Stuyvesant History – Enter the First Girls

Forty-five years ago, the first class of women graduated from Stuyvesant in 1972. This weekend, the Stuyvesant High School Alumni Association will be honoring this group of pioneers in a series of panels that will discuss the experiences of this first class of Stuyvesant women as well as later generations of Stuyvesant women from a diverse group of industries.

1972 Indicator photo of the First Girls

Historical Background

Stuyvesant was established in 1904 as a manual training school for boys. Even though Bronx Science has been co-ed since 1946, Stuyvesant remained an all-boys school until 1969 when a young freshman at John Jay High School in Brooklyn, Alice DeRivera, filed a lawsuit against the Board of Education after she was rejected from the opportunity to take Stuyvesant’s entrance exam due to the all-boys policy.

Rather than defending itself in Court, The Board of Education decided to repeal Stuyvesant’s sex restriction in May 1969. Ultimately Alice did not actually attend Stuyvesant because her family ended up moving to upstate New York that same summer. But her lawsuit paved the way for twelve girls (ten sophomores and two freshmen) to enter Stuyvesant as the first class of women in Fall 1969.

In the beginning, there were no facilities or amenities for the girls. The urinals in the third-floor bathroom were hastily boarded up and a makeshift “girls” sign covered up the old “boys” sign. Many teachers also did not know how to deal with the new female entrants, having taught male students their entire teaching career up to that point.

After 1969, the “quota” on female admissions was lifted and 223 girls came into the school the following year. And these days, female students make up 40% – 45% of the student body depending on the year.

Event Honoring Stuyvesant’s First Women

Come join us this Sunday 2PM at Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center for an Event honoring these pioneering women. The First Girls will begin the panel series with recounts of their experiences breaking the gender barrier at Stuyvesant. Current Principal, Eric Contreras, will also give his remarks of current gender issues and progress at Stuyvesant today. The event will conclude with two panels featuring Stuyvesant women in Medicine and a diverse range of industries who will discuss how Stuyvesant has impacted their lives and the gender barriers they still face in their respective industries today. To RSVP for the event, please go to Eventbrite. Tickets will be $10 for dues-paying members and $20 for all other guests.