Women take on new roles
By Kelsey Blodget, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, February 11, 2005
Prior to the implementation of coeducation, Hanover was a lonely place for men seeking a date. "Road-tripping" to nearby women's colleges, such as the "Seven Sisters," Colby Junior College and Skidmore was commonplace. But for Winter Carnival, the dates trekked to Dartmouth -- arriving in droves by bus, car and train.
"The White River train station was an incredible sight," William Pierce '62 said. "There were maybe 200 guys waiting. It was always quite a scene."
The over 1,000 girls present played an integral role in Winter Carnival, drawing the national media with the annual Carnival Queen competition. The event began with a parade of approximately 50 contestants in ski outfits, about five of whom were subsequently chosen by a panel of judges. Judges ranged from professors to deans to even College president John Sloane Dickey.
The winner was declared Queen of the Snows, received a silver cup and, during the Carnival's glory days, became a media darling. The New York Times, Boston Globe, Life Magazine and dozens of other publications all featured coverage of the 1946 Carnival Queen, Faye Chase.
The pageant made headlines again in 1970, when a skydiver descended on the Green from 3,500 feet to place the crown on the winner's head, and in 1971 when Playboy shot its "Playmate of the Month" at the Carnival.
With such happenings, it is not surprising that so many women swarmed to Hanover to participate in the weekend.
"It was like Hollywood," Smith alumna Ann Safford-Mandel said of Carnival in the early 1950s. "It was the place to be. An invitation to Dartmouth's Winter Carnival was the highlight of a young college girl's life."
The hordes of women descending on Dartmouth needed sleeping quarters, and each year, Dartmouth men surrendered their fraternity houses and dormitories to accommodate them.
To deter any frisky behavior, two chaperones, one male and one female, were required to patrol the upper floors of the fraternities to keep the boys out of the rooms occupied by the girls. Pierce recalled that his fraternity tried to circumvent the rules by asking one of the member's older brothers to chaperone with his wife.
"They'd let more crazy things go on," Pierce said.
Smith alumna Libby Kaye Stone '53 remembered the Dartmouth boys as "pretty rowdy" when she stayed for the weekend.
"My friend and I put a desk and a chair in front of our door to keep them from coming in," she said.
Besides creating a housing crunch, the women made their presence known in the classrooms, as the men would traditionally take their dates to Saturday classes, Pierce said.
"We had this great history professor named Lew Stilwell, and he'd always wait until there was a big weekend to embarrass us," Pierce said. "He told this one girl sitting there, 'Cross your legs, and close the gates to hell.' The 200 guys in the room were just floored."
Carnival changed in 1973, when, with the establishment of coeducation, women joined classes full-time. Winter Carnival Council voted to abolish the famous Carnival Queen Competition the same year, citing "changing attitudes toward the role of women in contemporary society" as the reason.
The minority of men unhappy with the women's attendance made their opinion well known. "It was downright hostile for a while," Etta Pisano '79 said. "They called us cohogs, like the clam, like female genitalia."
One fraternity further objectified women during Winter Carnival by designing a pair of breasts as their snow sculpture, Pisano said.
"It was distasteful," she said. "What were they trying to prove?"
In another display of disapproval, some men made it a point not to date Dartmouth women during Winter Carnival, or at all, and, consequently, female students continued to be shipped in from outside schools.
"It was kind of uncomfortable seeing these busloads of women coming in," Pamela Scholobohm '75, a sophomore transfer, said. "We were wondering, 'What are we, chopped liver?'"
Janet Kluczynski '77 did date a Dartmouth boy during Winter Carnival, to explosive results.
"I attended a fraternity party with my date, and there was a brother there who at first acted very nicely to me," she said. "But when he found out I was a coed, he started yelling at my date, saying, 'Date anyone, but not a coed!' I felt very awkward and certainly not welcome."
Though the stated reason for bringing non-Dartmouth girls was the disproportionate males to females ratio, many males preferred dating "imports" because they did not have to see them again if they didn't want to, Scholobohm said.
"They could be more forward with them than they would be with a Dartmouth girl," she said.