Thanks to PAW for your twinned essays on women at Princeton today (cover story, May 11). The cogent observations and insights of Christine Stansell ’71 and Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux ’11 on the contradictions of Princeton life under the “Ivy ceiling” have me looking back to my student years at Princeton in the early ’60s.
It’s so different now, yet with some lasting parallels. I was a high school kid out of Oklahoma and Wisconsin, a freshman in 1959. With women’s admission 10 years away, I went from 12 years of schooling with girls as classmates and friends (no girlfriends yet) to Princeton’s all-male and far more class-bound and hierarchical little universe. Without women as peers and fellow students, only as potential dates, we improvised: Dates were frequently arranged moments after chance encounters; many ended equivocally or badly.
I don’t think Stansell and Thomson-DeVeaux would disagree that some of the subtle and elusive barriers to today’s women at Princeton transcend gender. Many are wealth-related, others the lingering ghosts of Princeton’s past ethos — vestiges of its decidedly mixed bag of institutional and social values. Praise be to all Princeton women, who are dealing with newer and more complex realities than faced by those of us from the benighted years before the civilizing advent of coeducation.