44. First Woman Graduate Student


In 1961, Mrs. Sabra Follett Meservey (pictured here), an assistant professor of history at Douglass College in New Brunswick who lived in Princeton with her husband (a researcher at the University’s Plasma Physics Laboratory), became the first woman Ph.D. candidate admitted to Princeton.  Up to that point, Princeton was the only University in the nation that did not accept women for graduate work, while all other Ivy League schools’ graduate student population was nearly 20 percent female.  It was decided that women would be permitted entrance to Princeton’s Graduate School only if they qualified for studies that were unavailable elsewhere, like Mrs. Meservey, who received her degree in Oriental Studies in 1966.  Eight more female grad students came to Princeton in 1962, and two years later, Dr. Tsai-ying Change earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry, the first degree granted to a woman at Princeton.  Embarrassingly, the Latin diplomas given to the first female Ph.D. recipients were written in the masculine gender form, and later were reprinted.  The graduate school became fully coeducational with the rest of the University in 1969. 

  • To learn more about the Graduate School, see quotation #3, 28, and 33, and Café Vivian picture #53 and 105.

  • To learn more about the history of women at Princeton, see quotation #14, 23, 26, 28, and 32, and Café Vivian picture #2, 13, 30, 31, 69, 76, 84, 93, 100, 117, and 120.