Book Spotlight: “Keep the Damned Women Out”

damned-womenThe 1960s were a time of radical change in the United States. The political climate of the time, led by the civil rights, student, antiwar, and women’s movements, laid the groundwork for a short, spectacular span of time at the beginning of the 1970s when a host of prestigious universities in the U.S. and U.K. turned co-ed.

In her new book, “Keep the Damned Women Out”: The Struggle for Coeducation, Dr. Nancy Weiss Malkiel WF ’65 tells the story of a movement in higher education led not by women’s activists, but almost entirely by men. Dr. Malkiel explains that the move toward coeducation at institutions like Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, and Oxford stemmed from a desire to keep a highly competitive applicant pool, rather than from a place of moral obligation.

The changes were met with fiery opposition; one Dartmouth alumnus demanded, “Keep the damned women out.” The institutions, now faced with taking into account the social and academic lives of their newly admitted female students, each had their own set of challenges. Dr. Malkiel writes in the opening chapter: “Although this book is about coeducation, and thus inevitably about women, it is primarily about those men: the decisions they made, the leadership they demonstrated, and the ways in which they harnessed the power of their institutions to meet the challenges of the times.”

In 1969, Dr. Malkiel was one of the first women hired in the Princeton history department and one of the first three to be appointed to the professorial ranks at the university. She went on to serve for a record 24 years as Princeton’s Dean of the College. She joined the Board of Trustees for the Woodrow Wilson Foundation in 1975, is former Chairwoman, and is the namesake of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation’s new Nancy Weiss Malkiel Scholars Award, which supports promising junior faculty leaders.


This story first appeared in the fall/winter 2016 issue of Fellowship, the newsletter of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. To see the full newsletter, click here. To see your recent publication featured on WW Perspectives, please email Frances Hannan (you must be a recipient of a Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation to be featured).


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