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The women who changed Yale College: introduction

On the 50th anniversary of undergraduate coeducation, we hear from some of the first women about their experience.

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From September 19 to 22, Yale will host a gathering of Yale pioneers: some of the 570 women who entered Yale College in September 1969 as first-years in the Class of 1973 or as transfer students in the classes of ’71 or ’72. They will take part in panels and other discussions about what it was like to walk into a college that had been, until then, determinedly all-male.

Yale College without women is hard for most alumni to imagine, and in planning this issue commemorating the 50th anniversary of coeducation, we found that what we really wanted to read were the stories of these women and their experiences. You can read them here. We also included the stories of two particular women—Shirley Daniels ’72, one of the first women officers of the Black Student Alliance at Yale, and Lawrie Mifflin ’73, a founder of Yale’s field hockey team—who appear in the new book Yale Needs Women, a history of the time by Anne Gardiner Perkins ’81. Finally, we interviewed Henry Chauncey Jr. ’57, who was one of the two administrators charged with implementing coeducation.

The September gathering is only the beginning of a yearlong celebration at Yale. In addition to the 50th anniversary of undergraduate coeducation, Yale is also marking the 150th anniversary of women students in the university, which began in 1869 with the founding of the School of Art. For more on Yale’s plans for the year, go to celebratewomen.yale.edu. And keep reading the Yale Alumni Magazine; we’ll have more on these milestones in the year to come.

1 comment

  • barbara f. schutz
    barbara f. schutz, 11:45am September 10 2019 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    While expecting my second child in 1968, Yale gave me $500.00 to form YUWO, Yale University Women's Organization. I was a faculty wife and former employee who felt that we were missing out on the many benefits of being a part of Yale. The founding of YUWO happened hard on the heels of Betty Friedan's book on feminism, and she came to New Haven to attend and speak at our first large membership meeting. Other speakers that year were Lillian Hellman, Margaret Mead, Robert Penn Warren, and several other faculty members. Katherine Angell and Mary Louise Brewster opened their homes for our meetings; we had the support of new Yale President, Kingman Brewster, along with the University Secretary. In retrospect, I can see that the time was right for the admission of women, and I think YUWO helped make it happen.

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