SPECIAL SECTION: Responses to Susan Patton ’77

On March 29, The Daily Princetonian published a Letter to the Editor from Susan Patton, alumna and President of the Class of 1977.  In her letter, titled “Advice for the young women of Princeton: the daughters I never had,” she advises Princeton undergraduate women to “find a husband on campus.” She argues that Princeton is the best place for young Princetonian women to find partners who are as intelligent and accomplished as they are — “you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you,” she writes.

This letter has since generated nationwide response and debate. Should finding a husband be a priority for women in college? Should a Princeton woman’s main aim be to marry her “intellectual equal,” and is it more likely, as Patton argues, to find that person at Princeton? And what is the message to women who don’t want to marry men — or marry at all?

Patton’s letter is only the latest in an extensive and nuanced discussion of career-family balance and marriage in these pages and on this campus. Columnist Cameron Langford discussed how Princeton women could reconcile their desires to be “both a mother and a breadwinner,” opinion editor emerita Monica Greco suggested including extended family in child rearing to enable young parents to launch their careers, and guest contributor Margaret Fortney supported Princeton women who want to become stay-at-home mothers.  And given the breadth of passionate responses to Patton’s letter — both on campus and across the nation — it’s clear that our community is far from achieving consensus on these issues.

We hope to provide a forum for our campus to continue the conversation.

The Daily Princetonian asked for reactions to Patton’s letter — below are some of the responses we received from alumni, students, faculty and parents.

Sarah Schwartz ’15
Opinion Editor

To the women of Princeton by Susan Patton ’77
Ambition and all by Haley White ’12
Thanks, but no thanks by Lauren Shanley ’12
A recipe for a failed marriage? by Catherine Tiedemann Morra ’77, Elizabeth Tiedemann Maass ’78 and Charlotte Tiedemann Petersen ’82
What I would say to the young women of Princeton by Priscilla Smart Schwarzenbach ’77
Why not? by Nicole Clarke ’09
Take it or leave it by Lolita Buckner Inniss ’83 S’83 P’09
Beyond Princeton by Kunle Demuren ’11
Advice for the young women of Princeton (and colleges everywhere) by Helen Coster ’98
A paradox by Frederic M. Smith ’83
Marry her! by April Alliston, Professor of Comparative Literature
Baseless assertions by H. Carol Bernstein P’16


19 thoughts on “SPECIAL SECTION: Responses to Susan Patton ’77

  1. Congratulations to Susan Patton ’77, who gets my vote for the Troll Award for 2013. As any good troll knows, the way you get attention these days in not by subtlety, but by going way over the top. The ensuing conversation may be worth having after all. In fact, there is a conversation worth having here and it need not involve any gender asymmetries. Involvement with Princeton (as undergraduate, graduate student, postdoc, or faculty) is an initiation into a priesthood. A priesthood which tracks you into an elite class of professionals who look down on the “child-rearing class.” The truth is that if you are a Princeton student, then you will likely have your obligatory child in your late thirties, and neither your nor your partner will be the primary caregiver. This very well could be fulfilling – it is for many people and I’m not going to argue that it shouldn’t be.

    In particular, I’d like to call to attention a recent exhibit, which drove me into this conversation: The University has decided to shutter the part-day parent cooperative nursery school (“preschool”) which has been offered to faculty, staff and graduate students for 64 years, in favor of a single option: full-day child care (”daycare.” ) The daycare and preschool options have existed side-by-side for years. The new arrangement forces parents to choose between full-time care and full-time at home, and relegates the parents who choose the latter to a class which is not well-viewed in this community. The message here is quite clear: Don’t let kids get in the way of you or your partner’s career.

    I’m not going to argue the pros or cons of different lifestyles choices – but I think it should be noted in any honest conversation that the University is much less interested in producing family members than career-oriented robots.

  2. All Princetonians – male, female, and other – should do everything possible to marry or enter into long-term domestic arrangements with other Princetonians – but not for the sake of intellectual compatibility but rather because, with our justifiably high opinions of ourselves, Princetonians are with rare exception the only people who can tolerate being in the company of other Princetonians for more than 30 seconds.

    That said, shared Princetonship does not necessarily guarantee compatibility even in the near term, as suggested by the profiles of several highly representative Princeton persons that appear in a new memoir entitled

    “The Thinking Man’s Animal House: Benghauser Remembers F’Boy and His Friends (Part 1.26 of III)”

    which is available at Amazon.com (just copy and paste this url: http://amzn.to/10k6xFz).

    With respect to this brazen nay ruthless example of self-promotion, I would merely quote the explanation proffered by Jack Donaghy – the head of NBC played by Alec Baldwin on Tina Fey’s “30 Rock” TV show – to a Rockefeller Center page:

    “I don’t have bedbugs, Kenneth. I went to Princeton.”

    Tom Benghauser ’66

  3. The real mistake Ms. Patton makes is to assume every male (or female, for that matter) who attends Princeton is intelligent. Really? What tiresome snobbery.

    • I’m tired of reading emotional reactions of people who are inclined to assume the worst about Susan Patton. (You believe she misspoke, and you’re saying what anyone would say in response to whatever you want to believe she meant.) Which of those 12 responses listed above comes the closest to presenting a legitimate counterpoint?

      • @Spinster

        It’s abundantly clear that MY response comes closest by far to presenting a legitimate counterpoint. Everyone needs to loosen up just a bit – this entire matter is a tempest in a tea cup as well as tribute to Editor in Chief Luc Cohen’s excellent approach to generating publicity for the Prince and, of course, for himself.

        I highly recommend that, for a bit of laughter and apparently much-needed sphincter-relaxation, readers visit this website: http://bit.ly/vICvEJ

          • @Spinster: What are you not-thanking me for? Or are you not-thanking someone else? The alignment of comments and replies to comments and replies to replies and comments to replies.. well, Spinster, you see what I mean, don’t you?

            And what’s a “spinster”? Combination of spin doctor and hipster?

            Or, in the immortal words of Liz Lemon to one of the Rockefeller Center pages: “I don’t have crabs, Kenneth. I’m a spinster.”

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