Biography and History

Like all early American colleges, the College of New Jersey educated only men; the first coeducational college was Oberlin, founded in 1833. On October 22, 1896, the name was changed to Princeton University. However, the men-only admission policy remained the same. Other than the female students at the short-lived Evelyn College, located at Nassau Street and Evelyn Place, and women attending well-chaperoned formal campus dances, Princeton was an all-male preserve for over two centuries. A modest extension of Princeton's educational opportunities for women came in World War II when twenty-three were admitted to a government-sponsored defense course in photogrammetry. More significant changes occurred in the 1960s with the admission of women graduate students (the first Ph.D. was awarded in 1964), and the admission each year of several dozen young women for a year of concentrated study in "critical languages.''

Following World War II, American education underwent significant changes in enrollment. Government funding and rising incomes allowed more people -- both men and women -- to pursue a college degree and to go on to graduate study. To meet the demand many colleges and universities grew enormously and aggressively competed with Ivy League schools for prominence in American higher education. Princeton's enrollment remained steady, but it did place increasing emphasis on engineering and the sciences in this new competitive environment.

Along with the American economic landscape, the American social climate was also changing. Students of the 1960s, seeking "relevance," had little time for Princeton's traditionalism, while the faculty -- many of them not Princeton alumni -- wanted to raise the intellectual level of the student body. Both groups wanted to change Princeton's "old boy" image, an image which they feared was keeping away the best and the brightest students. Women were also seeking to claim a larger piece of the economic pie that men had dominated for so long. The one sure way to establish a foothold was through a premiere education, and many women thought that it was high time that exclusively male schools opened their doors to women.

In response to both internal pressures and external competition, Princeton moved toward coeducation. In his 1967 commencement speech, president Robert Goheen suggested that Princeton should consider admitting women. That summer he appointed a faculty administration committee, chaired by economics professor Gardner Patterson, to investigate the issue. Among the members was Arthur J. (Jerry) Horton, an alumnus of the Class of 1942 and the university's director of development. The committee met throughout the year, consulting with a group of undergraduates and contacting alumni leaders. Its report, written by Patterson and supporting coeducation, appeared in the Princeton Alumni Weekly on 24 September 1968; it included a minority statement from Horton expressing grave doubts about the expense of coeducation and its affects on Princeton's fund-raising, which was largely dependent on alumni goodwill.

As Horton feared, the alumni reacted swiftly. While some, particularly younger graduates, supported the move toward coeducation, the majority were furious. The Princeton they had known and loved was dead or dying. Many threatened to stop their annual giving and still others wanted to write the University out of their wills. Coeducation was just one of many hot button issues that conservative alumni found objectionable. Others included student radicalism, the active recruitment of African-Americans and other minorities, the decreasing prominence of eating clubs and athletics, and the greater emphasis on academics (which conservatives blamed on the non-alumni among the faculty).

In January 1969 it was recommended to the board that Princeton undertake the education of women at the undergraduate level. It gave two reasons: first, that both Princeton faculty and Princeton alumni engaged in higher education elsewhere now believed that ``the educational experience is improved . . . when it is carried out in mixed, rather than single-sex, circumstances,'' and second, that the general shift toward a favorable view of coeducation among younger alumni and faculty, combined with the clear preference of today's students, seemed to them ``to have very important implications for Princeton's future.''

The trustees, by a vote of 24 to 8, approved coeducation in principle and instructed the administration to develop plans for its implementation. An ad hoc faculty-administration-student committee, appointed and presided over by the president, made an intensive study of all aspects of conversion, including the relative merits of coordinate versus coeducational arrangements; all of its members came to be convinced that if properly worked out, coeducational arrangements would be ``both better educationally and generally more economical.'' During the first weekend after Labor Day in 1969, a pioneering band of 171 women arrived in Princeton as candidates for bachelor degrees; among them were 101 members of the freshman class of 1973 looking forward to full Princeton careers along with their 820 male classmates. Four years later, in his concluding remarks at the 1973 Commencement, President Bowen declared that "the women among us have now added their gifts of fallibility to our own, and I think we are a far better university -- and a far richer community of people -- for them.''

Horton continued to work at University in various capacities until his death in 1980.

Source: From the finding aid for AC039

  • Arthur J. Horton Collection on Coeducation. 1968-1980 (inclusive).

    Call Number: AC039

    In January 1969, Princeton's trustees voted to make the undergraduate college coeducational, breaking the 224-year tradition of an all-male student body. The Patterson Committee, made up of faculty and administrators, had studied and advocated the change. The one dissenting voice on the committee was Arthur J. Horton '42, the university's director of development; he wrote a minority report and became a rallying point for those opposing the move. Horton's collection of materials on coeducation contains his annotated copy of the committee's report, his memoranda to the committee's chair and university administrators, official university releases and letters to alumni, and newspaper clippings regarding the change and campus issues in general. A quarter of the collection is letters from alumni, some welcoming coeducation but most strongly opposed.