Looking For A Few Good Women: Interviewing Alumni About Co-Ed Bowdoin

Gender and Women’s Studies Professor Jennifer Scanlon is asking her 200-level seminar students to think of themselves as excavators of history. That’s because much of her course’s source matter has yet to be discovered.

Scanlon is using the 40th anniversary of the matriculation of the first full class of women students at Bowdoin as the subject for an exciting, research-driven course, Forty Years: The History of Women at Bowdoin.

Her students are looking for a few Bowdoin alumni-male and female-for firsthand accounts of what it was like before, during and after women began to matriculate to the College.

“The students are excited to learn about the history of their own institution,” says Scanlon. “They have a lot of questions about who these women were who made the decision to come here. What kind of person would make that choice? What were the responses of men?”

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9 thoughts on “Looking For A Few Good Women: Interviewing Alumni About Co-Ed Bowdoin

  1. Eileen Sheedy-Currie

    I am a grad class of’74-yes that means that I am part of upper classwomen who transferred 40 years ago. Very different environment then 1st years. I have always been offended that our history at Bowdoin has been disregarded when women entering only includes the frosh. Our first female grad died this year-this is important history.

    Thanks-would love to participate in your study

  2. DC

    Hi, Eileen,
    Bowdoin alumnae who would like to be considered for the project, should contact Anne Clifford, 207-725-3834, no later than September 26, 2011.
    Thanks for your interest!

  3. Fred Brown

    Sounds like an interesting project. As a member of the all-men Bowdoin (’63), I often have said that I had fewer social skills after graduating than when I arrived. Sexism was rampant, and sadly I didn’t realize it at the time.

  4. Calanthe Wilson-Pant

    I graduated in ’79, so it was really the second generation of women at Bowdoin–but there were still 3.5 males for every female. There were a lot of biases. I was part of the Zeta Psi blow-up when the national frat found out that women were taking offices. They supported a group of men who were campaigning to eliminate the women. I think that this was the real beginning of the end of frats at Bowdoin. As I was dating one of the guys who was in the group to eliminate women, I was exposed to both sides of the conflict.

  5. James Gillen

    The president of my class (’67) and another classmate who was editor of the Orient wrote a joint article in the spring of 1967 calling for the abolition of fraternities and cc-education. This will articulate the feelings on these issues ahead of the subsequent changes, and the thoughts on co-education should be most useful historical witness in your research.

  6. Wayne Wicks

    As a member of the class of ’76 I was part of those interesting times for women on campus. In 1974 I served as president of the Alpha Kappa Sigma fraternity. For those on campus at the time they will recall that AKS was not noted as the most enlightened fraternity in regard to it’s respect for women. In 1974, I and a few others lead a successful effort to accept women into the AKS fraternity as full members. Needless to say the vote on this issue was carried by the smallest of margins. This new policy was not without negative consequences internally within the fraternity and some members left the fraternity over this issue. In some sense I remain proud that we did the right thing even if it wasn’t for all the right reasons. To some extent it was a decision based on the financial survival of fraternity.

  7. William D. Friedman '61

    Having just celebrated my 50th class reunion, I can tell you that the topic of “women” is still a serious issue with Bowdoin men. The basic world of co-ed public education from which I headed to college looked like this: 1) a girl went college to get a “MRS” Degree. Thus, my neighbor chose the University of Maine for its 9 to 1 ratio of males to females. She married a fellow student. 2) a girl in my high school class with whom I became friends after our 40th HS reunion was asked by me “where were you when we were in high school” and she could not stop laughing. Girls at my high school smiled, blinked, said sweet nothings, and never expressed an opinion which could offend a man–a far cry from what she and other girls of my class had become. (Males from my class changed little.) 3) Joe Namath went to Notre Dame, the school of his dreams. His first question was where are the broads. When told that St. Marys was close to Notre Dame, but no woman were on campus, he left never to return. When he went to Alabama, they made sure that at his recruitment visit he saw nothing but “broads”. Bowdoin did not attract men seeking to get married. In essence, Bowdoin men were not highly focused on womanizing and it did not attract men having marriage as a goal of their college experience. Our purpose was to get a degree from a college which would give us an opportunity to “make it” in the real world. And Bowdoin did well by us. I believe the class marriage rate is high, divorce rate low and concern for family life essential. Up to this last reunion we probably all believed that the lack of women on campus was a big negative, but after seeing so many women on campus at the time of this reunion, many of us wondered if we would have graduated had these women been on campus. Our distraction at Bowdoin was mostly drinking and not having to deal with all these women. We would probably agree that the greatest change in American society in the fifty years was the role of woman. Now women are everywhere outside of the home; i.e. over 50% of doctors, lawyers etc. Hope this will give you some historical perspective of what has happened in 50 years. As a footnote, when I graduated, I spoke to a 50 year alumnus about the lack of women on campus and his remark was that “When your’e young you spend your time chasing them. When you get older, you spend your time running away from them for free time.”

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