[Theme: Social Structures & the Practices of Identity]
[Approach: Cultural & Social Analysis]
This paper was for [EDUC1730] American Higher Education in a Historical Context. It involved considerable original research through old records of The Brown Daily Herald and The Pembroke Record.
The Pembroke Merger: Coeducation at Brown University as Debated in The Brown Daily Herald and The Pembroke Record
Brown University’s transition from an all-male institution to co-ordination with a female college and finally to complete coeducation was a decades-long process of incredibly gradual steps. Nearly every change sparked considerable discussion and debate by students, faculty, administration, and alumni. The terms of the Pembroke debate changed over time, as represented by the evolving arguments about women’s education found in the Brown Daily Herald and the Pembroke Record as well as how the two newspapers related to the other as the situation developed.
In 1928, the focus of the debate was on the name of the coordinate college; the Women’s College was eventually formally renamed to Pembroke College in Brown University, distinguishing the coordinate college to protect the prestige of Brown from the suggestion of coeducation. But the problem of coeducation was not solved, and the Herald insisted on further separation throughout the 30’s to little avail. The Great Depression and World War II let to increased importance of women on campus, disturbing the remaining Brown male population. By the mid-60’s, the debate shifted to Pembroke’s “identity crisis” and how to handle it, with the Record and the Herald disagreeing over the college’s supposed advantages but agreeing that it could no longer be considered individually. As the 60’s continued, debates over mergers of various social groups were discussed, experimented, and usually proved successful. All the while, coeducational developments at Ivy competitors Harvard and Yale removed the supposed “stigma” of coeducation. By 1969, when a merger was eminent, the Pembroke Record and the Brown Daily Herald finally joined forces to unanimously support full incorporation of Pembroke into Brown. While the big decisions were always made by administrators concerned about Brown’s evolving interests, which usually put male students first, student opinion was based largely on social considerations that eventually made coeducation seem necessary.
While there were always dissenting opinions on both campuses, both newspapers attempted to present the majority opinion of students on campus while addressing minority opinions that were often shared with faculty and alumnae. Controversial articles were often subject to lengthy editorials, which must be taken into account when considering the entire scope of opinions on contested topics. Consequently, both the Record and the Herald, though sometimes radical in their outlook, are essential to understand how Brown and Pembroke students came to accept full coeducation as well as how students from both campuses related to each other.
Brown first established a Women’s College in 1891 under President Elisha Benjamin Andrews, which sparked a decades-long debate on how the college relates to the university as a whole. The first major issue that both the Herald and the Record reported on was in 1928, when the college’s name was formally changed from the Women’s College in Brown University to Pembroke College in Brown University. Since the construction of Pembroke Hall in 1897, which housed the entirety of the women’s college at the time, the college was commonly referred to as Pembroke; a Record reporter reminded the students that they “have been called Pembroke so often that many people really think it is and has always been the official name.” One Pembroker said it more bluntly, explaining that “they decided to change Pembroke’s name to Pembroke. It was just an administrative thing.” As a result, the reactions on Pembroke campus were minimal and usually positive.
How and why the name change occurred, however, suggest a far more significant development than Pembrokers’ reactions suggested. The name change was brought about by an open letter from the Managing Board of the Brown Daily Herald which was published in both the Herald and the Record, which called for the administration “to define clearly the status of the Women’s College in Brown University in relation to the men’s division.” The letter continues by asserting that “the single source of contention over the status of the Women’s College has been the ambiguity of its name… [which] has given Brown University the reputation of being co-educational.” Although the letter insists that the women’s college is “worthy” and reputable, the fear of overt association with Brown, as implied by the name “The Women’s College in Brown University,” is clear.
Fear of coeducation was not a new phenomenon, and editorials criticizing the association can be found in the Herald as early as 1891, when the university first started educating women. A 1922 editorial best sums up the feeling of anti-coed students, stating that becoming coeducational would “not only change the standard for which [the university] has stood for so many years,” but would also cause Brown to “lose the support of many of its most powerful alumni.” Just like all the eastern private colleges, Brown was historically an all-male school with masculine traditions; opening its doors to women would not only offend alumni (on whose generous donations the school depended), but would also harm the reputation of the prestigious school – a problem commonly referred to as “the stigma of coeducation.”
