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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
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2019, 400 pages
    Sep 8, 2020, 400 pages


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There are currently 25 reader reviews for Yale Needs Women
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Lorri S. (Pompton Lakes, NJ)

Scaling those ivy covered walls
Interesting look at the women reluctantly admitted to Yale in the late 60's, early 70's. Perkins introduces you to a sample of women from that class and gives you a sense of the potential of so many women that went virtually unrecognized.

Yale was meant to produce leaders and it was incomprehensible that women could be leaders. They could be bussed in for parties and assessed for their beauty and wifely qualities, but at Yale women were meant to support leaders, not to be them. But they times they were a-changing, and in order to stay financially viable (it often comes down to money, doesn't it) Yale had to change with the times. Very interesting to witness the transition through the stories told in this book.

Would be a good book group selection with a lot of meat to discuss.
Barbara C. (Riverside, CA)

We are still disadvantaged!
Thinking of current US news, women continue to suffer as second class citizens in many ways. Yes, we attend Yale and Harvard with men, but we make less money in general after we graduate. This book reads like a well written history book which it really is. I enjoyed the weaving of US history into the narrative. A good dissertation. The book included the complete list of references for her well-written life's work.
Ruth H. (Sebring, FL)

Finally, Women at Yale
Illustrious Yale University! For males it was the college of choice and prestigious to be admitted. But for women prior to 1969, it was untouchable. The author writes an enlightening story not only of discrimination but the beginning of woman's lib and the feminist movement. It is shocking to imagine how difficult it was to be a female at Yale, especially since the civil rights movement was long over. This book is a nice smooth read with lots of facts and even pictures of the ladies who fought so hard to make Yale a reality for women. A very interesting glimpse of unknown history brought to light!
Julie P. (Spring Lake, MI)

More than about Yale
The author started writing this as a PhD dissertation, but it reads as anything but! This is a very engaging account of the first group of women students at Yale in 1969, but this book encompasses so much more - the struggle for women's rights in the 1970s, campus safety in the early days of coeducation, campus civil rights, sex education, sexual harassment, protesting against the Vietnam war, and more. Some fascinating history swirling around the country during this time, with Yale University in its midst. My favorite parts? The personal stories of the individual coeds - their struggles with making friends, fending off male advances, fitting in, and advancing their causes, such as protesting police brutality against blacks, starting the first field hockey team for women, and forming an all-women rock band. Yale Needs Women is an excellent example of narrative nonfiction that reads like fiction - not something I would normally have picked up but so glad I did.
Peggy A. (Morton Grove, IL)

The Fight is Not Over!
Anne Perkins has written a scholarly narrative of Yale before and after women were admitted in 1969. Basically, their acceptance was a default position. No one really wanted them including the President, Kingman Brewster, and board members...all male, of course! Due to declining enrollment and Yale men needing " a prized piece of chattel", the establishment acquiesced. What a warm welcome these 575 women received!!

Although this is a well researched book with over 70 pages of footnotes, the author managed to expand what could have been a narrowly engaging story into an engrossing one that follows the personal narratives of five women. Socially isolated, unwelcome, used as spokesmen for their entire gender in class, they were truly PIONEERS. These were women with true grit who blazed a trail for themselves and those that followed.

It makes one realize the empowerment of women has a long trajectory with gains slow in the making. I am glad that such a fine writer and indefatigable researchers as Anne Perkins took on the job of telling their story!
Laura P. (Atlanta, GA)

First Steps
In the fall of 1969, Yale admitted its first women - 575 of them - to its undergraduate college.The pressure came from male students who were selecting coed universities in preference to the all-male Yale, and the school feared losing its preeminence to other elite schools. Then Yale though it had done enough. So women were admitted -- and Yale thought it had done enough. As author Anne Gardiner Perkins (who entered Yale in 1977 herself) notes at the end of her book, the story typically told of what happened next was "... a sanitized tale of equity instantly achieved, as if all it took to transform these villages of men into places where women were treated as equals was the flip of an admissions switch. That is not what happened."

Perkins, as research for her doctoral dissertation, interviewed 51 of the women in that first class, with particular attention to five of them, 2 black and 3 white. Using their stories she traces the first three years of Yale's coeducation experience from the women's point of view -- and it was not an easy life. They were discounted, disrespected, ignored, excluded and harassed --but they involved themselves in the life of the school in spite of all that and fought for increasing the number of women and improving the conditions under which they lived and studied.

This book was of particular interest to me because I graduated from college in 1970, the same school year in which this story begins. I was in graduate school at University of Virginia in 1970/71, the first year women were admitted to the undergraduate college there, and taught at UVA in 1972/72, the first year a full class of women entered through the normal admissions process.The situations Perkins describes are familiar. She tells the story well. This book does an excellent job of charting the path women have followed over the past 50 years, at least with regard to academics. But as the end of the book indicates,while we have in fact come a long way, baby -- but we aren't there yet.
Power Reviewer
Lee M. (Valley Park, MO)

We Have Just Begun
This book tells the story of what happens when an all-male institution suddenly goes coed. Ms Perkins set up camp at Yale Manuscripts and Archives, and also interviewed 51 women and men to compile what happened at Yale from 1969 through 1972. Noteworthy is that the Equal Rights Amendment ERA, did not pass Congress until 1972. It still needs one state vote to ratify. I find it sad that it took all that fighting for equality and yet 49 years later it still needs to be done at many other places. Perhaps this book will be used as a guide, but where will we find the Superwomen?

My review
This book is an inspiring story of the strength, resilience, and courage of five particular female students out of a total of over five hundred. The five - two black and three white – had quite different backgrounds, talents, and ambitions and were part of the integration of females into the student body at Yale University in 1969. The book also includes informative information about the disparity of females at that time insofar as the Yale's total staff members and instructors. I read that the book followed five years of research and 80 interviews of people involved in this dramatic change and the author's well documented research is obvious in the chapters of the book.
Before I tell you about how I felt about this book, let me tell you something about myself. I am 84 years old and I faced prejudice against women in the work force back when I entered the work force in 1956; but I had to overcome it by working harder than any of the male peers in my field did. I also influenced my daughter (who happened to be born before women were admitted to Yale) to believe that she could do or become anything she wanted to become despite being female even though I do not remember ever specifically having a conversation with her about that subject. On her own, she chose to enter a man's field (becoming a pilot in the US military) and succeeded despite prejudice from the older military officers. By the way, the prejudice she felt was very much a generational thing – the men of her generation accepted her presence.
So now, let me tell you my views on the book.
I think it was a historical masterpiece for anyone who is looking for modern history of a gender free world. Her research shines out from start to finish and I feel much better informed now about the subject.
I enjoyed the writing style of the author. It was very easy to read and not filled with educationese.
On the other hand, I think that the approval and popularity of the book will vary according to where the reader falls in spectrum of the age of all reviewers. Many types of types of prejudices vary in accordance with the generation of the responder.

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