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Collection Overview

Steering Committee for the 20th Anniversary of Undergraduate Coeducation at Princeton
Steering Committee for the 20th Anniversary of Coeducation Records
Princeton University Archives
Permanent URL:
2 boxes
Storage Note:
Mudd Manuscript Library (mudd): Box 1-2


In the Fall of 1998, President Harold T. Shapiro, recognizing that many groups, individuals, and organizations were interested in planning events and projects related to the 20th anniversary of undergraduate coeducation, appointed a Steering Committee to coordinate and help support these activities. These records document the planning, implementation, and assessment of the actions of the Steering Committee.

Collection Description & Creator Information


The material in this collection consists largely of correspondence, memoranda, and meeting minutes that document a fluid exchange of ideas among Steering Committee members and the University community to mark the celebration of the 20th anniversary of coeducation at Princeton. Produced as a part of background research, the collection contains a generous history on coeducation that includes the report recommending coeducation to the Board of Trustees, newspaper articles from The Daily Princetonian about the Trustees decision to admit undergraduate women, and articles about the arrival of the first matriculated undergraduate women.

As one of the goals of the Steering Committee was to engage as much of the University community as possible in the celebration, the collection contains well over 50 activity proposals that were submitted for funding from the Steering Committee. From discussion panels that examined the impact of coeducation to the printing of posters commemorating the event to funds that would support speakers, these proposals offer an exceptional perspective on how the concerns of the Princeton were not just concerns of a university community, but concerns of society as a whole.

Included in the collection is the final report to President Harold Shapiro by the Steering Committee. Joan Girgus, in her final letter to the President, noted that "the report . . . can serve both as a narrative description of the 20th Anniversary commemoration and as an archival compendium of the events and activities that occurred during the 18 months" of the commemorative period.


The folders in this collection have been arranged in alphabetical order by form or topic, with their contents in chronological order.

Collection Creator Biography:

Steering Committee for the 20th Anniversary of Undergraduate Coeducation at Princeton

On January 11, 1969, the Board of Trustees of Princeton University voted to admit women as candidates for undergraduate degrees. The first 171 women matriculated in the fall of 1969; the first undergraduate degrees were awarded to six women at the June 1970 Commencement ceremonies. Prior to this, there were very few women students at Princeton. In 1966-67, for example, there were 15 women spending their junior year at Princeton as part of a four-year-old program in critical languages and 34 women studying in the graduate school.

The Trustees' decision to admit substantial numbers of undergraduate women marked the beginning of a period of extraordinary and rapid change for the University. In the twenty years between 1969 and 1989, the number of women increased to almost 40% of the undergraduate and more than 30% of the graduate students. Women were added to the faculty, the senior administration and the Board of Trustees; a program in Women's Studies and a Women's Center were created. Overall, women became an active participant in all aspects of life at the university.

The Steering Committee, with Joan S. Girgus, Professor of Psychology, serving as chair, Associate Provost Janet Holmgren McKay serving as vice-chair, and Jane Y. Sharaf, of the Pew Science Program serving as secretary, included the senior officers of the University (or their designees), faculty members, undergraduates, graduate students, and other administrators with a special interest in coeducation. The committee met nine times between November 1988 and June 1990 and had two subcommittees-one to evaluate requests for funding (the President provided the committee with a fund of $35,000) and the other to plan and coordinate publicity.

In the course of its meetings and discussions, the Steering Committee developed a number of interlocking goals: First, to encourage as many members of the Princeton community as possible to think about issues pertaining to coeducation and the changing lives of women and men. Second, to make those issues part of an ongoing agenda for the University, so that their consideration would not cease with the conclusion of the 18-month commemoration period. Third, to focus primarily on coeducation and gender issues for the future, without ignoring the past. Fourth, to include questions relating to coeducation beyond Princeton-throughout American society and in other societies as well. And, fifth, to encourage events and projects focused on issues that concern and affect both men and women as well as on issues primarily of concern to women.

The Steering Committee provided funding and publicity for a total of 40 lectures, seminars, conferences, workshops, panel discussions, films, and performances between February 1989 and June 1990. In the Spring of 1990, an exhibition in Firestone Library's Main Gallery, entitled "Gender in the Academy: Women and Learning from Plato to Princeton," was unveiled. The exhibition was curated and the catalogue written by Professors Natalie Zemon Davis and Anthony Grafton of the History Department. Five symposia on "Gender and Education," each of which had two distinguished scholars who lectured on a topic and then engaged in a dialogue with each other and the audience.

The Alumni Council and the Board of Trustees also took a special interest in the 20th Anniversary and planned programs that focused on issues of coeducation. The Alumni Council sponsored a number of programs, among them a faculty panel which was presented on Alumni Day entitled "When Harry Met Sally at Princeton: How Men and Women Together Have Changed and Are Changing Princeton."

The Board of Trustees adopted a special resolution commemorating their momentous decision of 1969 and organized a special program for their January 1990 meeting to which all emeriti and former women Trustees were invited. This program featured a panel of senior women faculty members talking about future challenges for Princeton related to coeducation, with particular focus on faculty, curriculum, graduate students, and undergraduates.

Joan Girgus, Chair, submitted a final report of the Steering Committee's activities to President Shapiro, the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, members of the President's Council who were not on the Steering Committee, and to the Steering Committee itself.

Collection History

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Susan Hamson in 2002. Finding aid written by Susan Hamson in 2002.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. For quotations that are fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. The Trustees of Princeton University hold copyright to all materials generated by Princeton University employees in the course of their work. If copyright is held by Princeton University, researchers will not need to obtain permission, complete any forms, or receive a letter to move forward with non-commercial use of materials from the Mudd Library. For materials where the copyright is not held by the University, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold the copyright and obtaining approval from them. If you have a question about who owns the copyright for an item, you may request clarification by contacting us through the Ask Us! form.

Credit this material:

Steering Committee for the 20th Anniversary of Coeducation Records; Princeton University Archives, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

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