"We thought of ourselves as architects:" Coeducation and the Yale Campus, 1968-1973
“We were all very earnest and thought of ourselves as architects of a “City Upon a Hill,” dedicated to equal access for women to the best educational resources in the country, to be erected on top of the layers of tradition that we all knew was Yale. The pioneer excitement soon dissipated and we found ourselves in the deepest doldrums, with the tonnage of tradition resting proudly on our necks.”
— Lisa Getman, "From Contestoga to Career"
During the 1960s, administrators at Yale began to seriously consider coeducating the undergraduate campus. In 1966, Yale College began exploring a merger with Vassar College, an arrangement which would have allowed for some spatial and social separation of men and women, and which therefore would have fit comfortably within the values of the era. However, as the Yale-Vassar merger fell apart in 1968, the University administration was faced with options for integrating women into campus that were increasingly uncomfortable, both physically — as overcrowding became an inevitability — and politically — as administrators grappled with the prospect of mixed-gender spaces.
Under intense pressure from students and peer institutions, Yale College had to prepare for its first women undergraduates on an extremely short timeline, leaving no time to construct additional facilities, and a matter of months in which to adapt campus spaces that embodied a 250-year all-male history.
In the five years between the decision to accept women into Yale College and the graduation of the college's first female freshmen, campus space repeatedly became the focal point for debates around what the ideal coeducational experience, and Yale itself, should look like.
"We Thought of Ourselves as Architects": Coeducation and the Yale Campus, 1968-1973 was co-curated by Charlotte Keathley, Class of 2022 (Ezra Stiles College) and Michael Lotstein, University Archivist. They were advised by Dr. Anne Gardiner Perkins, Class of 1981 and Trip Kirkpatrick, Class of 1993, Technical Lead, Library Information Technology.
Funding for this exhibit was generously provided by Mr. J. Frederick Berg, Jr., Class of 1966 (Saybrook College).
Questions or comments are welcome. Please contact the University Archives at: firstname.lastname@example.org