In 1970, the conventions became obsolete. Boys and girls switched places. They shared dining halls, hallways, and bathrooms. Rules disappeared.
They were the Adams and Eves of their time, placed in a garden of easy temptation. They were part of a revolution—and a new romance.
The Experiment of 1970
In the spring of 1970, 150 Harvard men and 150 Radcliffe women agreed to switch places in the colleges’ first experiment in co-ed housing. Men moved up to the Quad to share bathrooms with Radcliffe women, and women moved to the River to walk the men’s hallways. The experiment was a success: the two colleges traded nearly 700 students the following fall.
Barbara Y. Lichtenstein ’72 moved that fall to 327 Quincy from North House, where the junior shared a suite with three other girls and flipped hamburgers at the Grille. A private school graduate, Barbara smiled and socialized her way through the day wearing blue jeans and floppy tops—then sat down to churn out ten-page papers at night. Out of a passion for urban planning, she spent hours riding the T and wandering Boston. She had dated boys in Lowell and Kirkland, but only knew one in Quincy.
Next door was her opposite, Phil K. Lichtenstein ’72, a studious junior from a backwoods high school. He wanted to work with rural folks in the future, either as a forest ranger or a doctor. Everyone knew Phil: he held spots on Quincy’s Social Committee and HoCo and a job at the dining hall desk, checking everyone in. But he was still shy and awkward around girls.
Before that semester, they would have brushed by each other without saying hello.
The Age of Innocence
In Phil’s freshman year, the boys in Pennypacker would bond over the photos of Radcliffe women in the school’s facebook. “We all looked through it exhaustively during freshman orientation, trying to figure out who’s hot and who’s not, and was there ever a chance we could meet any of them,” he says. Approaching one of the “hot” women seemed impossible. “Most of us didn’t really make an attempt to visit Radcliffe,” Phil says. “We considered them relatively unapproachable. We also considered them to be too smart.”
They wrote them off as ‘Jennys’, a term referring to the sarcastic and studious heroine of the popular movie Love Story. Sometimes, the stereotype was true. The women beat far stiffer admissions competition; Harvard matriculated four times as many students as Radcliffe and Radcliffe’s admissions officers placed a stronger emphasis on grade point average. “Women were admitted to Radcliffe by a really different formula, a different philosophy,” says Director of Admissions Marilyn McGrath Lewis ’70-’73, who used to work at the separate Radcliffe office before the two merged in 1976.
So men, turned off by the Cliffie image, would search for dates at other schools. The campus would empty on the weekends as men took buses out to women’s colleges like Wellesley.
Any romance that did develop between Harvard men and Radcliffe women was tempered by an unwillingness to travel to and from the Quad—a shuttle system launched at the end of 1968 failed after two weeks—and parietal rules, which regulated when and where men and women could visit each other.
Pennypacker’s first floor proctor was a stickler for the rules. “If there was too much carousing, if there was too much bad language, if there was the slightest hint of a girl’s voice after 11 o’clock, you were in trouble,” Phil says. Luckily for Phil, other, more tolerant proctors—such as his—helped their boys. “It was well understood that if you were with a girl after 11 at night, you were going to be doing something very quiet,” he says.
With so many restrictions, dating became a process, whether you were following the rules or not. And with so few chances to make an impression, men and women always tried to look their best. Phil remembers nervously brushing his teeth to freshen his breath before calling a girl on the phone.
Dates may have been formal then, but they were also more frequent and less serious. Phil dated “a slew of girls,” although not many Quad residents, in his first two years at Harvard and felt he never got to know any of them well.
Barbara, all the way up Garden Street, had also dated extensively without making any lasting connections. She met men at law school mixers and in classes. Like other girls, she went on meticulously planned dates, dressing up and going into Boston for plays, the symphony, and visits to art museums. For those who didn’t have luck finding dates, there would be consolatory milk and cookies on Saturday nights and awkward Quad formals to which they could invite men anonymously.
After coming back from a date, it was an arduous process to bring a guy upstairs. The women had to sign male visitors in, just as the men did for the women. When bringing up a man, women yelled, “Man on!” so their hallmates could be warned of the foreign presence before revealing themselves in bathrobes. Visiting hours ended early in the night—though there were ways around that, writes Carl Schoenberger ‘72 in an e-mail. “My favorite part of parietal rules was getting an extra hour in the girls’ dorms on the night during which daylight savings time ended. We were allowed to stay until 1 a.m.,” he says. “Except that night, when 2 a.m. rolled around, it again became 1 a.m.”
