Womanhood at Dartmouth

by Marie-Capucine Pineau-Valencienne | 10/12/16 1:01am

My grandfather went to Dartmouth, as did my uncle and my cousin. Growing up, the word “Dartmouth” became synonymous with my grandfather and my family, probably due to the hours I spent listening attentively to my grandfather’s passionate accounts of the time he spent at the College, a place I soon understood had a profound impact in shaping the person he is today. But, as an alumnus who, like so many Dartmouth students, fell in love with what many call “the best place on earth,” did he think that in the years to come the person that would be continuing his family legacy would be a woman? Probably not.

Dartmouth was an all-male college when my grandfather and uncle attended, and although my cousin matriculated at the school after it had become co-ed, the fact remains that my Dartmouth family legacy has been composed entirely of men — until me.

Forty-four. That’s the number of years since Dartmouth officially became a co-educational institution and let women infiltrate the “old boys’ club.” We’ve altered the alma mater to “sons and daughters,” have a roughly 50/50 gendered student population and boast both fraternities and sororities on campus, what does it really mean to be a woman on this campus today?

Growing up I never considered my gender a deterrent to my pursuit of higher education. For many women today, however, they are taught as early as primary school that being a woman means they have lesser intellectual capabilities.

Despite this historical, and in some cases current, adversity, women at Dartmouth have achieved great success, which can be demonstrated through the number of engineers who are women Dartmouth educates every year. In 2016, 54 percent of engineering majors at Dartmouth were women. The national average of the same year was 19 percent. The push for gender equality is not limited to traditionally male dominated academic fields. The most recent class to matriculate boasts a 52 percent gender imbalance — in favor of women.

Beyond numbers, women have made strides in social life on campus. The new push toward localization in the Greek community demonstrates that women at Dartmouth continue to take charge of their environment. So far, the College boasts four local sororities out of the 10 on campus — nearly half.

Dartmouth is a place where women are not hesitant to wear tutus to dance parties and workout gear to class. It is a place where they are seldom worried that wearing a onesie out on a Saturday night will threaten their sexiness. Bottom line, they do what they want. They feel comfortable on this campus and aren’t afraid of what others will think if they greet anxious potential new members in head to toe sparkly spandex. In my 20 years of existence, Dartmouth is the only place where I have genuinely felt like women and men alike were not afraid or apologetic about being themselves.

When considering the small time women have populated the Dartmouth campus — 44 years in relation to the school’s 247 year history — it is clear that women at Dartmouth have thrived and made a home for themselves.

When speaking to women on campus, they describe with passion and vigor the myriad ways in which women were positive forces on campus. When discussing the role of women on campus, the women I spoke to were unanimous in expressing the pride that came with being a woman at Dartmouth.

It is evident that women belong at Dartmouth. They have carved out a place for themselves where there wasn’t one before. They are smart, successful, reflective and never shy away from showing their love for the College on the Hill.