Dwight Hall and the First Female Undergraduates at Yale

The 1969 Ulysses S. Grant Foundation cohort. Group photograph courtesy of Anne Ghory-Goodman ’71, pictured in the top right. Cover art courtesy of Hang Nguyen ’21, ’25 M.D.

This article is the product of conversations and emails in the summer of 2022 with Anne Ghory-Goodman ’71, Priscilla Lundin ’71, Kay Hill ’72, and Vicki C. Jackson ’72; an oral history recorded in September 2019 at the Yale Broadcast Center with Anne, Priscilla, Kay, and Margret Anderson ’71; Priscilla Lundin’s “Dear Mom and Dad” entry in Reflections on Coeducation for the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Coeducation at Yale (Yale Printing & Publishing Services, 2020); Margret Anderson’s essay, “How Dwight Hall Set the Stage for Coeducation for Me,” in the 1971 50th Reunion Class Book; and archival material provided by some of those interviewed.

On November 14th, 1968, Yale President Kingman Brewster announced that Yale College would become a co-educational institution, admitting 500 women. About half were first-years in the Class of 1973, and the rest were transfer students into the Classes of 1971 and 1972. For a group of about 15 incoming sophomore and junior women transfers, the summer of 1969–a prelude to the historic fall matriculation of women students into Yale College–was spent working in public service and social justice jobs in New Haven and, for most, living together on Old Campus. Dwight Hall was the institution that brought them together.

Anne Ghory-Goodman ’71, Priscilla Lundin ’71, and Margret Anderson ’71 remembered receiving a letter from Dwight Hall after they were accepted into Yale College in April of 1969, alerting them to opportunities open to transfer students that summer. Kay heard about Dwight Hall’s Summer Program through word of mouth.

“We were invited to apply to be a part of a group of Dwight Hall summer programs that focused on social service in New Haven,” recalled Anne. “There were VISTA [Volunteers in Service to America] grants for the Yale Law School, and there were other grants that were given to Dwight Hall that were used to compensate us.” 

Based on a list of Dwight Hall “Summer Staff & Associates,” which included job descriptions, there were 45 participants in the 1969 summer program. Some of the women transfers in the program were able to get placements facilitated by Dwight Hall before the start of the summer; others found internships with assistance from Dwight Hall once they arrived in New Haven.

The images above are a full list of participants and placements for the 1969 Dwight Hall Summer Program. Archives courtesy of Priscilla Lundin ’71.

Priscilla wrote to her parents when the Summer Program started that her pay for a 35-hour week was $60: $40 from Dwight Hall and $20 from an Urban Corp grant ($484 in today’s dollars). By sharing a refrigerator with two girls on her floor in McClellan Hall, used as a woman’s dorm for Dwight Hall that summer, Priscilla estimated meals cost $2.50 a day ($20 in today’s dollars). Since long-distance calls were expensive, she didn’t get a telephone for her room, giving her parents the number of the Dwight Hall office instead. 

The female Dwight Hall cohort, like the majority of women entering Yale as sophomores or juniors, were, with a few exceptions, transferring from the “Seven Sisters” and other highly selective women’s colleges, mostly located on bucolic college campuses. For them, the 1969 Dwight Hall Summer Program was an intense and eye-opening introduction to New Haven’s urban environment, where at the time, there were many community stresses. With Dwight Hall’s support and sponsorship, that summer: 

  • Margret did in-depth research for the Black Coalition on education as part of the Black Coalition’s Leadership Development & Community Organization Project; she worked on a discrete project for New Haven Public Schools focused on increasing the political organization of parents.
  • Anne taught art part-time for students taking part in the Ulysses S. Grant Foundation; she also did research for the Mental Health Center, interviewing a random sampling of mothers of students at Giannotti Junior High School about their opinions concerning student disciplinary issues.
  • Priscilla worked briefly as an administrative assistant for the Director of the New Haven Department of Welfare, then switched to the New Haven Legal Assistance Association, working with a small team of Yale Law School and Yale Divinity School students, interviewing residents of the Wooster Square neighborhood as part of a survey about the awareness of the availability of free legal services in New Haven.
  • Kay utilized her fluency in Spanish to work at the Fair Haven-based organization Junta for Progressive Action, where she taught art and ESL courses to Spanish-speaking children in a storefront on Grand Avenue.