Men even had to pass a literal gauntlet in the Quad: the infamous bells desk. North House had only one entrance, one staircase, and one elevator, and the bells desk guarded them all. Barbara’s weekly stint at the desk, where she controlled the switchboard and single phone line, kept her up-to-date on the dorm’s romantic drama. It even gave her the chance to broadcast information about friends’ dates using a code. One buzz was a phone call; two, a female visitor; three, a male visitor. Staccato buzzes meant an attractive male.
But there was another side to a system that protected female virginity. Women entered the Faculty Club through a side door, were forbidden from entering Lamont Library and could eat lunch at just two places outside the Quad on their own. At the all-male Freshman Union, now the Barker Center, boys showed their appreciation for a visiting girl’s looks by tapping their forks on glasses.
“You really felt like a piece of cattle,” says Judith B. Esterquest ‘72, who lived in North House like Barbara. “There’s nothing like getting in line for your food and either having lots of noise or a lack of noise.”
In 1970, students turned that whole system—the parietal rules, bells desks, and dating itself upside down.
Things Fall Apart
A desire for change had been building up for a long time, and not just at Harvard and Radcliffe, says Martin K. Whyte, professor of sociology.
“There was a very different atmosphere then: progressive change, feminism, equal rights, civil rights,” Whyte says. “All of these kinds of things were in the air, and there was a feeling that our society was changing.”
Harvard and Radcliffe’s dynamic responded to national events. First, the school shut down in reaction to the Tet Offensive of 1968. Then, in the spring of 1969, students took over University Hall in a labor protest. Final exams were cancelled. Classes stopped meeting. Studying became a struggle.
“The school was becoming progressively more egalitarian,” Phil says of his freshman spring. “We were all very affected by the evolution of the hippie movement and the anti-war movement. We came as a college, ready as a group to change the things that didn’t make sense.”
The law was on students’ side when it came to making change. Lowering the legal age of adulthood from 21 to 18 hampered colleges’ attempts to regulate students’ social lives, says Whyte. “Trying to enforce rules on the behavior of students who are adults—except for some 17-year-old freshmen—became untenable for colleges.”
The boys started with the Freshman Union. Rebelling against a jacket-and-tie dress code, some men wore only sandals and boxers with the mandatory jackets and ties. A few months later, the college threw out the policy. The Union even opened up to women briefly in 1969, until huge numbers of Quad girls overcrowded the dining hall.
Girls started their revolution with the parietal rules. In 1968, Esterquest, who would later complain about being treated like “cattle,” arrived on campus ready to change things. When women in her dorm sat down to agree on the rules later that year, she questioned the system.
“Why should we only allow men on the first floor, and why should we only allow them at certain hours?” she asked. She suggested that North House allow men in the dorm between five minutes after noon and noon the next day-essentially leaving the door open 24 hours a day. Her proposal caused a ruckus, especially among the upperclasswomen who had grown comfortable with the rules and wanted to be safe to wander the halls in bathrobes.
But with the support of the student majority and the senior sisters—the Radcliffe term for residential tutors—the change went through. Though the bells desk was still in place, its only remaining function was symbolic. Girls would send guys straight up without buzzing. Men started openly visiting at late hours, sometimes staying the night. “Standards just fell apart,” Esterquest says, and punishments grew less severe. Other Radcliffe dorms soon followed suit.
The restrictions were breaking down quickly. “The parietal rules had about as much credibility as the rules against single-sex social clubs today,” former Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ‘68 says of his pre-co-residential college years. “There were ways around the parietal rules, and everybody knew it.”
Single-sex housing was the last barrier left. Harvard had always stood in the vanguard of higher education with its Radcliffe offshoot. But after peer institutions Yale and Princeton officially announced plans to go co-ed in 1968, Harvard students were behind.
That spring, Marla D. Eby ‘73, then the chairman of the Radcliffe Freshman Council, met with other Harvard and Radcliffe students and administrators, and the overbearing topic was the unhealthy nature of single-sex housing. It was a “heated” discussion—she, like other men and women, argued that they should live together to foster natural, unforced relationships.
Those opinions were backed up by the larger campus population: according to a 1969 Crimson article, a poll administered that year by the Radcliffe Union of Students showed that 95 percent of the Radcliffe women supported co-ed dorms. As McGrath Lewis says, “They were walls you wanted to storm. You wanted to be on the inside.”
