PAW is incorrect about the beginning of coeducation at Princeton (That Was Then, Jan. 13). The first woman to matriculate was Sabra Meservey *64 *66 in 1961. The following year, eight more women were accepted to doctoral programs at the University. I was one of them.
I applied to Princeton despite the “male-only” student body because of my interest in the work of Colin S. Pittendrigh. His lab was studying circadian rhythms, and that was the topic of my senior project. My thesis adviser at Bard College was George Hooper *56, a student of Dr. Pittendrigh. He suggested I apply.
To my great surprise, I was admitted. The academic program was stimulating, but it was a lonely experience for a woman. In most graduate environments, lack of communal housing, meals, and meeting areas is typical and not an issue because multiple women in a single department form their own social and support circles. At Princeton, however, the women were spread throughout the University and for the most part were not acquainted with one another. While my male peers were easy to work with, when it came to “hanging out,” they were involved with their own buddies, clubs, girlfriends, and living arrangements.
I earned a fellowship for my second year, but left at the end without completing my degree. The two women I knew also left early, and I never heard how the other women fared. I regretted not finishing my degree — not so much for myself, because I was not cut out to be a scientist, but because I felt it might impact negatively on future female applicants.
Editor’s note: Past issues of PAW include coverage of Sabra Meservey *64 *66, who describes her Princeton experiences in this video: http://bit.ly/GradAlumVideo.