How to Meet Women - A Historical Perspective from 1966 - How Harvard Men Dated Radcliffe Girls

12th Feb 2022

We found a fascinating book from 1966 titled: The Unofficial Guide to Graduate Life at Harvard : Containing Unreliable and Opinionated Yet Perhaps Useful Information and Suggestions Concerning: The University, The Community, The Metropolis. Published by the Graduate Student Council.

The book gives advice on how to navigate the university and how to use the libraries. It also gives advice about on campus and off campus housing as well as detailed advice about area restaurants, however, the most fascinating part of the book is a chapter entitled How to Meet Women. It is a quaint look back at how dating was done fifty years ago before the age of Tinder, on-line dating sites and cell phones. Below are some excerpts on tips about how to meet women:

"Fundamentally, there are three ways to meet women: by yourself, through friends and at mixer-dances. But keep one fundamental principle in mind. Not only do you want to meet women; women want to be met. Indeed, you may find that the woman you just spoke to and asked out, had made a bet, the previous week, that she could get you to ask her out.

It is not easy to meet girls in the places that they most arrest your eye, that is, in the Square. Still, there are all sorts of excuses, and many, many have met each other. The Coop and the Harvard Trust are not bad. Neither are grocery stores (but always watch for wedding rings). 

If there are no girls in your classes, you can always audit others, and afterwards ask a likely candidate whether she thinks the course would be a good one to take. It is the most natural thing in the world to ask her out for coffee, if convenient. And always remember, get her name.

The third category is mixer affairs. If you aren't familiar with these odd events, they consist simply of dances to which you come without a date, and try to collect as many names with attached phone numbers as possible. It is customary just to step up and ask any strange girl to dance. Cutting-in at mixers is completely within Emily Post's dictates. Come early for good choices; unscrupulous men try to talk the All-American girls into leaving early. Bring a pencil and small pocket notebook and inconspicuously make necessary records between dances. Old mixer hands have noted that has a rule there are two kinds of girls attending a mixer near their dorm. The young and breathless one is there to play the game. The second type lives nearby and has dropped in to scoff. If intrigued by one of these, move swiftly; introduce yourself, declare contempt for mixers, and take her out for coffee or a drink.

[Note: Before Harvard accepted women, Radcliffe College, also located in Cambridge, was its female counterpart]

Radcliffe undergraduates (Cliffies, for short) are unlike anything you have met before. Your first impression will probably be one of grubbiness. This is deceptive. Leave your discouraging street-corner gazing and go to a play at the Loeb; there you will see, in the audience, multitudes of magnificent young women. Many of these are Cliffies. Your next impression may perhaps be of their aloofness. Call at a Radcliffe undergraduate dorm and you may feel that the atmosphere is less than warm. The third impression you would get about Radcliffe, if you got your impressions in a convenient order, would be that Cliffies are spoiled, dated up, overly in demand. This one, alas is (partly) true. The ratio of Harvard undergraduates to Radcliffe undergraduates is four to one. 

You will find names and pictures of most freshman Radcliffe women in the Radcliffe Freshman Register, at newsstands at the beginning of the school year . . . Classes themselves are an excellent gimmick -- you can always bum cigarettes, ask for the assignment or borrow notes when you come late. BEWARE: Do not try to impress Cliffies; be nice instead. Assume that they are jaded; then you won't blunder so badly at first as your might have. Cliffies will be inured to, and annoyed by, intellectual flashiness, money, experience, or other assets you may be proud of. If you must have some kind of an affectation, simplicity to the point of nerdiness is recommended, for Radcliffe undergraduates may find this refreshing.

There are certain current stereotyped impressions about Radcliffe; for instance, that Cliffies are very intellectual; that they are "long-haired, willowy, slightly tubercular"; that they wear black stockings; that they go barefoot. The best way to meet a Cliffie you don't know but would like to, is to stop her sometime, in public, preferably in the Yard, rather than in the Square. or best of all in Widener Library if she's there and is not busy, and say, "I'd like to talk to you. May I take you our for coffee?" Be direct, be explicit, be nice, be patient. Once headed for the coffeehouse, introduce yourself, state (do not expound) your academic field and home town, and fish for points of contact. Most Cliffies will respond favorably to this approach. The major exception is that a vocal minority of the more strinkingly beautiful Cliffies, having been harassed day in and day out by really obnoxious men, are permanently sour about strangers.

If you telephone a girl you don't know, use the dorm phone; do not look up her private number. Nothing angers a Radcliffe girl more than to get a call on her private phone from a stranger or a slight acquaintance."

How to Meet Men

The book also had a chapter advising women on how to meet men, excerpted below:

Meeting men has been the occupation of women throughout the centuries. One of the easiest ways to meet me is in your classes. There you have the advantage of common interests and also of daily contact so that you can work your feminine wiles on the man or men of your choice. Remember, however, to watch for those golf bands and car cribs.

The first month of the semester is the best time for meeting men. After that most grad students dig a hole in Widener and are not seen until spring. That first day of class is the most important. Forget the exact number of the classroom. Every homme gallant will come to the rescue of a bewildered, lost girl. Men love to helpful. Once he has helped you, you can be grateful for live. Men love to be helpful. He'll explain things and toss about ideas--especially for an extremely intelligent girl who is almost as intelligent as he is, but not quite.

Another way of meeting men is mixers. These just suit your purpose but may prove disappointing since they often become overrun by girls from nearby colleges. It is wise to try to meet as many men as possible at these affairs, as after the first month mixers become rather rare. You probably won't get to talk to anyone for very long, so make sure you say your name distinctly, and get the names of the men of whom you approve. Obviously, most men will take it as a sign of disfavor if you give them only your first name. Harkness Commons is an ideal place to meet the graduate and the law students. They are known to join you for lunch or coffee if there is an extra seat at your table.

Being active in predominantly male organizations such as political clubs is a surefire way of meeting men. Assiduous activity in such an organization for the first few months will produce a host of prospective dates. You should seem interested, somewhat well-informed but bewildered and in need of explanation. Some male will be sure to volunteer to help you.