Is It 1950? Princeton Alum Writes Letter Of Advice Telling Women ‘Find A Husband On Campus Before You Graduate’

April 1, 2013  |  

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I really hate when women play into fear mongering among other women and insinuate that they’ll never find a husband after their 20s.  That was the gist of a letter Princeton Alum Susan Patton wrote in the Daily Princetonian last week entitled, “Advice for the young women of Princeton.” And while a title like that in a publication like that might lead you to expect sage wisdom on women in the work-place, perhaps, and life after college, Patton was focused on one thing: getting her fellow female Princetonians down the aisle.

The letter, which was once housed here, appears to have been taken down now, but thankfully the “gems” inside remain, like:

“Here’s what nobody is telling you: Find a husband on campus before you graduate. Yes, I went there.”

“As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market … You will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you.”

“I am the mother of two sons who are both Princetonians. My older son had the good judgment and great fortune to marry a classmate of his, but he could have married anyone. My younger son is a junior and the universe of women he can marry is limitless.”

“Ultimately, it will frustrate you to be with a man who just isn’t as smart as you.”

“I wish I had ended up with a Princeton man.”

If that last line didn’t serve as a red flag for you, allow me to break down Patton’s life. According to CNN Money, she graduated from Princeton in 1977, ran an executive coaching business in New York City, at 30 she married a man who did not go to Princeton, they divorced after 27 years of marriage because her husband was allegedly resentful of her luxurious career. And now she’s encouraging women not to follow in her footsteps by making them feel as though if they don’t find a man within the next 1-4 years they’re doomed to life that cat life.

Interestingly, when the Daily Beast asked Patton if she’d like to clarify any of her comments — considering the response to her piece has been so strong Princeton’s newspaper site actually crashed — she said “not really.”

“I understand how retrogressive it is, and yes, I understand that not every woman on earth wants to get married and have kids, that yes, you could marry a man who is not your intellectual equal,” said Patton. “I’m just saying, you increase your odds of being happy in your marriage, happy in your life, if you find a husband who is appropriate for you. Which gets harder after you graduate … I don’t mean to be anti-feminist. This is truly the advice I would give my daughters if I had them.”

To CNN, she simply said:

“Focusing on your career is wonderful. But while you’re on campus surrounded by these smart men, make it one of your many missions to find your life partner.”

“Women who spend the first 10 years after college… career planning find themselves in their thirties a little panicked,’ she said. “From a sheer numbers perspective, the odds will never be as good to be surrounded by all of these extraordinary men.”

While Patton is probably right on that point, the amount of pressure she’s putting on women to find their mate by 22 is frustrating, not to mention antiquated. What happened to simple balance? How about you put as much time into your work as you do your health as you do finding a life partner? Odds are you’ll be alright.

What do you think about Patton’s advice? Is she right or setting women back?

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  • Jess

    Society needs to tell men to look for wives in college instead of hookups, beer, partying and sports. The American college boy is laughing at this article while all of are thinking this is good advice. Things have changed the college culture goes against this. Now at Princeton this is easier because the atmosphere is serious, so this is some darn good advice for those girls.

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  • Faith

    Just because you are a Princeton Graduate, that does not make you smart. Maybe book wise, but not common sense wise (There are great schools that are not ivy league like HBCUs. Sorry I have to give the HBCUs some love.) Apparently she is not all that smart, she is telling women to marry, when her marriage did last even thought she did not marry an ivy league grad. Just because you have a Ivy League degree and you marry someone that has one, that does not mean the marriage will last. You have to marry someone that you connect with not only intellectually and two people regardless of degree or not must be willing to make the marriage work.

  • appassionata

    I can’t find fault with anything she said. Most women want to marry someone they feel is their intellectual equal, and/or has the same (if not higher) earning potential. I’m not saying that formal education = intelligence; I’m just acknowledging people who have vastly different educational backgrounds and experiences can have trouble relating to one another (assuming they travel in the same circles and ever meet each other in the first place). I have experienced this first-hand.

