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Redefining Old Nassau: Women and the Shaping of Modern Princeton

By Michelle Peralta

This academic year marks the 50th anniversary of the decision of the Board of Trustees to admit women to Princeton as undergraduates. To celebrate this landmark, the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library is pleased to present “Redefining Old Nassau: Women and the Shaping of Modern Princeton.”

Michelle Peralta measuring and selecting materials for inclusion in “Redefining Old Nassau: Women and the Shaping of Modern Princeton.” Photo by April C. Armstrong.

Maria Katzenbach ‘76 gave an account of some of the hostility she encountered as member of one earliest co-educational classes:

I am certain that he expected me to nod in agreement and accept my responsibility for having destroyed his alma mater. I should leave him alone in his paradise of men, and not go where I was not wanted… I didn’t like being taken for Eve, and blamed for being one to deprive him of paradise because my own pursuit of knowledge had led me to my father’s school…I should have known reason had nothing to do with it. He was no more interested in expanding his horizons than Adam. His garden was gone, and I was responsible. 

quoted in Women Reflect About Princeton, edited by Kirsten Bibbins, Anne Chiang, and Heather Stephenson (1989)

I curated the exhibition with a few themes in mind: 1) the activism that push through staid traditions, beloved though they may have be, and 2) the changes that came about with the admittance of women, many a result of the aforementioned activism, helped to create the modern Princeton campus. The themes are explored through such areas of as academics, athletics, but also in student groups and organizations like the Women’s center. Also highlighted are early women of Princeton and the decision to become an co-educational campus, as well as the intersectional identities of many women that have shaped their student experiences at Old Nassau.

“Redefining Old Nassau: Women and the Shaping of Modern Princeton” will be on display at Mudd Manuscript Library through the end of the 2018-2019 academic year.

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