TCS: When Men Alone Decided What Was HISTORY

Good Morning!

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Welcome to The Coffee Shop, just for you early risers on Monday mornings. This is an Open Thread forum, so if you have an off-topic opinion burning a hole in your brainpan, feel free to add a comment.

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This started when my husband handed me his copy of the New York Review of Books dated April 6, 2017, pointing out a review written by Linda Greenhouse of “Keep the Damned Women Out”: The Struggle for Coeducation by Nancy Weiss-Malkiel, who was Dean of Princeton for 24  years, and emeritus professor of history there. The title comes from a letter written by a Dartmouth alumni protesting allowing women to attend the school.

My comment:

The book is about how and why the Ivy League schools finally started letting women in. What happens at the schools that have one-third of all U.S. Presidents on their alumni rolls is obviously a key factor in who will be the nation’s leaders.

Add Stanford University, the West Coast equivalent to the Ivy League, and the number of U.S. Representatives, Senators and Federal judges connected to these schools is also very long.

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Stories from “Keep the Damned Women Out”:

When Harvard’s deal with Radcliffe, in which the two schools’ women and men shared some classes, began to lure away applicants that Yale and Princeton wanted, maintaining the status quo started to look like the road to becoming second-rate institutions. In 1967, Kingman Brewster, President of Yale, told an audience of Yale alumni that “our concern is not so much what Yale can do for women, but what can women do for Yale.”

Harvard’s integration with Radcliffe was a slow process — even merging the two schools’ admissions offices proved embarrassing but enlightening: the highest-paid employee in the Radcliffe office was paid the same salary as the lowest-paid employee in the Harvard office.

When Princeton gave tenure to its first woman professor, the letter was addressed to “Dear Sir”

One of the first female students at Yale asking the head of the history department about offering a course in women’s history was told, “That would be like teaching the history of dogs.”

A Princeton English professor responded to a woman student who wanted to write a paper on women writers: “I’m interested in auto mechanics, but I don’t try to bring that into the curriculum.”

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The ‘Separate But Equal‘ doctrine that was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education was only applied to racial segregation, but I think the reasoning behind the Court’s ruling also applies to gender separation. Barring women from the elite schools that regularly turn out our national leaders not only deprived us of the opportunity for an MBA from Harvard or a Yale law degree, it also kept us outside the social circle forged by Ivy League alumni during their college years — the connections they call on for the rest of their of lives for information, introductions and support. And what did they learn about women during those years? That we didn’t exist in history, and we had made no cultural contributions. And something else:

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A Yale undergraduate wrote to the Yale Daily News in 1968, explaining why he favored coeducation:

“You get entangled in a weekend-to-weekend existence, and you become a product of it. You lose sight of the simple fact that girls are people, just like you and me. Instead they become things to play with on allotted days. Things.”

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Donald Trump went to Fordham University from 1964 to 1968. Fordham was founded by the Catholic Church, and became a Jesuit-affiliated independent school under a lay board of trustees. It didn’t become coeducational until 1974. Prior to that, he went to New York Military Academy, a boarding school. It didn’t admit girls until 1975.

In 1966, the year I graduated from high school, I already knew about Anne Hutchinson, Abigail Adams, Deborah Sampson, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Elizabeth Blackwell, Lucretia Mott, Emily Dickinson, Jane Addams, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. I knew that American women were a critical part of the Abolitionist movement, and that their participation made them reevaluate their own lack of rights as citizens. I knew that realization had launched the Woman’s Rights Movement, and the long battle for the right to vote. 


 


How could anyone say that a movement to get the full rights of citizenship for half the population of the nation wasn’t an important part of U.S. HISTORY? That women gaining property rights, having control over their own wages, and being able to vote made no important changes in our country? That sex education and access to contraceptives didn’t have a huge impact on society as a whole? 

And yet men at the top of the educational heap did say it, over and over again. If I could get this information and understand its impact as a 17-year-old student at a public high school in Arizona, then it was willful ignorance on their part, that they made not only acceptable for their students, but imperative to maintaining their perception of superiority, and which has played no small part in bringing us to the current Occupant of the Oval Office, and his coterie of privileged white males. 

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“The most common characteristic of women’s history is to be lost and discovered, lost again and rediscovered, lost once more and re-rediscovered — a process of tragic waste and terrible silences that will continue until women’s stories are a full and equal part of the human story.”

— Gloria Steinem

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She also said:

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Nothing like starting your Monday with a harangue. Hope your beverage of choice is strong and hot.


“Keep the Damned Women Out”: The Struggle for Coeducation, © 2016 by Nancy Weiss-Malkiel, Princeton University Press

About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for the past 45 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband and a bewildered Border Collie.
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