This smart, lively first book by Perkins, a higher education scholar and Yale graduate, challenges a “sanitized tale of equity instantly achieved” when the elite university, after 268 years, admitted female undergraduates in 1969. The pressure to admit women wasn’t about gender equality, she writes: male undergraduates were tired of waiting until weekends to socialize with young women from other schools, and Yale’s rival Princeton was going coed. After Yale’s announcement, thousands of women applied; the school enrolled 575, 90% of them white. Perkins highlights five students, among them trombonist Kit McClure, and field hockey player Lawrie Mifflin. McClure, initially barred from the marching band, joined a women’s liberation rock group; Mifflin organized a field hockey team that eventually received varsity status. The new students also organized feminist groups and pushed for courses exploring women’s issues; the university’s health service launched a human sexuality course. But female students still confronted social isolation, sexual violence, and harassment. The university resisted a gender-blind admissions policy until 1972’s Title IX of the Educational Amendments to the Civil Rights Act made it inevitable. Perkins succeeds admirably in restoring these women’s fascinating voices and weaving in the larger historical context. This is a valuable contribution to the history of higher education, women, and the postwar U.S. Illus. Agent: Laurie Abkemeier, DeFiore and Company Literary Management. (Sept.)
"This smart, lively first book by Perkins, a higher education scholar and Yale graduate, challenges a "sanitized tale of equity instantly achieved" when the elite university, after 268 years, admitted female undergraduates in 1969... Perkins succeeds admirably in restoring these women's fascinating voices and weaving in the larger historical context. This is a valuable contribution to the history of higher education, women, and the postwar U.S." - Publishers Weekly
"Yale Needs Women is a rivetingand long overdueaccount of how the first 575 undergraduate women admitted to previously all-male Yale University in 1969 found themselves doing battle with 268 years of entrenched male hegemony in an Ivy League setting. Based on extensive interviews and archival research, Anne Gardiner Perkins weaves a tale of courage in the face of arrogance, frustration giving way to hard-won triumphs, and the redeeming power of shared visions and friendships. Perkins makes the story of these early and unwitting feminist pioneers come alive against the backdrop of the contemporaneous civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1970s, and offers observations that remain eerily relevant on U.S. campuses today." - Edward B. Fiske, bestselling author of Fiske Guide to Colleges
"Yale Needs Women is a riveting and uplifting account of the experiences of Yale's early women coedsfirst admitted in 1969. It reveals the multiple barriers faced by these pioneers, as it chronicles their brave efforts to overcome them. Thanks to these champions of women's rights, with similar efforts across the country, opportunities for women have improved. The fight is not over. This inspiring book is a 'must read' for everyone." - Janet L. Yellen, Distinguished Fellow, Brookings Institution
"This stunning, engaging work highlights the strength and courage of women who fought for their future against centuries of patriarchy. Perfect for readers interested in seeing how far women have comeand how far they still have yet to go." - Library Journal, STARRED review
"Yes, Yale needed women, but it didn't really want them. From the moment they arrived in 1969, the first coeds faced a male administration and culture that regarded them as sexual objects, isolated them and offered few female mentors. In her compelling account of the tumultuous early years, Anne Gardiner Perkins tells how these young women met the challenge with courage and tenacity and forever changed Yale and its chauvinistic motto of graduating 1,000 male leaders every year." - Lynn Povich, author of The Good Girls Revolt
"Just in time for the 50thanniversary of the first class of women to enter Yale College, the author's own alma mater, Anne Gardiner Perkins has written an enjoyable and lively history of this event. Through extensive archival research and in-depth interviews with forty-two of the women who matriculated in 1969, Perkins focuses on the experiences of five of these women, recounting both their struggles and their triumphs as they encountered this bastion of male privilege. This beautifully written history also provides a comprehensive view of the many social and political changes that faced the young college women of this era as well as pointing out contemporary problems on college campuses. Yale Needs Women is an important addition to feminist history." - Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University, and host of PBS's Finding Your Roots
"Yale Needs Women breaks through the male stronghold that once defined the Ivy League and delivers the powerful history of a group of young women bold enough to reshape undergraduate education. Perkins' richly detailed narrative is a reminder that gender equity has never come easily, but instead is borne from the exertions of those who precede us. You must read this book: not only to understand our past but to glean critical insight into the future of our academic institutions." - Nathalia Holt, New York Times bestselling author of Rise of the Rocket Girls
"lively and engaging account of the college's first class of female students,.." - The New York Times
"Perkins tackles the discrimination these brave young women of Yale faced, the tremendous sexism and racism of the time, with stories that will make this #MeToo generation shudder and rage. But amidst these darker moments are the stories of women who shined, who triumphed, who took this opportunity for all that it was worth and showed Yaleand the rest of the countrythat women of all backgrounds possess the intellectual rigor and leadership qualities required to deserve a place at this Ivy League institution." - Donna Freitas, author of Consent on Campus
"Perkins (Yale class of 1981) does not sugarcoat history, the 360-degree approach she takes makes Yale Needs Women an engaging, entertaining, thoughtful work of popular history." - Booklist
An educational policy expert examines the trials, tribulations, and triumphs that marked the early years of the Yale University experiment in coeducation.
Until 1969, Yale was "a village of men." But as Perkins, the first woman editor-in-chief of the Yale Daily News, shows, Yale faced cultural currents from within and without that forced it to change. Coeducation had been the norm at Harvard, Yale's closest Ivy peer, since 1943. By 1968, Yale students were demanding an end to the "stifling social environment" that forced them to seek female company in women bused in from all-women colleges like Vassar. In the end, the students got their wish, but the early years of the transition to a coeducational campus were tumultuous. Behind-the-scenes administrative power struggles emerged between Yale President Kingman Brewster and Elga Wasserman, the assistant dean who spearheaded coeducation efforts. Kingman favored a slow transition that would still leave female students far outnumbered by males. By contrast, Wasserman, a perpetually embattled female administrator in a system controlled by men, favored greater parity sooner rather than later. The "threadbare budget" Yale provided Wasserman also proved problematic, especially in her efforts to create a safer campus for female undergraduates, who dealt with sexual harassment from both their professors and male peers. Perkins' interviews with some of the 575 young women undergraduates who came to Yale in 1969 reveal that many felt alienated and alone. Despite the challenges they faced—such as housing and health care facilities that did not take their needs into account—the first women students at Yale found strength in the bonds they created with each other and through the nascent feminist movement, and they went on to open doors to other women in all-male domains such as the Yale athletics and marching band programs. As it celebrates female achievement, the author's focus on a single university also narrows the readership to scholars of higher education and a Yale-affiliated audience.
Well-researched but with limited appeal.
For 268 years, Yale University was an all-men's college, but in the summer of 1969, all that changed when the first women were admitted. Debut author Perkins, a former high school teacher and education policymaker, reveals the struggles and triumphs of the institution's first women as she explores its move to coeducation from 1969 through 1972. Drawing on primary source documents and oral histories, she provides both the student and administrative perspectives, as women navigated housing, sex education, classes, privilege, isolation, and politics. Perkins focuses on a few women and brings their voices to the fore of the historical and political happenings of the time, including the broader issues of gender and racial inequality and the strife of the Vietnam War, imbuing this slice of history with depth. VERDICT This stunning, engaging work highlights the strength and courage of women who fought for their future against centuries of patriarchy. Perfect for readers interested in seeing how far women have come—and how far they still have yet to go.—Rachel Wadham, Brigham Young Univ. Libs., Provo, UT