The Story of Baruch’s Earliest Co-eds
Eighty years ago, in 1933, the Board of Higher Education voted to ban women from the School of Business and Civic Administration, then part of City College. Citing inadequate funds and facilities, the announcement was a blow to a large segment of New York’s student population.
Women were first admitted to the School of Business and Civic Administration (today’s Baruch College) in 1930, after complaining that Hunter College—then an all-female institution—did not offer business courses of the same caliber as its Lexington Avenue neighbor. Following the business-school admission ban, the number of female students dwindled with each semester, as a saddened male author noted in the pages of The Ticker, the school’s undergraduate student newspaper:
Funny girls, money girls,
Tall girls, small girls,
Light girls, tight girls,
Play girls, hay girls,
Both singers, wrath-bringers.
Heavyweights, empty pates,
Reporters and stenos
Are fading from
Strong men, long men.
Grim men, slim men,
Lazy men, crazy men,
Slow men, yeomen,
Ball players, man slayers,
Racketeers and actors
Feel it’s a
(From The Ticker, 11 March 1935, page 4)
Undaunted, the remaining coeds fought back, using the newly created Girls’ Club to stage a three-year campaign for readmission. Uniting their efforts with The Ticker, the Girls’ Club circulated numerous petitions and continuously made its case to the administration and other influential groups. By 1936 their efforts were crowned with success, as new female recruits entered the School of Business and Civic Administration for the first time in seven semesters.
Women Are Readmitted—with Fanfare
In September 1936, 75 first-year female students entered the College to a boisterous reception. The eager male business students “tripped over one another in their rush to salaam the newly arrived” (The Ticker, 21 September 1936, page 3). “Co-eds Are Back and Who Isn’t Happy?” proclaimed another Ticker headline. One of its reporters caused a scandal of sorts when his coworkers noticed his frequent trips to the auditorium to “interview” some of the first-year students. The reporter’s labors resulted in the following coed descriptions and statements:
Medium height, fascinating smile, pearly white teeth, dark wavy hair, hazel eyes: ‘I came to City College for two reasons. I think they offer the best business course and I wanted to go to a co-ed college. I think the idea of so many boys to so few girls is swell. No, I don’t go steady.’
Svelte, petite, big brown eyes, pretty, medium height, brunette: ‘I transferred to City College because they have no business course at Brooklyn. Besides the traffic problem at Brooklyn College is atrocious. The large percentage of boys to girls here is unusual, to say the least, but I think it will be O.K.’
(From The Ticker, 21 September 1936, page 6)
To help the incoming first-year female students navigate the School of Business and Civic Administration, the Girls’ Club formed the Big Sister committee. One of the female veterans of 17 Lex described what new students should expect class life to be like in diary form, entries of which were published in the pages of The Ticker:
Friday, April 27, 1934: English class—Ruthie and Bern doing a crossword puzzle. Professor embarrasses Ruth by calling on her right in the middle of the puzzle. Jackie asks me out again—had to refuse. Ruth is giving Bernice a ginger-wave. Jack has taken his monthly shave, thereby removing the three hairs on his chin. Helen has a mirror in front of her book and is very absorbed; Ruthie reading table of contents of text hurriedly to find out which poem we’ve been reading for the last half-hour because it sounds dirty. She gives up and goes back to the newspaper, poem not sufficiently dirty. I refused Jackie’s request to buy him a ticket to a show.
This hour is positively murderous: I feel as if I’ve been sitting here for two weeks and only thirty-five minutes have gone by. The class is discussing hogs. How that topic ever came up in an English literature course I don’t know. It seems the U.S. has the most pigs—we would.
(From “The Co-ed Speaks,” by Sylvia Elfenbein, The Ticker, 21 September 1936, page 3)
Another diary entry from the same issue of The Ticker ran as follows:
Wednesday, May 2: Eco class—Jean has brought her manicuring kit along and is busy using it right under the teacher’s nose. Some people have all the luck: Ruth cut class today, and teacher forgot to take the attendance. But if I had cut, he probably would have given a mid-term or something. Ros and I are in the back playing cards. I lost a game of solitaire, and Ros beat me at casino—it must be the system. Professor has just returned last week’s exam papers. Bern and I handed in the exact same papers with all the information coming from my notes. But Bern is a good-looking frill, so she gets an A and I get an F. Oh! Am I dejected.
In Happy Conclusion: The New Majority
After 1936 women remained permanently on campus (as would be expected, they became a majority during the World War II years). In the decades since the 1930s, women have become thoroughly integrated into the cultural, social, and educational life of Baruch College. And consistent with trends nationwide, in 2012, they represented a slight majority of the total enrollment, 51.3 percent.
—Alex Gelfand (’04)