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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 6. Joining the Parade


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Yale President Kingman Brewster felt compelled to make a decision. As late as 1960, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton had drawn evenly in the competition for top applicants. However, by 1965 Harvard had gained a clear advantage over its two competitors due to the growing desire of high school boys to have female classmates. When Yale surveyed students who were admitted to the class of 1969 but chose to attend elsewhere, they cited “proximity to girls’ colleges” and “coeducational undergraduate programs” as reasons for their decision.1 Although adopting coeducation would have solved Yale’s immediate problem, Brewster wanted to avoid creating new difficulties. For example, accepting fewer men to accommodate women students would likely alienate alumni. Greatly increasing the size of the freshmen class could tax facilities and alter the character of Yale’s undergraduate experience. Preferring to bring women to campus through a coordinate college, Brewster met in 1966 with Alan Simpson, President of Vassar College, to discuss the possibility.

The result of their discussion was a study funded by the Carnegie and Ford Foundations that recommended a coordinate relationship between the two colleges. Among its proposals were that Vassar retain its corporate identity with its own trustees, administrators and faculty; that Vassar set its degree requirements and issue its own degrees; and that Vassar and Yale students ← 157 | 158 → have separate introductory classes, but mixed instruction in advanced courses. Another recommendation was that Vassar continue to have its...

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