cover image Yale Needs Women: How the First Group of Girls Rewrote the Rules of an Ivy League Giant

Yale Needs Women: How the First Group of Girls Rewrote the Rules of an Ivy League Giant

Anne Gardiner Perkins. Sourcebooks, $25.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-4926-8774-0

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.)