All Men All the Time: Dartmouth Before Coeducation
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.