What makes this case of this particular coeducational debate relevant, however, is how Pembrokers writing for the Record strongly supported the Herald’s recommendation and openly criticized the current situation of the college directly after publishing the letter. Both students and Pembroke faculty praised the change as an effort to distinguish the school academically. The Record quoted Pembroke Dean Margaret Shover Morriss, who believed that having a definite name would put Pembroke “on the same basis with Radcliffe and Barnard, and will mark [Pembroke] as an affiliated college more than… ‘Women’s College’ could have done.” Students were much more explicit; one Record article insisted that “the Women’s College is a greedy parasite. Not content with nourishing itself by the superior facilities afforded by the University, it demands a name which will indissolubly connect it with that University.” The same article also furthers Dean Morriss’s sentiment that the name change “would give… an appearance of equality with the men’s division as in the case of Radcliffe and Harvard, Barnard and Columbia.” Most other editorials agree, one Pembroker assumed that “there is infinitely more prestige in going to a certain college, Pembroke College, for instance, than to the Women’s Department of even so renowned a university as Brown.” While the Brown boys fought to maintain the reputation of their university by renaming and distancing the women’s college, female students believed changing the name would not necessarily distance them from Brown’s prestige but rather make Pembroke a more prestigious college on its own.
Dissenting opinions did exist, but they were rare. One Record editorial sarcastically asked, “isn’t it thoughtful of our big brothers on the Hill to think of selecting a brand new name for us – a nice individualistic name that will keep us forever free from the ignominy of being connected with them in the minds of the outside world?” The writer was obviously offended by the boys’ implication of superiority by suggesting a name change, but still does not go far enough to disagree with the idea. Rather, she simply wonders “what difference will it make whether we are ‘Pembroke College’ or the ‘Women’s College’ in Brown – after all, we are a division to the University and just a name won’t make us a separate institution.” The lone criticism of the decision does not point out Brown men’s selfish reasoning, or even outright disagree with the decision, but simply implies that the change will be meaningless. Ultimately, excluding these few exceptions, both the Record and the Herald stood together on this issue along with most of the faculty and the staff, albeit for very different reasons. The Women’s College was officially renamed in the fall of 1928.
The name change did not solve the problem, however, and the question of whether Brown was coed, and what that implied about the institution, was further probed in a series of Herald editorials in the 1929-30 school year. While the name change was still lauded, the fear of coeducation had not disappeared. In fact, discussion of a previously unthinkable coeducational fraternity further sparked debate. The first editorial, published in December 1929, begins, “There is one question that worries a good many students in this great University. Is this University co-educational or is it not co-educational?” The author takes note that the administration continuously denies coeducation and the women’s college name change was an attempt to reaffirm that, but insists “the fact remains that the University retains many – too many – characteristics of a co-educational institution,” such as sharing of classrooms and laboratories and, in seemingly dire situations, even holding coeducational classes with Pembrokers. The Pembrokers were “a nice looking bunch of girls… but who in heaven’s name wants to go to class with them?” The author recognized the university’s financial limitations as explanation for limiting sections of classes, but worried about men’s comfort in classes shared with women. A response editorial in January 1930 took the issue one step further, asserting that “if the University is permitted to remain a sort of hybrid, neither one thing nor the other, it will cause a loss of prestige and standing.” The editorial ends wondering how Brown can “maintain the position of dignity and honor which it now holds among the other institutions of higher learning unless it competes with these other schools on their own basis.”  Other top-tier schools, particularly Harvard, already had women’s colleges by this time, but apparently their more distinct operations ensured the prestige of the school. Male students’ fears were first explained as issues of comfort, but this second editorial suggests a broader truth – the inclusion of women threatened Brown’s status as a top-tier institution.
