Summary and book reviews of Yale Needs Women by Anne Gardiner Perkins

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:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2019, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2021, 400 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

"If Yale was going to keep its standing as one of the top two or three colleges in the nation, the availability of women was an amenity it could no longer do without."

In the summer of 1969, from big cities to small towns, young women across the country sent in applications to Yale University for the first time. The Ivy League institution dedicated to graduating "one thousand male leaders" each year had finally decided to open its doors to the nation's top female students. The landmark decision was a huge step forward for women's equality in education.

Or was it?

The experience the first undergraduate women found when they stepped onto Yale's imposing campus was not the same one their male peers enjoyed. Isolated from one another, singled out as oddities and sexual objects, and barred from many of the privileges an elite education was supposed to offer, many of the first girls found themselves immersed in an overwhelmingly male culture they were unprepared to face. Yale Needs Women is the story of how these young women fought against the backward-leaning traditions of a centuries-old institution and created the opportunities that would carry them into the future. Anne Gardiner Perkins's unflinching account of a group of young women striving for change is an inspiring story of strength, resilience, and courage that continues to resonate today.

PROLOGUE

When I was fifty-­two years old, I decided that the time had come to get my PhD. Better late than never.  The idea was not entirely new. My best friend, Hazel, and I had met in our twenties, when we were both history graduate students, and I had considered getting a doctorate then. But while Hazel went on to get her PhD, I had felt pulled to different work, and after getting my master's, I'd gotten a job teaching in an urban high school.  Thirty years later, I was still in education, now working on policies and programs for Massachusetts's public colleges and universities. I wanted to strengthen my thinking about the issues I worked on, and I knew that UMass Boston had a well-­regarded higher education program. Once again, the doctorate beckoned.

So I began. Monday through Thursday, I worked at my job on Beacon Hill. Fridays, I went to class at UMass Boston.  Weekends, I studied. My husband, Rick, did all the cooking and—­let's be ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Up until the late 1960s and early 1970s, many top colleges banned women students. Cultural and family values also affected women's college choice. How were your own college decisions impacted by your gender? Do you view that situation differently now than you did at the time?
  2. After screening for academic strength, Sam Chauncey and Elga Wasserman looked for toughness when selecting Yale's first women undergraduates. "There was no point in taking a timid woman and putting her in this environment," said Chauncey, "because it could crush you." [p. 48] Do you think they were right to consider a student's toughness? As a high school senior, would you have met this standard?
  3. Yale Needs Women focuses in particular on the experiences of five ...
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Here are some of the comments posted about Yale Needs Women.
You can see the full discussion here.


“The women who go first and speak out help shape a better world for all of us.” Which women in history do you think fit this description? Which do you personally admire? Who are your female heroes or mentors?
kimk stole my thunder. Michelle Obama was the first name that popped into my head as well. Her class, poise, and ability to never take the bait and "go low" in the face of such hostility was and is simply amazing. Still, I definitely like ... - marks

"Changes in social structures require a social movement." Do you agree? What examples of social movements do you see today? Do you consider yourself part of any of them?
I do agree with that statement if you expect change in your generation. Otherwise it happens so incrementally you miss it. So many social movements today, Black Lives Matter, Me Too, LBGTQ. Change happening so fast now that it's scaring the ... - smallino

Are there organizations you know of that still need a lot of work to achieve gender or racial equality?
Structural gender inequality and racial inequity in the U.S. are still prevalent in almost everywhere, with often horrific results (e.g., cases of policy brutality against BIPOC). I didn’t realize until I read The New Jim Crow how ... - marianned

Brewster Kingman was the biggest obstacle to gender equity at Yale. What was your opinion of his intransigence on this issue? Are obstacles like Kingman still an issue in academia? Perhaps in certain disciplines?
Are there still Kingman Brewsters in the academic world? Probably, but I suspect theirs actions are more subtle. Brewster’s background as part of an elite Old Boys network made it hard for him to see the need for change. Furthermore, he ... - marianned

Do you believe male-female ratio was the root of the female students’ discontent? Why or why not? What other factors do you feel played into the women’s unhappiness with the status quo?
I don't think the ratio of men vs women was the issue. When I went to college in 1968, I attended a large public college. I thought I'd like the ratio, which at the time had 10 men to every women. It was fun. Always something to do, had... - smallino

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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)...continued

Full Review (720 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

(Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Media Reviews

New York Times
A lively and engaging account of the college’s first class of female students.

The Washington Post
Perkins has delivered an engaging and surprising story that illustrates the challenges college women have confronted across the country.

Booklist
Perkins (Yale class of 1981) does not sugarcoat history, the 360-degree approach she takes makes Yale Needs Women an engaging, entertaining, thoughtful work of popular history.

Library Journal (starred review)
This stunning, engaging work highlights the strength and courage of women who fought for their future against centuries of patriarchy. Perfect for readers interested in seeing how far women have come-and how far they still have yet to go.

Publishers Weekly
Perkins succeeds admirably in restoring these women's fascinating voices and weaving in the larger historical context. This is a valuable contribution to the history of higher education, women, and the postwar U.S.