    The fact is, your 20s are your prime years for attracting a suitable mate and for having children. It is during these years that we are naturally at our strongest, healthiest and most physically attractive. And I realize it is possible to bear healthy children later in life, but it can take longer to conceive–possibly requiring medical intervention– and carry greater risks to mother and child.

    It is largely because of changes in social and moral expectations (along with economic factors) that we now think the early twenties is too young to get married. It wasn’t unusual for people in our parents and grandparents generations to marry their high-school or college sweethearts; many of these couples are still happily married today. But they met and married in a world when out-of-wedlock pregnancy still carried a stigma, when a young adult was treated like an adult and not a child, and when young men were more likely to be encouraged to find good wives. So, age is not the problem–it’s our lower expectations and the resultant lower maturity level of today’s 20-somethings that is the problem.

    People sometimes think they have to be financially settled before marrying, but that doesn’t necessarily make sense. When you marry someone, you can pool your resources so that in the long-term you can be better off than either of you would have been alone.

    I guess I wrote such a long post because this really struck a chord with me. I didn’t attend an Ivy League school, but I probably dated more during my college/grad school years than I have in the entire 10+ years since then. It DOES get harder to meet someone, and I wish someone had encouraged me to think about that.

  • Aisha Samara

    ‘m never one for the long dramatic post; however, as a collegiate woman preparing for graduation this article is extremely interesting. I was sitting at a car dealership in the waiting room while my car getting an oil change a few days before starting college as freshman. This lady, whom I didn’t know, strikes up a conversation. When I told her that I would be starting college soon, she offered a bit of advice. “Find your husband while you are in school, because it gets so much harder afterwards. You never meet as many men and the odds of you finding an acceptable mate after college is slim to none.” Well that bit of advice has haunted me my entire collegiate career. I have seen other young women struggle with the same thing, clinging on to a faulty relationship thinking that it is the one and only chance they’ll have of “getting a man.” As my college years come to a close, I realize that college isn’t about finding a man. It’s about being selfish (yes there’s a such thing as being positively selfish), making decisions (rather good or bad) and learning from them, learning about yourself, and developing friendships with people that will actually last. I can’t say I snatched a husband in my four years of undergrad but I snatched a whole lot of other things that will serve me well.

  • Perhaps the delivery could have been a little different, but I agree with everything that she said. She’s not saying that someone should hit the altar the day after graduation, marry another person solely for the reputation of their school, or that a woman should not focus on her career aspirations. (On a personal note, I think that it’s wrong to automatically pass a man over solely because he works a blue-collar job, or because he doesn’t have as much education as a woman does. One never knows where true love might find them.) All she’s saying is that it’s important for women to establish these potential connections while they are around eligible men who are on the same plane that they are, that will stay with them after they leave college, and there’s nothing wrong with that. At the end of the day, it’s about compatibility and mindset. People may not find their soul mate at their university, but it’s definitely a good place to start. One is more likely to find someone with the same intellectual and personal interests that they have. Furthermore, I feel that we as Black women often get criticized for having higher standards and not settling for anyone, just for the sake of saying that we have somebody. If we took this advice more seriously (while still focusing on who we are and not letting husband-hunting consume us) it could save us from a lot of potential problems down the road. We deserve to have someone who is right for us.

  • prettyinBLACK

    this article made me think about a conversation I had with my older male cousin not long after I started college. I asked him why he wasn’t in relationship (he’s in his 30s) and he said dating becomes a lot harder after college. members of the opposite sex of a particular caliber aren’t as readily available as they are in college (esp. if you are in a field dominated by members of your same sex such). I’ve thought about this a lot as I approach my undergraduate graduation. I will be in a 2 year graduate program starting in the fall and then pretty nomadic with work for another 5 or so years so not being in a relationship now is kind of scary given I don’t know what the potential for meeting men will be over the next 7 years and I know that I want to start a family, preferably before 30.

