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When the Cliffies Finally Conquered Lamont

By Brooke A. Masters

Twenty-five years ago, morals at Harvard went down the drain: they let Cliffies into Lamont Library.

Over the protests of many male undergraduates, the Library Committee decided in 1967 that men and women could study in the same building without destroying their academic careers.

So the committee ignored 20 years of all-male history and opened Lamont, the library for Harvard College, to female undergraduates.

Entry into Lamont had been restricted to men since the building's dedication in 1947, so getting into the library became a focus for Radcliffe students' discontent.

"People were making a big fuss in those days because a dog was caught in Lamont Library--but a woman could not get in," remembers Caroline Greve Darst '60.

Women won their first victory in the battle to coeducationalize the library in the fall of 1964. Citing the need for more space, the Library Committee decided to allow Radcliffe students to attend sections in Lamont.

The committee tried to minimize the female distraction by requiring Radcliffe students to enter through the West Entrance, in the building's basement, and restricting coed classes to the sixth level.

However, many Harvard students decried the change. The Crimson attacked the new sections as a form of "creeping mergerism of Harvard and Radcliffe," in an October 16 article by Sanford J. Unger '66.

Registrar Sargent Kennedy '28 defended the decision at the time, saying, "It doesn't make a great deal of sense to continue the all-male sections in Lamont. After all, this is a joint education."

The Library Committee further infuriated some male students by beginning to hire women, especially wives of Harvard students, to staff Lamont's front desk. Theodore G. Alevizos, then Lamont librarian, explained that women were "more stable" than the non-Harvard male employees he had previously hired.

Although one Harvard freshman complained to The Crimson "We will have no refuge," not all Harvard students disliked the changes. The Crimson ran a staff editorial lauding the change. "Down with separate-but-equal. Up with together-but-different," it said.

Radcliffe students greeted the innovations with joy. Unger's article quoted one woman as saying "This is just the beginning. We will take over."

However some women weren't satisfied with these small changes. Jane E. Mansfield '66 wrote a letter to The Crimson, published October 18, which complained about the West Door entrance. Citing the 82 steps up which Cliffies had to climb, Mansfield attacked Harvard's back of the bus policy" towards women.

But Radcliffe women continued to ruin their heels on the Lamont stairs while the issue lay dormant for more than a year.

Then all hell broke loose in December 1965, when the Library Committee announced that it would consider letting women use all of Lamont's facilities.

Complaining that Lamont was already too crowded, and that opening Lamont to women would undermine "male emotional stability," the Chairman of the Harvard Undergraduate Council, Daniel C. Goldfarb '66, sent a letter to the director of the University library system, voicing the council's disapproval.

Although the council complained that Harvard men would be unable to study in Lamont if it were open to women, it dismissed the idea of closing Radcliffe Library to men. "Boys cause less disturbance in a female atmosphere than vice-versa," Goldfarb said.

Most Harvard students agreed with the Council. In a January 14, 1966 poll, fully 62 percent of the Harvard student body completely opposed letting women into Lamont at any time. Only 19 percent of the students polled completely agreed with letting women into Lamont, and 19 percent said they wouldn't mind if girls were there from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.

In the wake of the overwhelming student opposition, the Library Committee decided to drop the proposal.

But when construction on Hilles Library fell behind schedule in September 1966, the Library Committee decided to take drastic steps: they let Radcliffe students use Lamont.

Calling it purely an "emergency measure," the committee decided to allow women in Lamont between September 24 and October 8.

The experiment proceeded without a hitch, according to The Crimson, proving that "people can study for Harvard degrees in a heterosexual library." However, the Library Committee duly kicked the women out again when the two weeks were over, and they said nothing about letting women in again.

So four Radcliffe seniors decided to take matters into their own hands. They organized a petition to open Lamont Library, which gained the unanimous approval of the Radcliffe Government Association.

Radcliffe President Mary I. Bunting publicly endorsed the proposal, saying, "It makes sense to me, and it has all along." The Library Committee capitulated and agreed to study whether Lamont could support the additional 1200 Radcliffe students.

When the committee agreed that the project was feasible, Lamont became officially coed.

The victory was complete at 9:20 a.m. on February 6, 1967, when an unidentified Radcliffe student in a pink sweater stepped across the threshhold, and reference librarians presented her with a xeroxed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation.

The change "proved to be a very ordinary and straight-forward thing," according to Heather E. Cole, the current librarian of Lamont.

"I don't think there was reason for concern. Men and women get along fine in Lamont," Cole says.

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