The men’s fears were not forgotten; Brown and Pembroke continued to merge and the Herald continued to be uncomfortable with the idea of coeducation. As coed classes became more common, and a few social groups opened to both genders, the Herald reassessed the situation in 1935 and proposed that Brown and Pembroke commencements be separated. The commencement ultimately remained united, as Dean Morriss publicly advocated, but the Herald’s suggestion sparked debate in the Record that ended in unanimous complaints about the noticeable lack of a Pembroke speaker at the joint commencement. Pembrokers stood on both sides of the joint commencement debate. Some criticized the joint ceremony as implying that Pembroke is “not a separate college, but merely a part of a college, and that part which does not get due recognition.” The author is upset by this notion, but Pembrokers always received Brown degrees and were undeniably a part of Brown University, even if Pembroke was considered a unique institution. Other Pembrokers insisted that their college should “be allowed to participate more actively in graduation exercises” because Pembroke “is still a part of the University” and therefore has “a right to expect some equality of treatment with Brown men.” But regardless of which type of commencement they preferred, all Pembrokers agreed that at least one female student deserved the honor of speaking at their commencement.
Pembrokers’ dream of a female commencement speaker was not realized until 1946, after a decade of significant moves toward co-education. The Great Depression and World War II put the university in financial jeopardy, and the severely limited amount of undergraduate men forced the merging of more classes and extra-curricular activities. One of the most shocking developments for the few remaining Brown men occurred in August 1943, when the Brown Daily Herald and the Pembroke Record merged into one coeducational newspaper, the Brown Herald-Record. Wartime expanded Pembrokers’ rights beyond the newspapers, as more and more female students were accepted and given greater access to Brown facilities, even eating at Brown dining facilities. A 1944 editorial complaining about Pembrokers invading the Brown Men’s Coffee Lounge, also known as the Blue Room, was published in the Herald-Record and sparked campus-wide debate. The writer cynically wrote, “We at Brown realize that we must share our swimming pool, our professors, our classes, our book store and our Newspaper with Pembroke girls” and even predicted that “soon the name of our Alma Mater will change to Brown College in Pembroke University.” But the only thing the author requested was that the Brown men could “be allowed to have our coffee lounge, our beloved Blue Room, primarily to ourselves.” The growing importance of the female undergraduate population was evident in academic, extra-curricular, and athletic affairs, but the main complaint was ultimately social; the men were simply asking for a chance to drink coffee without the company of women.
The editorial sparked a campus-wide discussion and several more articles in the Herald-Record, even a comic showing a male student sleeping and having a nightmare involving Pembroke women announcing “charge” and running into the coveted Blue Room. Females reminded Brown men that they were “invited, and cordially too, to help the Blue Room out of financial difficulties,” and criticized the original author for blaming Pembrokers for inevitable consequences of war. The editors of the Herald-Record publicly regretted the “factionalism and the bitterness” brought about by the editorials, pointing out “the difficulties of keeping up in all ways the high standard of the University during the time of war and the splendid results achieved so far, the question of who should enter the Blue Room seems rather petty.” The issue was soon dropped, and university functions continued to shift towards coeducation as the war continued. Other than a few complaints about social life, few students protested the increasingly coed classrooms and extra-curriculars. Indeed, many newly-coed activities worked far better than expected, as exemplified by “Brown men and Pembrokers working in a harmonious fashion so that there may still be a paper covering both campuses despite war-time difficulties.” Minor social issues aside, in a 1944 Herald-Record student poll about how Brown should be after the war, 85% of respondents believed there should be mixed classes and 61% believed that the Herald-Record should continue as a post-war newspaper. When all 22 department chairs were asked the same questions, 17 approved of mixed classes and 9 approved of the continuation of the Herald-Record, with 5 voting “it depends” for the latter question.
However, the war ended in the fall of 1945, and the Herald-Record was no more. After years of close contact with Brown men in extra-curriculars, Pembrokers retreated into their own campus for a while. The Pembroke Record started anew in the fall of 1945, and distinctly Pembroke activities became more prominent. Talk of coeducation fears temporarily died down as the administration readjusted to postwar campus life, but Pembrokers now voiced the most complaints as opposed to Brown men. After realizing near equality with Brown men throughout the war, the return to a more Pembroke-centered lifestyle reminded the students of their countless social restrictions.
