Thursday, October 15, 2009

Diggin’ in the Mudd: Girl’s colleges? Too much trouble, say Princetonians

This week, The Daily Princetonian has been running a series about the beginning of coeducation at Princeton. This week’s Diggin’ in the Mudd takes us back to a time before coeducation, when, in 1965, the 'Prince' published "Where the Girls Are." Billed as “a social guide to women’s colleges in the East,” this little book was a dating guide to Eastern elite colleges, at the dawn of coeducation. I found it, not in Mudd, but in the Firestone Rare Books section. It counts anyway!

To put it in perspective, when the booklet was written, Brandeis and Harvard Law School already admitted women, Hampshire would begin the year this book was published, and our very own Princeton would remain all-male for three years yet.

"Girls may not melt in your arms on sight, and butter may still melt in your mouth on contact. This is a book not a magic incantation. You’ll always have to do most of the work of choosing, locating, and snowing” (win over with plausible words, says the Oxford English Dictionary) “your women yourself, but we can help you with some of the duller parts.”

The intro goes on to explain that in this book are lists: phone numbers, dorms, restaurants, accommodations. “Too many lists? Hugh Hefner thought so … But then, Hugh Hefner isn’t visiting girls’ colleges. Too much trouble. “

The book then goes through many girls' colleges, giving little gems like these:

• Beaver girls may describe themselves as “well-rounded” and “All-American” but the men who date them prefer the word “posh”. Most of the school’s 750 students are members are the landed upper-middle class of the East, relaxing midway between prep school and marriage.

• If you want a Bennet girl, get her while she’s a freshman. She may not be there next year.

• Bryn Mawr is married to Haverford. Well, perhaps not married, but the men’s college down the road does monopolize most of Bryn Mawr’s carefully rationed socializing time … But optimists see Haverford as a source of weekday lovers and study-daters and visualize Penn and Princeton leading regular weekend invasions.

• When you arrive at (Conn College) … the guard will ask you for the name of the girl you are going to see … Casually give the man any name that comes to mind --- they never quite bother to check up on it.

• There are four places to snow a Goucherite: the first, and most difficult, is the woods, the campus, Baltimore, and Washington.

• While Bryn Mawr is scholastic, Sarah Lawrence is hip.

• The Vassar girl naturally learns to relax with men especially men from Yale, Harvard, Princeton, etc.

Interspersed with each college are restaurants and nightspots, as well as curfews (usually around 1 to 3 a.m. with stricter curfews on weekdays for freshmen and penalties for missing curfew). There’s a list of special days like father-daughter days when the Princeton man probably wouldn’t have much luck, or reading weeks when they probably would. Travel times, some of up to eight hours, are given. It’s fascinating to me that boys from Princeton would travel eight hours to meet girls at other colleges? Wouldn't it be easier just to let girls in?

There was widespread response and criticism to this booklet. Life published an article “How the Girls Really Are” proclaiming “you just can’t generalize” and including full-size pictures of all kinds of college girls. A Time magazine article titled “Where Girls Are Inconvenient” had this to say:

Coeducation is the solution for Princeton's social illness," argues the Daily Princetonian. Last week the paper got a chilly reply — no — from President Robert F. Goheen. Letting girls into the university, he said, might "solve some problems, but it would create others."

In point of fact, girls do attend Princeton: ten of them are enrolled in undergraduate language courses and live off-campus in a house with an unlisted phone. This 320-to-1 boy-girl ratio only goes to stress that Princeton is the nation's most conspicuous holdout against women. The objection is no longer theological, or even philosophical. It's just that Princeton considers girls so terribly inconvenient. The university is committed to hold down enrollment to about the present level of 3,000. To let in girls would mean driving out boys — and already four well-qualified boys are turned away for every one admitted.

Perhaps the best response was organized by the girls at Smith and Mount Holyoke and written by two male students at Amherst. “Princeton," it says, “is the only place in the world where, when a boy and his date walk past a mirror, it's the boy who stops to comb his hair."

All pictures from "Where The Girls Are" published by the 'Prince'
More on Princeton coeducation:
Read about one of the first female undergraduates

First in the series
Second in the series


Nels said...

As a USC alum, I take offense to "USC Irvine." UC Irvine is the California state school that was founded in 1965. USC (a private school) was founded in a more respectable year, 1880.

Daily Princetonian Web Staff said...

Thanks, we corrected the error.

Anonymous said...

This is a great article, please continue posting more historical trivia about Princeton's past, it is really enjoyable to read.

Brings up an interesting point about what happened to women's colleges since many of the top men's schools went coed. I'm sure the quality of students there isn't quite what it was 40 years ago, since they can now go to ivys. Princeton's gain was women's colleges loss.