Author Blurb Nathalia Holt, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Rise of the Rocket Girls
Yale Needs Women breaks through the male stronghold that once defined the Ivy League and delivers the powerful history of a group of young women bold enough to reshape undergraduate education. Perkins’ richly detailed narrative is a reminder that gender equity has never come easily, but instead is borne from the exertions of those who precede us. You must read this book: not only to understand our past but to glean critical insight into the future of our academic institutions.

Author Blurb Edward B. Fiske, bestselling author of Fiske Guide to Colleges
Anne Gardiner Perkins weaves a tale of courage in the face of arrogance, frustration giving way to hard-won triumphs, and the redeeming power of shared visions and friendships. Perkins makes the story of these early and unwitting feminist pioneers come alive against the backdrop of the contemporaneous civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1970s, and offers observations that remain eerily relevant on U.S. campuses today.

Author Blurb Janet L. Yellen, Distinguished Fellow, Brookings Institution
Yale Needs Women is a riveting and uplifting account of the experiences of Yale's early women coeds-first admitted in 1969. It reveals the multiple barriers faced by these pioneers, as it chronicles their brave efforts to overcome them. Thanks to these champions of women's rights, with similar efforts across the country, opportunities for women have improved. The fight is not over. This inspiring book is a 'must read' for everyone.

Author Blurb Lynn Povich, author of The Good Girls Revolt
In her compelling account of the tumultuous early years, Anne Gardiner Perkins tells how these young women met the challenge with courage and tenacity and forever changed Yale and its chauvinistic motto of graduating 1,000 male leaders every year.

Author Blurb Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University
Anne Gardiner Perkins has written an enjoyable and lively history...a comprehensive view of the many social and political changes that faced the young college women of this era...Yale Needs Women is an important addition to feminist history.

Reader Reviews

tarablythe

Fascinating book
I found this book to be fascinating and easily readable. I learned so many new things and would definitely recommend this book to others!
Molly B. (Longmont, CO)

Appreciation for The Inside Story
As a woman who entered Yale in its 4th year of coeducation, I am most likely biased in my appreciation for this book. But even readers who have nothing to do with Yale might value this inside story of a venerable institution, terribly homogeneous, ...   Read More
Sandra H. (St. Cloud, MN)

Second Class citizens
Fascinating book.
Patricia E. (Sugarcreek, OH)

Great Nonfiction
In the fall of 1969 I entered a small Midwestern co-ed college as a freshman. Many of the accounts in this book match my memories. It was a transitional time not only for me but for the entire American culture. Author Anne Gardiner Perkins captures ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

The First Coed Colleges in the U.S.

Black and white photo of women at Oberlin College in the 1850sIn Yale Needs Women, author Anne Gardiner Perkins explores the circumstances surrounding Yale University's decision to go coed in 1969, and the experiences of its first female students. Yale's change in policy was hardly revolutionary, as some colleges and universities in the U.S. had been coed since the 19th century.

Oberlin College in Ohio was the first higher learning institution to admit women in the United States. The college opened in 1833, permitted Blacks to apply in 1835, and became coed in 1837 with the admission of four female students. Three of the four graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1841. The fourth, Mary Kellogg, had to drop out because she could no longer afford the tuition, but later returned to finish after she was...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Read-alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Yale Needs Women, try these:

  • The Doctors Blackwell jacket

    The Doctors Blackwell

    by Janice P. Nimura

    Published 2021

    About this book

    Elizabeth Blackwell believed from an early age that she was destined for a mission beyond the scope of "ordinary" womanhood.

  • Fly Girls jacket

    Fly Girls

    by Keith O'Brien

    Published 2019

    About this book

    The untold story of five women who fought to compete against men in the high-stakes national air races of the 1920s and 1930s — and won.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search read-alikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket
    Migrations
    by Charlotte McConaghy
    Migrations, Australian author Charlotte McConaghy's literary fiction debut, earned a notably high ...
  • Book Jacket: The Forest of Vanishing Stars
    The Forest of Vanishing Stars
    by Kristin Harmel
    Kristin Harmel's historical novel The Forest of Vanishing Stars was very well-received by our First ...
  • Book Jacket: African Europeans
    African Europeans
    by Olivette Otele
    The nexus of Africans and Europeans is not a recent historical development. Rather, the peoples of ...
  • Book Jacket: The Killing Hills
    The Killing Hills
    by Chris Offutt
    The personified hills of the novel's title foreshadow the mood of this brooding and ominous tale. ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
All the Little Hopes
by Leah Weiss
A Southern story of friendship forged by books and bees, in the murky shadows of World War II.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Sunset Route
    by Carrot Quinn

    A beautiful memoir about forgiveness, self-discovery, and the redemptive power of nature.

Win This Book!
Win The Debt Trap

The Debt Trap
by Josh Mitchell

"A meticulous, eye-opening history of the US student debt crisis."
—Publishers Weekly

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

A T I A Teapot

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.