Discussion of coeducation continued in the Record in the late 50’s and throughout the 60’s, now explained as a “trend” that was possibly inevitable. Whether or not the trend should be continued was debated, with Pembrokers citing the benefits of a separate women’s college while complaining about inherent inequalities. A 1958 Leader’s Conference, a meeting of the leaders of all Pembroke social groups, met to discuss the matter and reinforced the benefits of the coordinate system. The three main benefits were leadership opportunities open to girls in distinctively female groups, the sense of a campus identity separate from Brown with its own unique issues, and the importance of girls being “able to express their opinions in private.” The last point directly referenced the fact that “wrong as it may be, many girls feel inferior to the male and definitely take the back seat in discussions.” Female inferiority was often reinforced by Pembroke social regulations, but this article suggests that without Pembroke these feelings of inferiority would only worsen. The article ends insisting that “this trend [towards coeducation] must be stopped immediately.” The article criticized Pembrokers working on the Herald and the proposed merging of Pembroke and Brown student governments, but defends the merging of both Christian groups because “one must consider the many sides to an organization and its purposes. But all organization heads must put their feet down, and resist this trend within the bounds of reason.” Even in editorializing the Leader’s Conference’s strong opposition to coeducation, merging some social agencies are portrayed as necessary. By 1958, even staunch supporters of the coordinate system could not clearly draw a line of where the merging should stop.
The conversation continued in the Record in the years following the 1958 Leader’s Conference meeting. While nearly all Pembrokers defended the coordinate system and avoided outright approval of coeducation, more and more social mergers seemed reasonable. The merging of the Brown and Pembroke Christian Associations (BCA and PCA) into the University Christian Association greatly pleased former PCA members, who praised the ability to “spend less time on organizational details” which enabled them “ to work with more effective and better results on both campuses.” Their one concern was “meeting interests and needs peculiar to the Pembroke campus,” but the Pembroke Cabinet of the UCA felt that their special efforts were effectively meeting Pembroke’s special needs.
A notable development occurred on March 27, 1964, when the Brown Daily Herald issued its April Fool’s Day edition five days early, shocking the campus into believing that Pembroke had been disestablished and Brown had gone completely coeducational. Although that decision would ultimately be made just seven years later, the response to the 1964 article was reportedly extreme, especially with Pembrokers who “were mortified at the thought of losing their cherished coordinate status.” Few Brown men were reported to be as distraught by the idea. A review of why the joke worked so well in a later Herald explained that “the dissolution of Pembroke College was chosen to be the main theme of the issue because it sounds so very plausible: Pembroke’s autonomy has long been declining.” The statement is furthered when the author states that “pointing out to [a Pembroker] that Brown University is already co-ed in fact if not in name does no good: she believes in Pembroke College.” By 1964, the Herald suggests that most men had already accepted coeducation as a given, as evidenced by the lack of articles discussing it when compared to the Record. While Brown men were historically the main group against coeducation, Pembrokers came to question the trend more as full coeducation drew nearer.
A month later, the Record responded with an article entitled “Pembroke as Pembroke.” Acknowledging the “growing identification of Pembroke with Brown,” the article strove to prove “that there is something about Pembroke that is uniquely ours.” The article points out Pembroke’s unique “intellectual atmosphere” as well as “extracurricular and social concerns.” The author expands on the unique advantages of a women’s college within a prestigious university, which almost all Pembrokers mentioned when defending their coordinate status, particularly intimate relationships between students and administration. But these advantages “would not be valuable” if not located within a large, prestigious university. While still defending the coordination structure, the article mentions that “for some Pembrokers being a part of this university has overshadowed their roles as a part of a smaller college.” Pembroke’s coordinate status is again praised, but knowledge of its connection to Brown becoming more and more important could not be denied by the mid-60’s.
Considerations of coeducation were mostly discussed only in the Record, but a shocking 1966 Herald article attacked the coordinate system on the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the women’s college. The Record responded with a full-page article entitled “Pembroke’s ‘Identity Crisis,’” discussing the issues that the Herald’s article raised and separating Pembroke’s institutions into “good, bad, and neutral.” Pembrokers agreed with criticism of the restrictive curfew regulations and the overestimated value of ‘a residential college.’ But the Record still defended the Pembroke administration’s ability to deal with unique issues of female undergraduates, which a coeducational university reportedly would not be able to handle.
