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    • Yale alums pose with the stone honoring coeducation during the Commemorative Weekend on September 21

Celebrating Coeducation

Anushree Vashist ’21 News Editor
Throughout the 2019-2020 academic year, Yale University is celebrating 50 years since becoming coeducational and 150 years since women first attended the University’s School of Art.
After universities like Yale became coeducational, private schools like Hopkins followed suit and, in two years, we will have our own opportunity to recognize this achievement.

50WomenAtYale150, the university’s initiative, hopes to recognize the women who pioneered coeducation, encourage schools at Yale and alumni to research and exhibit the contributions by female students, and explore the “unfinished agenda” of women both within Yale and the world at large. To that end, various committees have organized a series of events, including conferences, discussions, and a commemorative weekend. Some events have been geared towards specific members of the Yale Community while others have been open for the general public.

During the Commemorative Weekend, Yale University installed a commemorative stone on Old Campus, beyond Phelps Gate. The stone reads, “In September 1969, the first women undergraduates arrived on campus. With spirit and determination, these women of the classes of 1971, 1972, and 1973 transformed life and learning in Yale College.” Peter Salovey, the institution’s president, performed the dedication, saying that “the five hundred and seventy-five trailblazers... changed this university forever.” He continued by saying these women “inaugurate a new era” whose “legacy is all around us.” Yale Alum Elizabeth Alexander ’84 emphasized advancement saying “We belong to an evolving entity that believes in the strong spine of certain traditions but also evolution. Yale has changed; you have helped change it; it will continue to change.”

The Yale Alumni Magazine also honored many of the women pioneers who created a path for future generations to follow. Many of their struggles involved the typical difficulties in adjusting to college life, but some were especially difficult due to the move towards coeducation. One woman, Susan Ellen Waisbren ’71, mentioned that “many of the school buildings did not have ‘ladies’ rooms,’ and there was no gynecologist at Yale Student Health Services.” Another, Julia Preston ’73, commented on the administration’s concern regarding the lack of bathtubs in Vanderbilt Hall (the freshmen’s residence), claiming that their “bodies were harboring yeasts and fungi that had been unknown at Yale when the undergraduates were all men, and which could only be controlled by immersive soaking.”

Like Yale, Hopkins’ history features the transition to a coeducational institution. In 1972, the all-boys Hopkins Grammar School (HGS) and the all-girls Day Prospect Hill School (DPH) merged to form the school we know today. At the time, F. Allen Sherk was the HGS Head of School (1953 to 1974); trustees and alumni commonly credit him with the execution of the merge. Anna Bowditch led DPH but after the merger, she retired. While we do not know if she retired out of preference, Thom Peters, the School Archivist noted that “she and Mr. Sherk were both strong personalities, and I’m not sure there was really room for both of them.”

Wendy Parente, the Accounts Payable Manager in the Business Office, was a student during the merger. She was a student at DPH from grades seven through nine and attended Hopkins Grammar Day Prospect Hill School for her last three years of high school. Parente called the merger a “wonderful thing for both schools,” but she noted that “some of the long DPH traditions were lost.” For example, “The girls looked forward to becoming juniors and having their ‘ring ceremony,’” but the practice died soon after. Some troubles also emerged due to athletic scheduling and “the lack of gym time for sports.” Despite these initial hurdles, Parente noted that throughout her time working at Hopkins, “the two schools have survived the merge and it is a wonderful place.”

In two years, Hopkins will have its own opportunity to celebrate 50 years of being coeducational and to honor those who allowed such an effort. Parente believes that “the girls school should somehow be remembered.” She continued, “Whether it is through past sport teams or past female teachers we had at the school, without the girls schools (all of them The Day School, Prospect Hill, and DPH) Hopkins would not be what it is today.”


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The Razor's Edge reflects the opinion of 4/5 of the editorial board and will not be signed. The Razor welcomes letters to the editor but reserves the right to decide which letters to publish, and to edit letters for space reasons. Unsigned letters will not be published, but names may be withheld on request. Letters are subject to the same libel laws as articles. The views expressed in letters are not necessarily those of the editorial board.
     
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