With so much student support, Radcliffe president Mary I. Bunting and several House masters proposed co-residential housing. But then-Harvard President Nathan M. Pusey ‘28 insisted that co-ed housing would not happen unless Harvard had full control over the Radcliffe girls, which meant an institutional merger.
Under pressure, Radcliffe made an official move in February 1969 and initiated talks about the merger. As the Crimson extra edition trumpeted, “’Cliffe Finally Proposes Marriage to the Ten Thousand Men of Harvard.”
Radcliffe alumnae worried about preserving their alma mater’s female focus, but most controversial was the possibility of co-residency. Alumni from both schools worried about dating, orgies, and, most of all, about the possibility of having co-ed bathrooms in the Quad. “Everybody seemed to be much more worried about the bathrooms than the bedrooms,” Lewis says. “They definitely had their attention in the wrong place.”
Despite alumni disapproval, the co-residential experiment of 1970 attracted so much student interest that the school had to dole out spots by lottery. There were benefits for all sides.
Women who signed up wanted to be close to classes and the social center of the River. Men volunteered to trade their convenient locations for more minor benefits. Some men wanted to move to the Quad simply for the food, which was rumored to be tastier and to include more fruits and vegetables, or for the chance to meet more Radcliffe women. “I raised my hand immediately,” writes Jim Kessler ‘72 in an e-mail. He moved from Lowell to the Quad in the spring experiment. “I was thinking about a semester being completely surrounded by women, and everyone else was apparently thinking about how long a walk it was to and from the Radcliffe Quad.”
And support wasn’t just on the moving side, says Eby. “Men as a group wanted women in the Harvard Houses.”
From the Quad’s North, South, and East Houses, 150 women would switch places with 150 men from the River’s Winthrop, Adams, and Lowell Houses. The next semester, 335 of each switched to even more Houses.
When Barbara won the lottery to move to Quincy in the fall of 1970, she couldn’t wait to pack her bags. “Harvard dorms were a much more stimulating environment,” she says. “I felt a bit isolated at Radcliffe.”
Besides, it wasn’t scary, with 150 girls already living in the Houses and an additional 334 girls moving with her that fall. She would share a suite with one friend who had already moved to Quincy in the spring, and she even knew one man, someone from her hometown. She had seen his room, which, coincidentally, ended up becoming hers. He helped her store and move her belongings into the third-floor suite, right next door to a room of four boys, “all of whom looked pretty appealing to us,” Barbara says. One of them was Phil.
“It was awkward in the beginning,” Phil says. “When you’re around girls who are potential dates, you really react much differently than if you’re just friends. The usual thing to do is to make sure that you look your absolute best.”
That was easier in New Quincy, where bathrooms were inside suites, but in the Quad, men and women used communal bathrooms and walked the halls in bathrobes and slippers. Some of the Quad girls, excited by the proximity of so many eligible bachelors, chased after their male neighbors. In order to escape from the buzz of girls in their rooms, some men sought refuge in the rooms of more quiet and studious Cliffies.first at some uncivilized hour and rate them based on how obnoxious they were: whether their underwear showed, would they ever be able to enter the civilized world, how ripped their jerseys were,” she says. Those boys they targeted were angry, but others laughed. She had managed to win allies and make friends.
By the end of senior year, Esterquest had conquered Eliot House—in a platonic fashion. At her surprise birthday party, only five of her 50 guests were female. “So it got better,” Esterquest says. And men and women grew more comfortable with each other.
Women even joined in House activities that might have been uncomfortable for mixed company. Adams House was famous for its pool, where men had swum in the nude for decades. Women were initially shocked to see men without swimsuits and petitioned the House Committee to enforce mandatory swimsuit-wearing. The HoCo responded with a rule that men would have to wear suits, but only during the unlikely hours of 3 and 5 a.m. Instead of protesting the preposterous hours, the women one-upped the men and shed their swimsuits too.
Co-residency changed interactions between men and women beyond the pool. In the Quad, it became normal to see men’s legs in the shower and shaving cream on the ledge. The Quad women who had harassed men in their suites learned how to become just friends, making popcorn and cookies in the kitchen. Sex took a side seat to friendship.
For shy boys like Phil, co-residency made possible a previously unimagined type of friendship. “You could develop relationships with girls that were no longer based on their being at their best and were no longer based on your being at your best,” he says. Students started coming to breakfast in Quincy Dining Hall in pajamas and hair curlers, without shaving or washing their hair.
