Friday, 27 November 2015

Princeton's First Female Students

"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 eight women transfer students graduated in June 1970, with slightly greater numbers graduating in the two subsequent years. 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."

"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'".

Female scholars were overlooked until 1942 when a female visiting research associate came to the physics department; in 1943 five more women arrived, and in 1948 the first woman was awarded "faculty status with the rank of Associate Professor". At the same time, female students began to gradually filter into Princeton's university system. After years of sitting in on classes informally, wives and daughters of Princeton faculty and administrators could finally officially enrol in courses. During WWII, 23 women were allowed to take a government-sponsored course in photogrammetry, in 1947, three female members of the library staff enrolled in a class on Russian. In 1961, the first woman was enrolled as a full-time degree candidate. Her letter of acceptance, by the way, started with "Dear Sir". In 1962, eight more women enrolled in graduate programmes and in 1964, the first woman received a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Princeton. In 1963, the first full-time undergraduate female students were admitted - full-time students who were not eligible for a Princeton degree.

In its report from January 1969, the committee noted that “the presence of talented young women at Princeton would enhance the total educational experience and contribute to a better balanced social and intellectual life,” as well as “sustain Princeton's ability to attract outstanding students". In September 1969, finally, the first coeducational class started and 101 female fresh"man" and 70 female transfer students joined Princeton (via Princeton University Library).

photographs by Alfred Eisenstaedt via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via


  1. Replies
    1. Good morning, Karen & thanks for passing by!

  2. Brilliant! Thanks indeed!

    1. 1969 - men landed on moon, women in Princeton ;-)
      Many thanks for commenting, Kenneth!

  3. Get out! Really!?

    1. My reaction was very similar ;-)
      Big thanks for commenting, Gwen!