Where the Girls Were: A 1965 Taxonomy of Coeds
by Rachel Sugar
Inside the hallowed halls of Princeton University, an elite group of service-minded young newspaper editors spent much of 1965 laboring over a single question: where are the girls? And if and when you do come across one, what exactly are you supposed to do with her?
After years (days? hours?) of romantic toil, they compiled the results of their selfless lady-scouting into Where The Girls Are: A Social Guide to Women’s Colleges in the East, a field manual for finding and identifying The Girls in their natural environment. The collection is what John Audubon would have produced if John Audubon really, really wanted to have sex with birds. Not that the Princeton eds. can ensure warblers and/or Smithies for everyone: “Girls may not melt in your arms on sight, and butter may still melt in your mouth on contact: this is a book, not a magic incantation.”
But it’s worth a shot, because these dates aren’t gonna “snow” themselves, if you know what I mean. (I don’t know what I mean. Do you know what I mean?) So let’s slip into something a little more comfortable — a dinner jacket and a skinny tie, perhaps? — and let’s go girl-hunting across the east coast women’s colleges of 1965.
Mt. Holyoke, South Hadley, MA:
That’s the great hang-up for Holyoke girls: they all want to be Smithies. The Holyoke inferiority complex is difficult to comprehend, considering that Smith is best known as the home of the world’s first women’s basketball team, but the neurosis is there.
Briarcliff College, Briarcliff, NY:
Where does the Ethel Walker or Dobbs graduate who never worked too hard, but had a good time doing it, go to college? She doesn’t; she goes to Briarcliff.
Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY:
Pierced ears may still be in vogue, but on the whole both intellectual and social snobbism have gone the way of crinoline, and informal dress and manner are the order of the day.
Beaver College, Glendale, PA:
One girl writes: ‘we enjoy dating, and boys enjoy dating us.’ No one is quite sure why.
If you’re tired of bars (or you can’t get served), try relaxing at the Philadelphia Zoo. Intoned one girl: “we LOVE animals.”
Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, PA:
Foreign films are well-known, well-attended, and presumably well liked.
Connecticut College, New London, CT:
They are socially oriented and not overly intellectual, but they can carry an interesting conversation, and they’re looking for a good time. They tend to be bright and attractive. They are casual, like to wear sandals and long hair, but they’re neither beat nor off-beat.
Goucher College, Towson, MD:
There are four places to snow a Goucherite: the first, and most difficult, is the woods immediately adjoining the campus; the second, and least satisfactory, is the campus itself, and the third and fourth are Baltimore and Washington.
Sweet Briar College, Sweet Briar, VA:
Most men who find their way to Sweet Briar don’t make it back for their Monday classes. [Sweet Briar girls are] pretty, placid and promising. But the three P’s don’t come cheap — unless a man is “really a superstud,” with an impressive appearance and a proper school name, he will have trouble finding a girl on the spot. If you still want to try, freshmen are your best chance…
Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY:
If you aren’t prepared to compete with the best the big city has to offer a hip, lovely young woman, maybe you’d better forget it. If you are ready to make this scene, Sarah Lawrence is the place.
Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA:
They dress well, but you always picture them in a kilt or a shift.
•••Unfortunately for the enterprising Princetonians, the tactical guide did not go unnoticed by its intended targets. “Please be careful where you step while walking around the campus,” wrote Vassar College’s Miscellany News in a brisk review on November 3, 1965. “That orange and black snake-in-the-grass may be a Princeton boy.”
The basic premise of the book,” the Miscellany deadpanned, “is that the college man is irresistible”:
Despite the disclaimer in the preface — “This is a book, not a magic incantation” — there is an unspoken assumption that anyone who can manage to get himself to a women’s college will be able to pick up a date: the book is sprinkled with hints on the best places to find “single” girls. We are in favor of initiative, but we have a picture of thousands of collegiate wooers, inspired by a touching faith in a suave and successful folk-hero concocted by the editors of the Daily Princetonian, all descending on the campuses of the eastern women’s colleges confident of finding girls — and frankly, we shudder.
We have nothing but praise for the altruism that led the Princetonian to come to the aid of ill-informed but ever-hopeful men who lack access to Princeton’s sources of information. We compliment the lads in orange and black on their gallantry in characterizing all the women’s colleges with equal dispassion. In return, the least we can do is offer Vassar’s impression of Princeton. The consensus here is that a weekend on the beautiful Princeton campus is one long struggle for honor and virtue, and that girls who don’t like to be mauled should stay away from tigers.
Rachel Sugar is a writer in New York.