Princeton has forgotten its own recent past (“Undergraduate Women’s Leadership Appears to Be Trending Back Up”). Were we able to gather for our 25th reunion last May, we might have helped with digital proof regarding the existence of not one, but two female presidents of eating clubs in the 1990s! Both Alice Ayres ’95 (Campus) and Kathleen Guinee ’95 (Charter) served as presidents of their respective clubs. Our Interclub Council was, in retrospect, a remarkably cohesive group, which manifested in cooperative efforts that helped create a friendly climate among club leaders. Collectively, the Interclub Council worked on a number of issues, most notably a “Statement of Principles” that tried to negotiate a space between the free-flowing culture that had existed before the early ’90s and more draconian and puritan vision encouraged by some University leaders and eating club graduate boards. Alice served as the president of the Interclub Council. She led brilliantly.
To some of us, the significance of Alice and Kathleen’s leadership was utterly unremarkable. We expected it, because our class was filled with a variety of strong female leaders in every domain across campus. Princeton had embraced coeducation; in our lived experience, all of the clubs were coed. We suspect that both Alice and Kathleen are far too busy living life, taking on challenges, and leading in their current roles, to try to correct the historical record. This is in keeping with their style of collaborative leadership, from which we benefitted.
We do not profess to speak for either of them. They faced challenges, obstacles, and potential resentment of their leadership. Neither Alice nor Kathleen ever talked about being the first female presidents on the Street, perhaps because they were not (for instance, a simple search of the Daily Princetonian indicates that Elm’s president in the Class of 1983 was Patty Braverman).
All of this does not undermine the special challenges facing women at Princeton in the ’90s or the present. We look back fondly on the time we spent working with Alice and Kathleen, who are remarkable in every way. We hope that University Leaders and the PAW will acknowledge these pioneers. And a note for those undergraduates looking for great senior thesis topics: You’ve got some work to do!
Editor’s note: Several readers wrote to set the record straight on women who were presidents of their eating clubs. To date, the earliest examples PAW has found are Diana Smith ’80, Tower Club president and chair of the Inter-Club Council, and Leslie Brooks ’80, president of Quadrangle Club.