However, the consideration of coeducation was not out of the question in the 1966 article, as it had been in previous editorials. The author recognizes the Herald’s suggestion that full incorporation could be realized without losing Pembroke’s privileges if appropriate administrative changes were made. But the importance of the Record specifically, studying the “workings of the psyche of this college,” is used as a metaphor for why the continuation of the independence of Pembroke is necessary. However, the article continues with a surprising statement from Pembrokers that were known to praise the separate identity of Pembroke: “Pembroke College is Brown University and vice versa.” While Pembroke had “certain institutions which belong only to Pembroke,” they still could not “be equated with her identity any more than the residence regulations and academic traditions of Hope College at Brown can be said to give that building an identity separate from Brown.” The message is clear – Brown and Pembroke share an identity; they are one in the same.
By 1966, the tables had turned. The Women’s College opened in 1891 as visionary Benny Andrews’ brainchild. While the Brown administration never faltered in their dedication to female education, the interests of male students were always protected against coeducation. Males tried to distance themselves from the stigma of coeducation by renaming the institution in 1928 and limiting the social interactions between male and female students. Pembrokers told themselves that the coordinate system was advantageous, and enjoyed having their own campus that catered to unique female interests, fearing they would lose their special attention if fully incorporated into Brown. But as the two institutions slowly merged, Pembrokers came to stop defending the coordinate system when they realized how nearly coeducational the institution was. The realization that “Pembroke is Brown University” was seconded by Pembroke Dean Rosemary Pierrel, who believed “Pembroke has no identity apart from Brown.” By 1966, only the Brown administration clung “to the myth of a separate college with a separate identity.” Brown students had reportedly considered the university coeducational for years; although Pembrokers attempted to cling to their coordinate identity, they recognized the imminent trend towards coeducation and understood that Pembroke could not effectively be separate from Brown.
And so the slow-motion merger continued throughout the 60’s, with both female and male students coming to terms with reality and writing about coeducation much less often. In 1967, the student governments of both campus merged, and a proposition to finally re-unite the Herald and the Record was seriously considered. In 1969, gym requirements became the same for both genders, and Brown even became the first Ivy League to have a coed band. Most notably, a 1969 Coed Housing Project made Brown student question what relevance Pembroke had anymore, as women no longer had a unique “geographic entity” to call home. As Pembroke enrollment expanded and scarce housing became an issue, both “Brown and Pembroke deans, a potential stumbling block in the way of coed living, seem to be favorably disposed toward the movement.” As Brown was becoming more and more coeducational, “in classes, dining, housing, and student activities,” reactionary editorials became far less common. These various moves towards coeducation usually succeeded, so the complete incorporation of Pembroke seemed less likely to threaten the well-being of the female students or, perhaps more importantly, harm Brown’s reputation.
The consideration of Brown’s reputation evolved as both Harvard and Yale moved towards coeducation. As proven in Brown’s history, the main reason schools were opposed to full coeducation was the fear that it would harm a school’s ability to compete academically against other top-tier schools. Although Pembroke students routinely outperformed Brown men academically, the administration feared that opening its doors to women would prevent it from attracting the most-qualified male students – a thought shared by Yale too. Although it may seem like Brown simply followed Harvard and Yale’s respective decisions to go coed because those developments made the prospect seem far less risky, Record articles suggest otherwise. A 1968 article about Yale going coed in the foreseeable future described a crowd of students at a Yale administration meeting. The chanting students demanded coeducation and “someone screamed, ‘Even Brown has it.’” Not only was Brown already considered coeducational in 1968, but the university also served as rationale for other prestigious schools to consider admitting female students.
With coeducation seeming imminent, the Pembroke Study Committee was formed in 1970 to further investigate the separate services of Pembroke and reassess the college’s situation. By 1971, when the Brown Corporation formally voted to completely merge all of Pembroke’s activities with the university, as recommended by the Study Committee, nobody was surprised. Once Brown’s reputation was no longer at risk, and once coeducational activities had taken place on every non-administrative level, the specific benefits of a separate Pembroke College were not only irrelevant, but also unrealistic. Coeducation had effectively become unavoidable.
 “Dean Morriss States Reasons in Chapel for Change of College Name: Dean Answers Two Questions: Why Change at All and Why to Pembroke?” Pembroke Record X 3 (17 October 1928): 1, 4.
 Linda Eisenmann, “‘Freedom to be Womanly’: The Separate Culture of the Women’s College,” in The Search for Equity, ed. Polly Welts Kaufman (Hanover: Brown University Press, 1991), 79.
