Jane Leifer, left, and Lisa Dorota Tebbe, right, hoisting the Class of ’73 Coeducation P-rade banner. In the foreground is Elaine Chan.
Recollections After 50 Years
By Donald Gilpin
As lunchtime approached, my two roommates and I, all of us sophomores, peered out the window of our second story Laughlin Hall dormitory room, watching the pathway below leading towards Blair Arch and the Commons dining halls beyond. It was September 1969. Nixon was in the White House, the Vietnam War continued, The Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women” was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and Princeton University had just admitted regularly-enrolled undergraduate women for the first time.
A young woman came into sight, walking up the path. Sandy Stuart, the bravest of the three of us, quickly headed out the door. We watched as he hustled to catch up to the “coed,” as the 149 regular undergraduate women were called, hoping to introduce himself and maybe even sit next to her at lunch.
His odds were not good. With a ratio of 19 undergraduate men to each woman in Princeton’s first year of coeducation, most male students would find that male-female encounters were rare, and most female students would suggest that encounters with Princeton males were likely to be awkward, unnatural, or worse.
After 223 years as an institution devoted exclusively to the education of men, Princeton University decided and implemented its first year of educating women with uncharacteristic alacrity. The times were changing in all sorts of ways, politically and socially; Yale was admitting women for the first time in the fall of 1969; the most highly qualified applicants from the top public and private secondary schools in the country were overwhelmingly showing a preference for coeducational colleges and universities; and the mood on campus, among students and professors, was strongly, perhaps even urgently, in favor of opening the doors of Princeton to women — for practical, academic, social, cultural, and political reasons. more