All Men All the Time: Dartmouth Before Coeducation

A black-and-white photo of students during the Great Day

The earliest reference to coeducation at Dartmouth that we have found is in 1867. Over the next 100 years the discussion of coeducation would come and go with varying opinions, both pro and con, expressed by the students and alumni. The 1960s brought real agitation, primarily by students, to admit women to the male bastion that was Dartmouth.

While students' motivations were sometimes questionable, the institution was also being pushed by other factors, among these were everything from the women’s liberation movement to economics. The fact that Princeton and Yale went coed in 1969 also played a role. While some students called for protests, others put pressure on the College administration by hosting co-educational academic programs.

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The first page of “A Day at Vassar”

“A Day at Vassar”

In 1867 The Dartmouth published an article about a visit to Vassar, which at the time was a college for women. They closed their article with the expectation that women would soon grace the halls of Dartmouth, but they were a bit premature since it would be over 100 years before women would matriculate at Dartmouth.

A newspaper article titled “400 Girls, 75 Books, Could Make March 4 a “Great Day””

“400 Girls, 75 Books, Could Make March 4 a “Great Day””

One of the earliest acts by the students to push coeducation was The Great Day. The Great Day invited 400 women from other institutions, mostly the Seven Sisters (which included schools like Smith, Mount Holyoke, Vassar and Wellesley), to come to Dartmouth to participate in a day of coed book discussions. It was a kind of dry run for what it would be like to have women on campus and in the classroom. That same year the students established the Ad Hoc Committee on Coeducation a joint student/faculty committee to study coeducation at Dartmouth.

A black-and-white photo of students during the Great Day

Students during the Great Day

Students holding a discussion during Great Day

A typed flyer encouraging students to demonstrate for coeducation.

We are being castrated...

In keeping with the anti-establishment spirit of the 1960s some students even organized protests on The Green.

A black-and-white headshot of Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep

Under pressure from the students, the administration agreed to admit 70 women as part of the 10 College Exchange. Notable among these early attendees was Meryl Streep.

A black-and-white photo of three women exchange students, 1969

Women exchange students 1969

Three women exchange students who arrived on campus during the 1969-70 school year. From left to right: Gayle Williamson (Randolph-Macon College), Elizabeth Heaps (Connecticut College), Dr. Mary Frances Stubbs (Talladega College).

A black-and-white photo of John and Jenny Kemeny

John and Jenny Kemeny

In January of 1970 the Trustees elected John Kemeny as the President of the College. Kemeny was an outspoken proponent of coeducation, so with his election the Trustees signaled their willingness to at least explore admitting women to Dartmouth.