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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 (scamudd): 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

Scope and Contents

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 copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. The Trustees of Princeton University hold copyright to all materials generated by Princeton University employees in the course of their work. For instances beyond Fair Use, if copyright is held by Princeton University, researchers do not need to obtain permission, complete any forms, or receive a letter to move forward with use of materials from the Princeton University Archives.

For instances beyond Fair Use where the copyright is not held by the University, while permission from the Library is not required, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed 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

Permanent URL:
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-2