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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

Yale Needs Women: How the First Group of Girls Rewrote the Rules of an Ivy League Giant

1. 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.” Do you think they were right to consider a student’s toughness? As a high school senior, would you have met this standard?

2. YALE NEEDS WOMEN focuses in particular on the experiences of five women students --- Shirley Daniels, Kit McClure, Lawrie Mifflin, Connie Royster and Betty Spahn. With which of these five did you identify most closely? Why? Was there another character with which you connected more strongly?

3. Yale may have gone coed in 1969, yet women --- whether student, administrator or professor --- were still barred from many of the traditional paths to influence and power, both at Yale and beyond. Can you provide some examples? How did women create power in other ways?

4. What parallels do you see between the experiences and activism of black and white women students at Yale? What are the differences?

5. YALE NEEDS WOMEN includes a center section of photographs. Choose one and discuss how you first responded to it. What drew you to this photo in particular? What questions, if any, do you still have about it?

6. Yale’s first women undergraduates sometimes found themselves the only woman in a classroom full of men. Were you ever the only person of your gender in the room? How did it affect how you behaved? How others behaved towards you? Compare this to a situation in which your gender was in the majority.

7. YALE NEEDS WOMEN chronicles some of the sexual assault and harassment suffered by Yale’s women students. How has this situation improved for women college students since 1969? How has it remained the same?

Yale Needs Women: How the First Group of Girls Rewrote the Rules of an Ivy League Giant
by Anne Gardiner Perkins