Statement from Nancy Alexander and Phillip Bernstein

Welcome to Women at Yale: A Tour. We both graduated from Yale College in 1979 (a shout out to Timothy Dwight College where we spent our four years here and which gets a spot in this tour). As the observances of the 40th anniversary of undergraduate co-education were starting up, in 2009, we decided to help the Women Faculty Forum create a tour highlighting women at Yale—particularly through space, architecture, and history. 

Geographer Shirley Ardener says that “space defines the people in it.” We believe spaces tell people who they are and how they fit in. Space determines who’s included and excluded. It suggests who or what is supposed to fit in and how it should fit. Who a space or place is made for, where it’s located, and who’s memorialized in it tells something about who and what are valued.

But Ardener also says that “people define space.” With this tour, we are trying to redefine space at Yale by making visible the hidden—and nearly lost—histories and iconographies of women. Despite the growing numbers of women in different roles at Yale, until 1969, the year that women undergraduates were first admitted, the campus was predominantly male—made by and for men. Much of the space and architecture continues to incorporate students into predominantly male traditions. Forty years later, the process of coeducation is ongoing. This tour brings to light and celebrates a history of women at Yale that is centuries long.

Women’s advocate Gerda Lerner once said, of achieving gender equity: “You don’t just add women and stir.” We like to imagine something beyond coeducation as it is. This tour is part of an ongoing project—shared by many students, alumni, faculty, and staff—of fully “coeducating” the university. We hope that after you take in some of the spaces, places, and stories on this tour you will continue to look for more evidence of women and men co-living, co-learning, co-teaching, and co-operating here at Yale and beyond—and to think about how you might be able to not only make visible but even to alter the nature of the spaces in your life.

Nancy Alexander
TD 1979, MBA 1984

Phillip Bernstein
TD 1979, M.ARCH 1983