President's Letter

Women of Yale

The Yale Alumni Magazine publishes a letter from President Peter Salovey ’86PhD in every issue. In this letter, the president discusses the history—and the present—of women at Yale.

Mark Ostow

Mark Ostow

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Dear Friends,

Fifty years ago, in 1969, between September 12 and 14, 588 women walked through Phelps Gate and transformed Yale forever. These trailblazing women in the classes of 1971, 1972, and 1973 ushered in the new era of coeducation and quite literally changed the face of Yale College and the trajectory of the university.

This coming academic year marks not only the 50th anniversary of coeducation in Yale College but also the 150th anniversary of women students entering Yale. In 1869, Yale’s School of the Fine Arts (the predecessor of the School of Art) opened its doors and admitted both women and men from its start. The school’s funders, Caroline and Augustus Street, had seven daughters—all of whom died young—and had the foresight to insist that the new institution, which was the first university arts school in the nation, be “open to both sexes.” Over the decades, the rest of Yale’s schools followed their example.

It is hard for today’s students—or any of us—to imagine a Yale without women. Last May 659 of the 1,350 undergraduate degrees awarded at commencement went to women; 7 of the 15 deans of the undergraduate, professional, and graduate schools are women; and the senior fellow of the Yale Corporation is a woman. Although the representation of women at Yale and institutions around the country has improved, there is still much work to be done.

During this coming year, we will mark these important anniversaries and celebrate the myriad ways Yale women have transformed the college, the schools, the university, and the world. We will welcome the women who matriculated 50 years ago back to campus for a special weekend in September; it will be an opportunity to say “thank you” as well as to reflect on the history of coeducation and its profound effect on the university. The anniversary year will conclude with another major gathering—a convocation for all Yale alumnae—in November 2020. Throughout the year, every school and museum as well as many other organizations, both on and off campus, will sponsor events as part of 50Women-AtYale150. The anniversary website, celebratewomen.yale.edu, will be updated regularly to share event information.

Four additional major milestones will occur this year. We will mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Afro-American Cultural Center, known to this day as “the House.” Also in 1969, the Yale chapter of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA), a Chicanx and Latinx student group, and the Asian American Students Alliance were established by committed students. Fifty years ago, Yale formed one of the first African American studies programs in the country. So many trailblazers helped create the Yale we know today. Their courage and commitment have brought inspiration and excellence to Yale. They have much to teach us—sometimes through painful lessons—about the vital importance not merely of making Yale more inclusive, but also of ensuring that all we welcome here come to feel they truly belong.

I hope you will join me and my wife, Marta—a proud Yale alumna—in celebrating all these milestones. We look forward to welcoming our graduates from across generations back to campus as we embark upon a year of commemoration and discovery.

With my warmest wishes,
Peter Salovey
President
Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology

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