As the tumultuous decade of the 1960s ended, a number of very traditional, very conservative, highly prestigious colleges and universities in the United States and the United Kingdom decided to go coed, seemingly all at once, in a remarkably brief span of time. Coeducation met with fierce resistance. As one alumnus put it in a letter to his alma mater, "Keep the damned women out." Focusing on the complexities of institutional decision making, this book tells the story of this momentous era in higher education—revealing how coeducation was achieved not by organized efforts of women activists, but through strategic decisions made by powerful men.
In America, Ivy League schools like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Dartmouth began to admit women; in Britain, several of the men's colleges at Cambridge and Oxford did the same. What prompted such fundamental change? How was coeducation accomplished in the face of such strong opposition? How well was it implemented? Nancy Weiss Malkiel explains that elite institutions embarked on coeducation not as a moral imperative but as a self-interested means of maintaining a first-rate applicant pool. She explores the challenges of planning for the academic and non-academic lives of newly admitted women, and shows how, with the exception of Mary Ingraham Bunting at Radcliffe, every decision maker leading the charge for coeducation was male.
Drawing on unprecedented archival research, “Keep the Damned Women Out” is a breathtaking work of scholarship that is certain to be the definitive book on the subject.
Nancy Weiss Malkiel is professor emeritus of history at Princeton University, where she was the longest-serving dean of the college, overseeing the university's undergraduate academic program for twenty-four years. Her books include Whitney M. Young, Jr., and the Struggle for Civil Rights and Farewell to the Party of Lincoln: Black Politics in the Age of FDR (both Princeton).
"A painstakingly detailed account of how coeducation came to Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, is an invaluable antidote to the amnesia that has come to envelop the subject. More than that, it is an important work of cultural history. It seems a truism to observe that so profound a change could not have occurred in a vacuum, and Malkiel takes full account of the social and political revolutions that were convulsing the country in the 1960s. But she digs deeper to show how, as the nation neared its end, the leaders of Yale and Princeton realized that the missions these institutions had long assigned themselves of producing the nation’s leaders would soon be unsustainable in the absence of coeducation."--Linda Greenhouse, New York Review of Books
"Malkiel presents an absorbing, richly textured landscape of the experience of thousands of women who found themselves in elite universities."--Rachel Holmes, Times Literary Supplement
"In an age when student activists at campuses across the country are focused on microaggressions and safe spaces, it's a bit surreal to read Nancy Weiss Malkiel's history of gender desegregation at elite American and British colleges. Fifty years ago, same-sex schooling in higher education had ended for many public colleges and universities in the United States and Britain, but it remained the norm at most elite universities. . . . How and why, between 1969 and 1974, these prestigious institutions decided to go coed--or not--is the fascinating story Ms. Malkiel tells. And although her narrow focus is gender admission practices, there are clues . . . about the obstacles that continue to prevent the harmony between the many diverse groups of students on campus today."--Lenore Tiefer, Wall Street Journal
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