Nancy Weiss Malkiel, “Keep the Damned Women Out:” The Struggle for Coeducation
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In the late 1960s, as director of Smith College’s Social Science Research Center, I was asked to work with the College Planning Committee on a comprehensive study exploring Smith’s future, particularly with regard to the issue of coeducation. Our Center designed and carried out a study to find out how students, alumnae, and the faculty of Smith felt about an issue that was already being debated at many “peer” institutions.
At the time many men’s colleges, despite serious misgivings on the part of significant parts of their student and alumni bodies, concluded that in order to maintain their appeal and their crème de la crème-status” they would have to open their doors to women. Soon one after another of the once-socially and still-academically elite ones decided to do so. This was no small matter for colleges like Smith, because from their time of their founding, they seem to have attracted two kinds of highly qualified women: those who came to because it was a women’s college, and thos...