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Dear Mr. Mudd: Why Was There a Woman in Princeton University’s Texas Club Before Coeducation?

Dear Mr. Mudd,

Looking at the photograph posted on the Princeton University Archives Tumblr of the Texas Club in 1960, I see a woman, but Princeton wasn’t fully coeducational until 1969. Where did she come from?

So far, we’ve been able to learn that the woman in the front row, far left, had the last name Riedel, but we haven’t been able to confirm anything about her specifically beyond this. Texas Club, 1960. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box AD39, Folder 27.

Although to some extent this woman remains a mystery to us as well, there are other women we can see in photographs of extracurricular clubs at Princeton University in the early 1960s. The Bric-a-Brac provides some clues for us about who they may have been. Princeton University may not have admitted women as undergraduates until 1969, but women were on campus for a variety of reasons before then. In all probability, women in Princeton’s extracurricular clubs were students at other colleges in the area.

Students from Centenary College, ca. 1961. Photo from 1961 Bric-a-Brac.

While Princeton University admitted only men, the regular visits of women from Vassar and Smith for date nights weren’t the only opportunities Princeton students had to interact with their female peers at other schools. Though Evelyn College closed its doors permanently in 1897, there were many female college students in the region throughout the 20th century. The local Westminster Choir College was coeducational, and there were also women’s colleges not far away, including New Jersey College for Women in New Brunswick (affiliated with Rutgers University and renamed Douglass College in 1955) and Centenary College in Hackettstown (now Centenary University). Indeed, editors of the 1961 Bric-a-Brac wrote that women from Centenary College had insisted on being included in the volume since they’d spent so much time on Princeton’s campus. Meanwhile, Princeton’s Baptist Student Fellowship explicitly drew from both Princeton University and Westminster Choir College, as stated in the 1961 Bric-a-Brac.

Princeton University’s Baptist Student Fellowship, ca. 1961. The women pictured had last names only in the related caption. Thanks to Stephanie Sussmeier, Westminster Choir College Archives (Westminster Choir College of Rider University, Talbott Music Library), I have been able to confirm that women with some of these last names attended at the time. These women may include Karen Bickford (front row, far left), Kay Louise Neff (front row, second from left), and Carol Bradley (front row, far right), all of the Westminister Choir College Class of 1964. The woman pictured in the front row, second from right is still identified only by the last name Fawthorp. Photo from 1961 Bric-a-Brac.

Regional clubs like the Texas Club, Oklahoma Club, and Rocky Mountain Empire Club all included women in their group photographs in the early 1960s as well. It is not difficult to imagine that women from these areas might have appreciated socializing with men who were from closer to their own hometowns while they were studying in New Jersey in pursuit of their own degrees. Westminster Choir College, in particular, drew students from all over the country.

Princeton University’s Oklahoma Club, ca. 1960. The woman shown on the front row, second from left, is named Ann Noe in the caption. Photo from 1960 Bric-a-Brac.

These clubs presented just some of the opportunities for interacting with peers at other institutions. In 1948, for example, Tiger Magazine organized a field hockey team for Princeton, the “Tigoons,” to go up against teams at women’s colleges, including the New Jersey College for Women, Bryn Mawr, Sarah Lawrence, and Briarcliff Junior College.

Princeton University’s “Tigoons” playing field hockey against the New Jersey College for Women’s team, 1948. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP169, Image No. 4798.

The McCarter Workshop provided an outlet for students interested in professional theater, whether they were at Princeton University or Westminster Choir College. It also included local advisors who were not students, such as McCarter staff member Susan Lerner as Secretary-Treasurer in 1961-1962. We also see a few women appear in the 1962 Bric-a-Brac photo associated with the workshop.

McCarter Workshop, ca. 1962. The women in this photo are identified only by last name: Milner (second row, center), Nicks (front row, far left), and Marin (front row, far right). Stephanie Sussmeier provided me with information that there was a Nancy Nicks in the Westminster Choir College Class of 1965.

Though Princeton may have been a male domain, women have always been present, if not always visible. The woman in the Texas Club in 1960 was thus perhaps not as unusual as she appears at first glance. Because their connection to Princeton University was largely social, however, it is quite difficult to learn very much about women involved in extracurricular activities on campus. We welcome any further information our readers may have about this topic.



Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112)

Historical Subject Files (AC109)

Papers of Princeton

Princeton Alumni Weekly

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