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Coordinate Colleges for American Women

A Convergence of Interests, 1947-78

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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 5. A Fine Cause

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A FINE CAUSE

On May 27, 1978, Kirkland College President Samuel Fisher Babbitt told the graduation audience, “Kirkland has been a fine cause. And my message to you all—those who graduate today, and those who have been a part of it in any way—is those things for which it has stood will continue to be a fine cause in which all of us may continue to serve.”1 The ceremony was Kirkland’s tenth and final graduation and, like the others, “wasn’t quite typical.” One observer described it as “more of a maypole dance, birthday party, poetry slam, and traveling circus all rolled into one.” Graduates wore their own colorful clothes—“everything from jeans to shorts to flowery spring dresses.”2 Although there was a commencement speaker, the college provided an open mike for graduates wishing to speak to the audience of faculty, relatives, and friends. Kirkland’s commencement was so unconventional that Life magazine had covered it in 1972; however, those who knew the college remained unfazed by its departure from the norm. The ceremony reflected Kirkland’s grounding in educational innovation, as well as its stark difference from Hamilton College—the traditional, all-male institution across the road that created Kirkland as a coordinate college for women. ← 127 | 128 →

The Beginnings

Hamilton College traces its founding to Samuel Kirkland, a Congregational minister’s son who studied for the clergy at the (Presbyterian) College of New Jersey, now Princeton. In...

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