On April 13, 1920, at the suggestion of Mrs. Dana Munro, 171 "women of the Faculty, Library and Administration'' were invited by the faculty tea committee to meet at Prospect. At this meeting, with Mrs. Hibben presiding, the University League was founded "to promote a friendly spirit among wives and families of men connected with the University.'' Membership in the League has been broadened in recent years to include all "women who are, or whose husbands are, members of the University faculty, administration or staff.'' [Then in 1973, to avoid any potential legal difficulties over discrimination, membership was opened to men.]
In the early days teas were a larger part of the League's social activities than they are today, with weekly teas often honoring different departments in the University. League-sponsored parties at Prospect on Christmas night, when all the faculty could fit comfortably into the president's home, were especially gala occasions with dancing, mah-jong, bridge, music, and refreshments.
As late as 1941, a leaflet on "Advice to Newcomers in the University League'' advised women what to wear, when to return calls, and how many calling cards to leave. Hats, white gloves, and calling cards are gone, but League-sponsored dances, teas, buffet suppers, theater parties, and trips are still part of the program. The varied social activities have helped newcomers to feel a part of the University family and have encouraged friendships across age limits, departmental lines, and national barriers. Special interest groups have covered foreign languages, travel, child care, literature, the performing arts, sports, and a wide variety of other subjects ranging from Shakespeare to international cooking.
The service activities of the League have continued to increase in importance. A Business Registry was started in 1927, so that members' skills might be matched with faculty needs. In 1967 the League began a Job Roster for professional women seeking employment, which in 1972 was merged with the Professional Roster, a volunteer community organization.
One of the League's concerns has been to make foreign visitors feel welcome. For many years host families have been matched with foreign families. A very active English Conversation Group has held weekly sessions with foreign visitors. The League was instrumental in creating the International Center, an office and lounge to serve students and faculty from foreign countries.
Two other important League services have been the University Nursery School, where parents assist the teachers and repair equipment to keep tuition costs low, and the Furniture Exchange, where furniture was acquired, reconditioned, and made available, at minimal fees, for members of the University community.[The Furniture Exchange no longer exists but there is Tiger Trade via the internet on the Point (campus login required) which gives the Princeton community the opportunity to buy, sell or donate items.]
In 1967 the University League and the Art Museum began two programs, a Docent or Lecture Guide Program and an Art Interest Group featuring Gallery talks and lectures. Both programs were incorporated into the Museum Volunteers, who conduct guided tours, present slide shows to community school children, and serve at the Art Museum desk answering questions and selling books, catalogs, and cards.
In recent years the League office was moved from 171 Broadmead where the Dorothy Brown Room, the Grace Marckwardt Room, a workroom, and a kitchen provide much-needed space. (On November 16, 2006 the Office moved once again to the 7th floor of New South and now again in late 2012 to 221 Nassau St. 3rd fl.)
Excerpted From Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion, copyright Princeton University Press (1978).