Once they could literally let their hair down in front of each other, men and women could become friends—not just dates.
“It made for healthier relations between men and women,” says Lewis. Without a “sexual cloud” over every conversation, men and women could relax and talk as their natural selves.
”It was a much more natural type of experience to have women all around us,” says Phil. After Barbara moved in, he spent as much time in girls’ suites as in his own—most of it in hers. They would play marathon games of Risk long into the night. Barbara always lost to Phil, who was more competitive and much more serious about it.
But the natural relationships that formed weren’t completely platonic. “We had a chance to see all of these potentially desirable romantic idols at their worst as well as at their best,” Phil says. “And it was okay.”
One night in March 1971, Phil went next door to Barbara’s suite. He hung out with her and her roommates for an hour, stood up at 8:30 p.m., put on his jacket, and suavely asked her—and only her—to a movie in Eliot House.
She had been waiting for that moment for a long time. “An affection developed after seeing him next door all the time,” she says. “I knew that he was the one for me before he figured it out.” So she grabbed her jacket, and their love story began.
This time around, dating was different than it had been before move-in. Now, they could just knock casually on the next door. Instead of going out to the Boston Pops or for strolls on the Common, they would study in the library or head to Grendel’s for late-night coffee. It was informal, slightly domestic, and playful. They merged their extracurricular interests. Barbara had worked at WHRB, and now she helped Phil plan an “orgy”—a long multiple-hour show with just one person. They took day-long ski trips to New Hampshire and Vermont, where he taught her how to ski. The next year, they managed to move to the sixth floor next door to each other.
“She and I were among the casualties of co-ed living,” he jokes. There were many other casualties.
Phil and Barb were close with another Quincy couple, Bruce A. Southworth ‘73 and Kay S. Xanthakos ‘72, Barbara’s suitemate. They weren’t an obvious match either.
Southworth was a Tennessee boy from an affluent physician’s family. He was passionate about religious studies. Xanthakos, whose father was a factory worker, spent many hours in the Carpenter Center. Because Southworth worked at the Quincy Grille, he would see Xanthakos walk in and out. But since she went by two names—Kay and “Peachy”—he wasn’t quite sure if she was one person or two.
He found out the truth as they got to know each other over long meals in the dining hall. Their first real date came her senior year. It was March 9, 1972, at 9 p.m. He knocked on her door as she worked away on her thesis. “I had a surprise for her,” Southworth says. After hitchhiking through the snow to MIT to see an outdoor exhibit that urban design students had built, they somehow found themselves in front of the chapel. As snowflakes fell around them, they began to dance. “It was very exciting and very romantic,” Xanthakos says. “We fell in love pretty quickly.”
On the other side of campus, one Radcliffe girl found love the same way Barbara had—in a boy who lived right next door. Alice A. Kleeman ‘73 hadn’t even known that men would be living in North House during the 1970 spring semester. But after intersession when she saw a scruffy national fencing champion moving in, she offered to help him lug his boxes of trophies upstairs. Tom Keller ‘71 was a junior, “the weirdest of the weirdos,” says Kleeman. She was his first-year antithesis, a self-labeled “Miss Priss.”
But Keller was one of the boys whom over-eager Cliffies accosted at all times, and he escaped to Kleeman’s room, an island of calm in the midst of a “frenetic” gaggle of girls. She and her roommate were, she says, “a little more studious and a little more goody-goody.” She didn’t chase romance; it found her.
Their slow friendship, like so many others on campus at the time, blossomed into a serious relationship. After he graduated and Kleenan became a senior, he moved into her suite illegally.
The fears surrounding the grand experiment of 1970 were never realized. Instead, a new kind of dynamic developed—one where men felt free to go to dinner unshaven, and women wandered down with curlers still tangled in their hair. The gulf between Harvard and Radcliffe, once widened by rules and geography, narrowed. The move set the stage for further integration. Many students, including Barbara and Phil, wore armbands to commencement in support of the equal admission of women.
Despite all the nay-saying from alumni and upperclassmen, co-residential housing worked. Although the rules of appearance and manners were relaxed, women and men still fell in love.
Living together, they put true love to the ultimate test, and their love lasted—for some, even to marriage. Xathankos and Southworth, Barbara and Phil have passed the three-decade mark.
Their love was built not on elaborate dates, but instead on the small moments of everyday life: on walks to class together from the same house, in dining halls over lingering conversations, and in adjacent rooms. It was the beginning of the way we love today.