Lights Out

In loco parentis, the administration tried to legislate propriety. But Harvard men and Radcliffe women came together when the lights went out.

Radcliffe women favor Harvard men nine to one over others, reported a Crimson poll in spring, 1950.

Similarly, sixty-one percent of Harvard men marked a preference for "college girls" over "debutantes, working girls and high school girls" as dates.

The statistics were released at a time when Harvard and Radcliffe were more closely linked than ever before. In the fall of 1947, joint instruction of Radcliffe and Harvard students became official. By May of 1948, the integration was finalized and only five introductory freshman classes remained single-sex.

In 1949, 'Cliffies could even join Harvard clubs-with some stipulations. According to the rules of the Dean's office, Radcliffe students were permitted to join so-called "departmental or social-interest clubs" with no counterpart in the Annex.

With no barriers in the classroom and a growing cohesion between the campuses, it was the social rules like those governing the clubs that students found most restrictive.

In 1949, the Radcliffe student government passed a new set of organizational rules, calling for greater freedom in extracurriculars. The suggestion was disregarded by the Dean's office.

"Rules on 'Cliffe Membership In Clubs Now Well Snarled," proclaimed a Crimson headline in October of 1950.

Even more complex were the set of rules governing men and women in their interaction at the football stadium.

School rules forbade women from sitting between the 28th and 50th yard lines at home games; their cheering capacity was deemed to small. This meant that men who brought dates to the games would be forced to either sit apart from them or take seats outside of the 28 and 50 yard lines.

The policy had been weakly enforced in past years, but in 1947 the Harvard Athletic Association [HAA] changed tacks after a Student Council recommendation argued women decreased the cheering strength of that section.

Rallies of Harvard students erupted in response, contesting the HAA's logic.

During the Holy Cross game, when an usher asked a couple to leave the cheering section, the crowd broke out in boos, hurling wads of paper at the stadium official.

One man tried to bypass the rules by disguising his date as a man, dressing her in dungarees, a worn jacket and a hat to conceal her hair. The couple failed miserably in evading the watchful eyes of the ushers-they were banished behind the goal posts.

The Student Council responded speedily to the protests with a poll of the student body that showed Harvard students favored abolishing the all-male cheering section four to one. By November 4, the Committee on Athletic Regulation decided to base stadium seating on class instead of sex. Starting with the Yale game, seating priority went to the more senior classes.

The Class of 1951 had no success, however, against the most omnipresent of the College's social rules: the hated parietals.

Harvard mandated that women only visit the men's Houses between one and seven p.m. during the week and between one and eight p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Tactics to evade the rules were many and elaborate.

"It was a running battle. The students always wanted fewer parietals and the administration wanted to keep the parents happy," Bayley Mason '51, a former Crimson executive, says. "People would be crawling underneath the window of the superintendent's office of Lowell House or Eliot House. Once your guest got in the problem was not having her get caught."

The eventual outburst in the College was preceded by a graduate student movement to change a rule requiring every woman who visited a graduate student dorm room to be accompanied by another woman.

Punishment for breaking the parietal rules ranged from a loss of guest privileges to a request for the student to resign from school.

The students claimed that the rooms of the new Graduate Center were too small to fit a couple and a chaperone.

"Stuffing four people into one of the center's rooms creates an atmosphere about as congenial as a subway during rush hour," The Crimson reported students saying.

Enterprising students founded the "Radcliffe Couple-Sitting Service," which provided a female chaperone who would do her homework while the Radcliffe girl visited a graduate student.

The graduate students were eventually successful in abolishing the chaperonage rule and extending their visiting hours to 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Saturdays and 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays.

But when members of the College confronted the administration over their parietal rules, they received no concessions.

In October of 1950, the House Committee chairmen voted unanimously to extend the visiting hours until midnight on the nights of the Dartmouth and Yale games and until 10:30 p.m. on the Friday before the Yale game.

A group called the "Ad Hoc Student Committee to Liberalize Parietal Rules" circulated a petition to change the House sign-in rule so that women would be allowed in dorm rooms until 12 p.m. every weekend.

The committee argued that the graduate schools and other colleges with fraternities had more relaxed parietal rules than those of the Houses. The petition eventually grew to include more than 1,000 signatures, but the Committee on Houses voted against the change.

"The parietals were fairly strict, whereas now they're very lax," Fred Fortmiller '51 says. "Back in my day you could drink but you couldn't have sex-now you can have sex but you can't drink."

Instead of altering parietal rules, the Committee agreed to investigate the parietal committee's contention that good entertainment in Cambridge had become more expensive and difficult to find, forcing men to bring women back to their rooms as a recourse.

"The bars closed early," Mason says. "People hung out in automobiles more than they should have."

Fortmiller recalls going to Cronin's, a Harvard Square bar/restaurant, and attending dances at the Hasty Pudding and "Jolly-Ups" almost every weekend as frequent ways he entertained his dates.

While the many Crimson editorials of the time appear to demonstrate a class consensus against parietal rules, some students say they were disinclined to mount a full-scale protest.

The Class of '51 had just escaped the draft for World War II and many felt lucky just to be at Harvard.

"We weren't going to have a big sit in--we were the generation that observed World War II from the sidelines," Mason says. "We were the first of a new young generation that was probably more accepting."

But the acceptance didn't always translate into passivity.

In November of 1950, Harvard men took up the chant "On to Radcliffe" when Cambridge blacked out for the night.

The group, estimated at around 1,200, tried to force its way into Moore and Cabot halls, but was initially thwarted by Radcliffe women throwing water-filled bags from their windows.

Only by pulling the fire alarm were the men able to enter the dorms while the women fled. Harvard men stormed through all five floors of Cabot--even going through the housemother's rooms--and destroying Radcliffe's boast that "a man never has been above the first floor of the dormitories."

"A man is in my bed," screamed a 'Cliffie as she ran.

Other men grabbed panties and pajamas during the raid.

While most of the Harvard men received no punishment for their violation of the parietal rules, two were expelled and another 13 were placed on probation after another disruption five days later before the Yale football game.

The gravity of the infraction was summarized by Dean Wilbur J. Bender. The rioting disrupted traffic, attracted unruly hangers-on, put people in danger and went against the wishes of Radcliffe women. But he allowed that some such escapades might be necessary.

"It can be a nice release for Harvard students to serenade Radcliffe, if the men can stop at that," Bender said.