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Coordinate Colleges for American Women

A Convergence of Interests, 1947-78


Linda C. Morice

Coordinate Colleges for American Women: A Convergence of Interests, 1947–78 explores the history of the coordinate college—a separate school of higher learning for women connected to an older, all-male institution. This book places special emphasis on three (previously all-male) liberal arts colleges located in the Midwest and upstate New York. They established women’s coordinate colleges in the years following World War II, but ended them by 1980, becoming fully coeducational. The author draws on new primary sources to show that, in each case, a coordinate college was created to meet the converging interests of the founding institution—not to improve the education of women. The work is set in the context of four major social movements during the mid-to-late twentieth century involving civil rights, student rights, antiwar protest, and women’s liberation.

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Chapter 1. A Hybrid


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In 1965, Jim Berry published a cartoon depicting two men in late middle age conversing over drinks in a well-appointed club. “CONFUSED—of course, I’m confused!” exclaimed one to the other. “I have a son at Vassar and a daughter at Yale!”1 For 40 years, U.S. newspapers carried “Berry’s World,” a syndicated cartoon that used humor to draw attention to major social and cultural developments. Berry knew first-hand that issues of gender in education could be puzzling and perplexing, having attended an eastern men’s college (Dartmouth) and a midwestern, coeducational institution (Ohio Wesleyan) as an undergraduate. When Berry published his cartoon, Yale was losing top applicants to Harvard, largely over the issue of proximity to women. Although the undergraduates at both institutions were exclusively male, Harvard had a coordinate college for women located next to its campus, while Yale did not.

A coordinate college was a separate, all-female institution of higher education, connected to an older, all-male college. Established in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (often through the work of women’s rights advocates), coordinate colleges addressed women’s need for collegiate learning while stopping short of full coeducation. After World War II (and extending into the late 1960s), interest in coordinate colleges was re-kindled, as evidenced by their founding at three liberal arts schools in the Midwest and ← 13 | 14 → upstate New York. No longer prompted by women’s rights supporters, the new coordinate colleges were nevertheless...

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