For the female cohort, the 1969 Dwight Hall Summer Program was also an eye-opening introduction to what it would be like when school started in September and they were the gender minority in the classroom, not the gender majority as they were accustomed to at their mostly all-female colleges. President Brewster had promised, after all, that in making Yale co-ed, he would not tamper with the concept of graduating “one thousand male leaders a year.”

It soon became apparent that however radical male Yale students might appear on the outside, there weren’t going to be many feminists among them. At Dwight Hall, “[e]very guy had long hair, was outspoken, and was challenging authority,” recalled Anne. “You expected them to challenge conventional ideas about women too, but that was surprisingly not the case.”

During regular weekly Dwight Hall meetings of all volunteers, it was not uncommon for women to feel ignored or sidelined. Both Anne and Vicki C. Jackson ’72 remembered the meeting when Anne called out “man-splaining” by saying to a male peer: “Wait a minute, stop! Vicki said that same thing ten minutes ago, now you have to listen to her.” One of only a few Black women matriculating to Yale that fall, Margret also recalled that her male peers more readily accepted Black men over Black women on the basis of their shared gender.

Anne and Vicki were also sidelined after they worked hard to propose significant edits to the 1973 Eli Book, published every year as a first-year orientation resource. They were shocked by the bias and condescension towards women that they found in the book. Like the 1972 edition, it opened with a “Dear Gentlemen” letter from President Brewster and included this advice to Yale’s first-year class, which for the first time included women: 

“Treat Yale like you would a good woman. Take advantage of her many gifts, nourish yourself with the fruits of her wisdom, curse her if you will, and congratulate yourself for the possession of her. But treat her with respect. When you leave her, as you ultimately must, profit from the education that she has given you.”

In their contemporaneous writing, “Response to the Eli Book,” distributed to the female cohort and others, Anne and Vicki told the story about their efforts to change the Eli Book for the coed Class of 1973 by creating an edited version of the text. Though their edits were initially accepted, they eventually withdrew the material they submitted because the editor rejected their request to describe their authorship role.

In addition to attending weekly meetings of all Dwight Hall volunteers, Anne, Priscilla, Margret, Vicki, Deborah Rose ’72, ’77 M.PH., ’89 Ph.D., and other women in the cohort met weekly for support, mostly at Dwight Hall. Priscilla wrote home: “[W]e are having weekly meetings about the problems women are facing at Yale, and we will probably be meeting (2 girls already have) [Anne and Vicki] with the Committee on Coeducation with proposals for orientation and continuing activities throughout the year.”

An excerpt from the meeting minutes of the summer 1969 women’s support group. Archives courtesy of Priscilla Lundin ’71.

What follow are two excerpts from a contemporaneous written piece by several members of the Dwight Hall women’s support group, entitled “Female Voices”:

  • Margret: “[O]ne Yale alumnus told me that coeducation was merely a passing fad, and not worth discussing; another labeled coeducation a ‘social project’ to keep the men happy during the week before taking off to Smith, Wellesley, etc…I’ve been told that women should not come here and try to change things, after all, we should be grateful that Yale is giving us this wonderful opportunity to be Yale men…”
  • Vicki:One thing I found interesting, especially in terms of next year, was the men’s reaction to the idea of a women’s support group. Many were condescending, some scornful. Only a few seem to understand our problems, which I think were aggravated by the disproportionate number of men to women.”