 “An Open Communication from the Brown Daily Herald,” Pembroke Record III 10 (11 January 1928): 1.
 Eisenmann, 77.
 Eisenmann, 77.
 “Dean Morriss States Reasons in Chapel for Change of College Name: Dean Answers Two Questions: Why Change at All and Why to Pembroke?” 4.
 “Editorial,” Pembroke Record III 10 (11 January 1928): 2.
 “Free Press,” Pembroke Record VIII 11 (18 January 1928): 2.
 “Free Press,” Pembroke Record VIII 11 (18 January 1928): 2.
 “Co-education,” Brown Daily Herald 39 67, (17 December 1929): 2.
 “Co-education?” Brown Daily Herald 39 79 (14 January 1930): 2.
 “Recognition,” Pembroke Record XVIII 18 (24 February 1937): 2.
 “Pembroke Oratory,” Pembroke Record XVIII 23 (19 March 1937): 2.
 Louise M. Newman, “From Coordination to Coeducation: Pembrokers’ Struggle for Social Equality,” in The Search for Equity, ed. Polly Welts Kaufman (Hanover: Brown University Press, 1991), 93.
 Grace E. Hawk, Pembroke College in Brown University: The First Seventy-Five Years 1891-1966 (Providence: Brown University Press, 1967), 186.
 Ibid., 187.
 “Editorial,” Brown Herald-Record I 15 (17 November 1944): 2.
 “Editorial,” Brown Herald-Record I 16 (24 November 1944): 2.
 “Editorial,” Brown Herald-Record I 16 (24 November 1944): 2.
 “Editorial,” Brown Herald-Record I 16 (24 November 1944): 2.
 “Herald-Record Tabulates Students’ Answers to Questions on Post-War Campus Problems,” Brown Herald-Record I 25 (7 April 1944): 1.
 “Herald-Record Takes Faculty Poll of Post-War Campus Problems,” Brown Herald-Record I 24 (31 March 1944): 1.
 Newman, 98.
 Newman, 96.
 “Coed vs. Coord,” Pembroke Record XXXVIII 28 (11 February 1958): 2.
Pembroke Cabinet of the U.C.A., “Coeducational Trends,” Letters to the Editor, Pembroke Record XL 15 (10 February 1960): 2.
 M. Charles Bakst, “When is a Newspaper like an Invasion from Mars? Or What Happened When April Fool’s Day Fell on March 27,” Brown Daily Herald II 3 (1 May 1964): 2-7.
 “Pembroke as Pembroke,” The Pembroke Record XLIV 47 (2 May 1964): 2.
 “Pembroke’s’Identity Crisis,’” Pembroke Record XLVII 8 (11 October 1966): 2.
“Band Decides to Go Coed,” Pembroke Record XLIX 40 (25 March 1969): 2.
 Jean Braucher, “Time Aborts Pembroke as Brown Goes Coed,” Brown Daily Herald CIV 69 (1 June 1970): 1.
 “Deans Open-Minded on Coed Living,” Pembroke Record XLIX 28 (11 February 1969): 1.
 Braucher, “Time Aborts Pembroke as Brown Goes Coed.”
 Jerome Karabel, The Chosen (New York: Knopf, 2006), 414.
 Randall Au, “Yale Administration Favors Coeducation,” Pembroke Record XLIX 16 (8 November 1968): 1.
Brown Daily Herald. Brown Daily Herald Digital Archive. http://dl.lib.brown.edu/dbdh/.
Eisenmann, Linda. “‘Freedom to be Womanly’: The Separate Culture of the Women’s College.” In The Search for Equity, edited by Polly Welts Kaufman, 55-86. Hanover: Brown University Press, 1991.
Hawk, Grace E. Pembroke College in Brown University: The First Seventy-Five Years 1891-1966. Providence: Brown University Press, 1967.
Karabel, Jerome. The Chosen. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.
Newman, Louise M. “From Coordination to Coeducation: Pembrokers’ Struggle for Social Equality.” in The Search for Equity, edited by Polly Welts Kaufman, 87-120. Hanover: Brown University Press, 1991.
Pembroke Record. Pembroke Record Digital Archive. http://dl.lib.brown.edu/pebr/.