LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Ambition and all

Class of 2012

My parents met at Princeton as undergraduates about thirty-years ago and got married six-days after my mother marched through FitzRandolph Gate for graduation. Eighteen-years ago, they got a divorce.

I don’t fault my parents for their union—without it I wouldn’t exist. I also don’t fault them for their divorce—they handled it with great dignity and took pains to ensure that my brother and I would not be placed in the middle of their disagreements.

Having grown up in a fractured Princeton marriage, I was dismayed to read Susan Patton ‘77’s letter last week. One of the many lessons my parents’ relationship taught me was that the right person is not necessarily the man or woman who has the same academic credentials as you. The right person is the one with whom you feel comfortable building a life and making difficult personal decisions. Reducing the search for that person to an intellectual yardstick leads to poorly framed thinking about an institution that is so beautiful, fraught, and complex.

I also disliked Ms. Patton’s statement, “As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market.” It suggests that, before reaching out for a new accolade, a woman should stop and consider how much share that achievement will make her lose in the dating market—that, simply by attending Princeton, we have already limited ourselves to a boutique audience that we should not shrink any more.

What if I don’t want to change myself into someone who stops reaching? Is it really that absurd to hope someone will love me, ambition and all?


Haley White ‘12

P.S. On a lighter note, I would like to correct a factual error in Ms. Patton’s piece: Heterosexual women need not limit themselves to undergraduates. There are many interesting, attractive men over at the Graduate College. If your personal life has hit a lull, go to the D Bar.

Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article contained an incomplete draft of this letter. The ‘Prince’ regrets the error. 


LETTER TO THE EDITOR: A recipe for a failed marriage?


As three Princeton alumnae — sisters, no less — married to three Princeton alumni, we feel uniquely qualified, and even compelled, to respond to Susan Patton’s Letter to the Editor.

Our parents, apparently, hit the trifecta. What was our secret? Was it our mother’s etiquette and decorum classes? Our father’s admonition to earn a return on his investment? Our own desire to make Reunions that much more fun?

Sarcasm aside, we are dismayed at Ms. Patton’s suggestion that finding your life’s partner can, or should, be orchestrated. It’s one thing to be open to finding that partner and quite another to set it as a goal. We were each obviously open to it – probably thanks to having had the good fortune to witness our parents’ healthy marriage — but we each married a man we met at Princeton, not a Princeton man.

Ms. Patton’s advice strikes us a recipe for a failed marriage.

Finally, we are embarrassed by her elitist tone and aggravated by her decision to identify herself as “President of the Class of 1977,” with its implication that she is speaking for the class. At least one of us can assure you that she is not.

Catherine Tiedemann Morra ’77
Elizabeth Tiedemann Maass ’78
Charlotte Tiedemann Petersen ’82

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: What I would say to the young women of Princeton

(or any institution of higher education, for that matter … and precisely what I said to my daughter as she headed off to college — not Princeton)

Class of 1977

Go off to college determined to get the best darn education you can. Take advantage of the great professors, get a taste of academic disciplines that are new to you, seek out interesting/diverse classmates, play a sport or an instrument, join a club or two and study what you love. Make the most of your time there and allow yourself to evolve. I would bet many of us wish we had done more.

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Class of 2009

I was quite taken aback by the online response to Ms. Patton’s letter. The public outcry seemed to tout every possible position from elitism to sexism to antifeminism to she-must-be-totally-crazy-ism. But, truth be told, there are a good very many Princeton women for whom the salient points of her argument are precisely spot on. Speaking from two positions — that of a young professional who is squarely focused on building her career, and that of a woman who would ultimately like to find an appropriate partner — I count myself as one of them.

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Take it or leave it

Class of 1983, Parent of a member of the Class of 2009

As a woman who attended Princeton and who holds deeply feminist views (and who, full disclosure, has been married for 30 years to the man she dated since freshman week), I have to say that while I disagree with most of Patton’s assertions, I don’t find them especially offensive. After all, women can take Patton’s advice or leave it. While Patton’s tone does seem overwrought and off key in several respects, I don’t find her message much different from any other piece of alumni advice. In fact, I find myself uneasier with the assumption by some women that Patton’s point of view is one that should be suppressed. I don’t agree with much of what Patton says. But neither do I think that Patton’s view should be silenced. Haven’t men told women to shut up long enough without women telling each other (for it is mostly women doing the silencing) to shut up? I for one think Patton ought to speak louder and longer to her points. If she did, we might engender fuller and more constructive engagement on the issue of women’s family lives.

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Beyond Princeton

Class of 2011

My issues with the letter by Susan Patton ’77 published in this paper last Friday would fill up many pages, but for this response, I will focus on just a few. An integral part of the foundation that Ms. Patton’s piece rests on (well, besides sexism) is that once her theoretical Princetonian daughters leave the Orange Bubble, they won’t meet very many “intellectual equals”.

This very sentiment is the kind of breathtaking arrogance that gives Princetonians a bad name. This attitude is a throwback to an era in which Princeton was a place only for the long-established “elite,” so I found it extremely disappointing that an alumna who seems to be heavily involved in the University as it is today indulged in this view. This is not to say that Princeton is not a place for the elite anymore, but that elite status is ostensibly based on some merit beyond who one’s parents are. I would not claim that the University has come as far as it should in that regard, but I believe that it is well on its way.

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