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BookBrowse Reviews Yale Needs Women by Anne Gardiner Perkins

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Yale Needs Women

How the First Group of Girls Rewrote the Rules of an Ivy League Giant

by Anne Gardiner Perkins

Yale Needs Women by Anne Gardiner Perkins X
Yale Needs Women by Anne Gardiner Perkins
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • First Published:
    Sep 2019, 400 pages

    Jul 2021, 400 pages


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The fascinating stories of Yale University's first class of female students after the school went coed in 1969.

Anne Gardiner Perkins' Yale Needs Women was a big hit with our First Impressions readers, receiving at least 4-stars from all reviewers for an average 4.6-star rating; and reminding many of their own years at college.

What it's about:

Yale admitted women to the undergraduate class in the fall 1969 for the first time, largely because the school had lost a significant number of highly qualified male applicants who preferred to go to co-educational colleges. Having taken this step, the university took virtually no further action to integrate women into its culture. Outnumbered seven to one, women were isolated, without administrative or self-support systems, regarded as classroom curiosities or sexual prey. Anne Gardiner Perkins' history of the incipient women's movement at Yale traces how, over the course of four years, Yale women—undergrad and grad students, the very few faculty and administrators and nonacademic staff—and even some men worked on issues that influenced change (Nona F).

Readers felt this was a fascinating piece of history, well told by Perkins:

This piece of history needed to be told and this book captured it well (Terrie J). This is an important book about a pivotal chapter in education history. And Perkins has managed to make it an interesting story, too (Celia A). The rich stories of the women are wound nicely together around the events that were happening at the time, including the Black Panther trial and Vietnam War protests (Kara M). I think this book is a must-read for those interested in the evolution of university coeducation, as well as women's rights. We must study history, not ignore or destroy it, in order to learn how to better ourselves for the future (Liz B). This is a page-turner of a story, built around compelling individuals, ideal for those interested in the history of the women's movement (Nona F).

Despite taking place half a century ago, readers felt this story was relevant to the ongoing fight against misogyny:

My daughter and granddaughters need to read this book; some of these issues exist today, pay equity being the most obvious. This book was very well written and I am recommending it to several book groups (Joyce W). This book is so relevant today, when the "Me Too" movement has forced everyone to take note, and in many cases, take ownership of the misogyny that has gripped this nation for far too long. Bravo Ms. Perkins and bravo to those women who endured Yale during the early years of the women's movement for equality (Shelley C). It's a chronicle of survival in higher education, told by the women who lived it. The problems these women faced are still rampant in our society today; this is a history you should not pass up (Nona F). The women were pioneers of not just equality in education but in all aspects of life. Yale Needs Women is a book every young person should read (Charlene M). It was very enlightening to look back at these pioneer women from the perspective of "Me Too" (Elizabeth T).

And many readers could easily place the book in the context of their own lives:

I graduated from Radcliffe in 1969 with a Harvard degree. I learned much about the difference between Yale and Harvard reading this. Clearly Yale needed women because they were losing them to Harvard! (Elizabeth C). This book may have been of particular interest to me because I entered a public university in Texas the same year the first women arrived at Yale. It was fascinating to read of their experiences on that Ivy League campus and to see how they contrasted or paralleled my own (Rosemary C). I loved this book from beginning to end, partly because I had just graduated from college when Yale opened its doors to women. I visited Yale in the bad old days when we Smithies piled onto the bus each weekend to see our beaux in New Haven. I was naive enough to be envious of that first and second class: "Think of the attention! Think of the choice of boyfriends!" Little did I know that the college wouldn't let these very young women have locks on their bathroom doors and that the chivalry I had experienced as a date wore away quickly when the Yale male bastion was threatened. But how strong these first Yale women were! (Elizabeth T).

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in September 2019, and has been updated for the August 2021 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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