MRW Partner Dahlia Rudavsky Featured on WGBH Radio Show!
On January 3, 2020 MRW Partner Dahlia Rudavsky was featured on the WGBH Radio Show “Under the Radar with Callie Crossley,” on the Book Club segment. The show featured three women from the first cohort of female students at Yale University, as well as Yale-graduate and author Anne Gardiner Perkins, discussing Anne Perkins’ recent book, Yale Needs Women: How the first Group of Girls Rewrote the Rules of an Ivy League Giant.
Yale Needs Women, published 50 years after the prestigious Ivy League university opened its doors to female applicants, tells the story of women thrust into the male dominated culture of an elite institution. For two hundred years, Yale College had been all male, and its president had been famously known to describe Yale’s mission as shaping “one thousand male leaders in each class.”
In September 1969, Yale College became coeducational with the admission of about 550 women (total) in its freshman, sophomore, and junior classes, to join the 4000 men in those classes. Though this momentous change marked significant progress, author Anne Gardiner Perkins underscores that Yale’s motivations were far from altruistic. Top male candidates had begun to choose Harvard over Yale because at Harvard they were able to date “suitable” women, which had sparked alarm within the Yale Admissions Office and ultimately contributed to women’s admittance. Female applicants were judged on a more stringent scale than their male counterparts – after a rigorous academic screening, women were judged for “grit,” indicated by metrics such as whether they had grown up with brothers, endured traumatic life events, played sports, or studied abroad. Yale strictly limited the number of female students, to ensure that no spots would be taken away from future “male leaders.”
MRW partner Dahlia Rudavsky stated on the radio show that women were an “afterthought” and Yale “lacked the institutional care for women. . . [that] they brought into this difficult situation.” The institution was built for male comfort – for instance, women were not allowed to use the pool for long hours so that men could swim nude; a local club where job interviews were held for graduates did not allow entry to women except at limited times. Attorney Rudavsky states: “we were thrown into a situation that none of us could have anticipated. . . [and] nothing prepared me for the isolation we experienced.”
Attorney Rudavsky graduated Magna Cum Laude from Yale College in three years. She appreciates the excellent education she received (albeit from an almost-exclusively male faculty). Even so, upon leaving Yale College, she said “I felt like I could breathe again.”
Yale College celebrated this first cohort of women at the 50th anniversary of their admission this past year. Attorney Rudavsky says that despite the difficulties she and her fellow students faced, the experience was well worth it. Being part of a minority subgroup taught these Yale women “empathy for. . . how hard it is for anyone who is the first, or is part of a small group, in a dominant culture that is not them.” Attorney Rudavsky continues to fight for social justice every day. You can listen to the radio broadcast in its entirety here.