saying her hatred for the United States and Japan for going to war has been replaced by a hatred for war itself, she instead urges communication. “I realized how important it was to meet people across boundaries that had separated us, to have a meeting of the hearts.”

Melted roof tile from Hiroshima University. Atomic-Bombed Roof Tiles from Hiroshima University (AC408), Box 1. To read more about the impact of the blast in Hirsohima, see our previous blog post. To learn more about Princeton University’s involvement in the development of the atomic bomb, visit our current exhibition on display through June 2018.

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This Week in Princeton History for November 20-26

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a woman’s presence in class draws comment, new penalties for late library books are imposed, and more.

November 20, 1930—Princeton University has set a record for most student disappearances, with more missing persons than any other college or university.

November 21, 1878—Louisa Maclean’s attendance in Professor James Murray’s course in English Literature draws comments from students at the College of New Jersey (Princeton).

Louisa Maclean’s lecture notes from James Murray’s course in English Literature, College of New Jersey (Princeton), 1878-1879. Lecture Notes Collection (AC052), Box 44, Folder 8. The Princetonian said the course was only for women, but we think this is likely to have just been a tongue-in-cheek reference to Maclean’s presence in the classroom.

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This Week in Princeton History for June 12-18

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Liberty Bell is in town, the first woman earns a Princeton degree, and more.

June 13, 1878—A member of the Class of 1878 writes that he is disappointed by the College of New Jersey (Princeton)’s invitation to U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes to speak at Commencement, saying his appearance would dishonor the graduates and Commencement would be “made subservient to outsiders.” It is ultimately a moot point; Hayes declines the invitation.

College of New Jersey (Princeton) Commencement Program, 1878. Princeton University Commencement Records (AC115), Box 2, Folder 18.

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