Celebrating Women Then and Now: A History of Coeducation at Trinity College

Abbey O’Leary ’24

Features Editor

Celebrating women in education is central to celebrating Women’s History Month and all of the advancements women have made over the years. Not long ago, women were prohibited from attending Trinity College. It was not until 1969 that the administration, under President Theodore Davidge Lockwood, Class of 1948, voted to admit women into the student body in the fall of 1969.

Noted in Katherine Rorer’s paper for Trinity College’s course, Education 300: Education Reform, Past and Present, entitled “The Process of Co-Education at Amherst College and Trinity College,” there were various reasons Trinity voted in favor of accepting women into the student body. Namely, after a few years of decline in enrollment, the institution hoped admitting women would increase numbers in matriculation and revenue. Furthermore, the high level of social pressure surrounding the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements in the 1960s encouraged Trinity College to take a daring step and become one of the first colleges in New England to transition to coeducation. In Zsofia Veer’s paper, “From ‘coeducation was a myth’ to ‘coeducation was no longer a big deal’: Women’s experiences at Trinity College in the first twenty years of coeducation,” also written for Trinity’s Education 300: Education Reform, Past and Present course, she notes that roughly 75% percent of American colleges had transitioned to coeducation in 1955. However, many of these schools were not elite institutions, and many of the NESCAC and Ivy League schools had remained strictly male schools up until this point.

Again noted in Rorer’s paper, throughout the 1960s and 1970s, there was a rise in the number of women entering graduate programs and Trinity wanted to reflect this social shift in education by opening their doors to women. Rorer also claimed that Trinity believed by allowing women to attend the institution, they would gain a notable advantage over their competitors. Not only would the number of women attending Trinity increase the college’s income, but it would increase the student body and bring in students who would enter underrepresented fields and bring a diverse background to previously male dominated subjects. Veer wrote that 106 women were admitted into the first coeducational class in the fall of 1969. This number grew exponentially, and quickly, with a student body divided evenly between men and women by the end of the 1970s. And, by 1989, women began to enter the faculty as well.

In 2019, Trinity put together a three semester sequence commemorating women at Trinity. Based on the idea “yesterday, today, tomorrow,” women on campus and their achievements were celebrated. In a record of a panel with members of the first female graduating class of 1973, many of the women discussed the adversity they faced upon entering an almost entirely male dominated environment. However, it was this very challenge that encouraged them to succeed and make their mark on Trinity’s campus and the world beyond. These women along with every other and every advancement made along the way, deserve to be celebrated this and every month.

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