Despite these negative experiences, two men stand out in the collective memory of the alumnae interviewed as being, with their wives, truly supportive of the Dwight Hall female cohort. Regarding Dwight Hall leader and mentor Herb Cahoon and his wife Jean, Kay’s comments are representative: “relaxed, welcoming, and looking after us that summer.”

The support of William Horowitz ’29, a Fellow of the Yale Corporation from 1965 to 1971, and that of his wife Miriam, is also fondly remembered. The members of the women’s group recalled Mr. and Mrs. Horowitz reaching out to make the Dwight Hall female cohort feel at home on the Yale campus as soon as they got settled at Dwight Hall. This included inviting all of them to dinner at Mory’s, which at the time denied membership to women and would do so until 1974. Recalled Margret, “As the first Jewish Trustee of the Yale Corporation, Mr. Horowitz understood what it was like to be the ‘first’ in an established institution.”

After the Summer Program was over and just before school started, Mr. and Mrs. Horowitz invited the Dwight Hall female cohort over to their New Haven home for a buffet dinner; the other guests included Yale faculty and administration. Priscilla wrote home: “There I met ‘Inky’ Clark, the head of Yale Admissions and the person who has completely changed the Yale admissions policy.” She noted in her letter that these policy changes related not only to women, but to race, religion, financial aid, and the number of public versus private school graduates. 

“Most of the conversation centered around the ‘new Yale’ and coeducation,” she continued. “Mrs. Galston, the wife of the bio professor [Professor Arthur Galston, then head of the Course of Study Committee, a famous plant physiologist and later known for bringing a halt to the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam] said that about 15 years ago, when she first came to Yale, she was kicked out of the only comfortable reading room in Sterling Library because no women were allowed. They discovered her after she had been there an hour. Later on, her husband was put on the Library Committee and eventually, women were allowed in the reading room. (However, all the comfortable couches were removed…).”

For Anne and Kay, the Dwight Hall summer of 1969 had a profound, positive impact on their career paths.

Anne majored in Art and Sociology and wrote her senior thesis on women’s liberation and its implication for the family structure. She recalled that she was in part inspired by her teaching art for the Ulysses S. Grant Foundation and her interviews of mothers at Giannotti Junior High that summer.

Kay described her career trajectory as “almost a straight continuum” from Dwight Hall. Fresh after graduation, Kay started New Haven’s first bilingual daycare center on behalf of Junta for Progressive Action. Then, after launching her 35-year career in the New Haven Public School system, Kay concluded her last two years of service as the Acting Assistant Superintendent. 

Whatever their different majors, professions, careers, and personal experiences over the past 53 years, all of the Yale alumnae whose recollections form the basis of this story agree that their experience as Yale women undergraduates was tremendously enhanced by having been part of the Dwight Hall summer program in 1969.

Vicki observed: “It was a good way to start out in an institution in transition. The Dwight Hall experience encouraged and facilitated a kind of self-reflection for the group of us who were there, coming to a greater awareness of injustices both well-known and those that were only beginning to be seen.”

Recalled Margret: “Dwight Hall offered us an opportunity that women students coming to New Haven in the fall did not have–an opportunity to meet and bond with other women, most of whom we probably would not have otherwise known.”

On Sunday, September 22nd, 2019, the last day of the four-day celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Coeducation at Yale, Anne was able to arrange, with the Yale Office of Public Affairs & Communications, a recorded interview to be included in the 50th Anniversary Celebration Committee’s Oral History Project. The interviewees: Anne, Margret, Kay and Priscilla. The subject: their takeaways from their shared experience at Dwight Hall in the summer of 1969. 

During this interview, Anne expressed a sentiment about the experience that resonated with everyone in the room: “The women I met at Dwight Hall became lifelong touchstones for me.”

Dwight Hall invites alumni from the early 1970s as well as all eras to share stories of the Hall’s impact on your personal and professional life by emailing Dwight Hall’s Communications and Alumni Engagement Associate, Barbara Mola ‘22 (barbara.mola@yale.edu). 

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