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Celebrating the Women of Northwood – 1971

Back in 1971, the Northwood student newspaper was The Mirror. I recently searched dusty, disorganized closets until I found copies from1970-1972. Advised by Linda Friedlander, students produced six-ten editions of about six pages every year and included alumni updates and news of the day. It was well-done, finishing second in the Columbia Scholastic Press Association contest in 1971. I began at Northwood that fall but had no memory of what attention the paper had paid to the entry of women until I found these Mirrors. The papers in the previous spring made no mention of the inclusion of girls in the following fall’s student body, suggesting that the decision to enroll them may have been finalized at the last Board meeting of the school year.  

The announcement that women had joined us occupied about one-third of the front page that September. The article’s opening paragraph noted, “Thirteen brave young women are setting a precedent this fall as the first girls to attend Northwood School on a full-time basis. Just who these young ladies are should be of great interest to any concerned with Northwood and its future.” Brief paragraphs followed with information about each girl (hometown, interests, parents’ occupations, etc.). By November, four more girls had joined us. If memory serves me, these were the McGreevy sisters from Lake Placid. About half of the girls lived at teacher Ellsworth Jackstadt’s home or at McKellens’ Pine Lodge, which boarded the figure skaters of the group; they came from as far away as Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

Over the course of the year, there were more pictures of the girls (everything from Judy McNealus outmaneuvering an opponent in soccer to a headshot of Darcy Prime, who had been named the editor of the next year’s MIrror) than there were articles. In October, Mary Anne Matz authored one article interviewing students and teachers about the arrival of women. Some sample answers:

  • Yockie (teacher Ellsworth Jackstadt): “I think it’s the best thing that has happened to Northwood.”
  • Madore (beloved manager of the school store): “Great!!! It sort of holds down the language.” 
  • Mike Bryand (student): “How should I put this? ... Cool.”
  • Sam Patterson (female student): “We’re frisky little devils, aren’t we?

The article closed with a comment that would never sneak through today; we have evolved into a more respectful world:   Harry Burrows (male student): “Lots of potential nookie.” 

The Mirror’s only other piece devoted to women that year was an editorial titled “Coeducation – It’s not easy”: “By the second week of school this fall, seventeen girls were enrolled. Within six weeks, it became obvious that such a drastic change was not easily made. Personal problems arose among the girls, faculty members, and male students. Although most of the girls expected to be accepted on an equal basis with the male co-eds, this was not so. Many boarders resented the overtown privileges accorded the girls, received by virtue of their day-student status. These boarders seemed unaware of the situation in which these girls had knowingly placed themselves by coming here. Being one of 17 girls in a school of over 100 boys can be extremely trying. The entire Northwood community must realize this and help make the switch as easy as possible.”

Fifty years later, I would admit that Northwood, other schools and colleges, and, most importantly, society (life, after all, is the ultimate coeducation) have not gotten it perfect, but we “have come a long way” to paraphrase a famous ad from the 70s.