    When getting any type of advice I think it is important to consider whether the advice giver understands your desires and motivations. This advice is very sound for someone like me who is career oriented but would also be incomplete without a family whereas it is irrelevant for others.

    • That’s an excellent point. A lot of my classmates are married, and I’m wondering “How did you guys find a husband so quickly?”, haha! I’m in a two year M.A. program as well, and I also wonder about the job market as well as the romance department. It’s not impossible, but it definitely takes a lot more work in terms of evaluating the guys you meet, and wondering whether they’ll be compatible with what you want in life.

  • It’s funny how she doesn’t give that same advice to her sons. I mean, should men not also marry their intellectual equals? Also, going to an ivy league school doesn’t make you smart or intelligent. She sounds like an arrogant idiot who shoved her career and “intellect” in her ex-husband’s face. Marry who you want and when you want. What’s the point of rushing to marry a mistake? Her advice really should have been to tell women not to settle for less than they’re worth even if they are pushing 30 or whatever.

    • Tonyoardee

      We dont need the advice because we are the minority in college. In my major classes out of like 27 students there were only like 4 or 5 guys and i was at an HBCU.. GE classes maybe 12 guys out of 50

  • She is 100% right! We are missing the point probably because most of us giving critique are in our 30s and single.We have to assist our daughters by giving them valid advice.As the author said it’s about the numbers.

  • EDAD

    I agree with her 100%. I met my husband in college (1998) and we were married in 2003. We are still married to this day with two kids. I never even had to go through the dating process. In college you have a group of men all in one place that are like-minded, ambitious, and more than likely want the same things out of life that you do. Some of my best friends who are not married yet and have yet to find someone that they could see themselves marrying tell me all of the time that I should be glad that I found my husband in college. They say that dating is for the birds and that it is extremely hard to figure out where to go to meet men. They are also freaking out because their biological clock is ticking and they are worried that their time is running out when it comes to having kids. They are in their early to mid 30’s and figured that they would’ve been married by now with kids. All of us are still in the process of figuring out what we really want to do in our careers, but I feel very lucky to be settled in my family life and have plenty of time to determine where to take my career. Sometimes, the freedom that my single friends have can be deceivingly attractive but I have to sit back and think of how blessed I am as well even with the dirty diapers and weekends taking care of sick children.

    • SheBe

      I second all of this!!!

  • SheBe

    It worked for me. Add the benefit of building wealth and growing together and I say go for it. I know it’s not fool proof and doesn’t apply to everyone but it doesn’t hurt to try.

  • Harlow Montreese

    Who is anyone to tell anybody to find a spouse and I don’t care if it’s 2013 or 1953?!? Not all women wants to be married, especially in college where people are finding themselves and trying to reach their goals in life. Shoot in this day and age, marriage is like a job requirement: you gotta do this and do that and blah, blah, blah. I’m 33, no man and no kids and I’m happy and still young!

  • I will tell y’all this, what the lady said in that letter works!

  • You can be prideful
    and turn a deaf ear to truth and knowledge like it or not the lady is telling
    the truth, you can take it or leave it, what the lady is saying is what most
    white, yellow, brown women tell their daughters, Black people tell their
    daughters to go to college and get a good education so they can be independent
    and take care of them self, white brown and yellow people tell their daughters
    to go to college and get a good education and find them a husband so they can
    put “two good income” together so they can live well. Black women you heard what
    they been telling their daughters all the while, black women you can continue to
    fight the sexual revolution but when you wake up you will fine out you been
    fighting it all by yourselves and the white, yellow and brown women have long
    gone home taking care of her family and making sure her children stay up on and
    ahead of your children!

  • Sherice Howard

    I agree with her article. I am in my 30’s and many of the guys that I meet ( and almost even married) are not as willing to accept a woman whose star may be rising faster than his. If you are earning more than him, there will eventually be a imbalance in the energy between you two because most men identify their masculinity through their ability to take care of their woman. If you are carrying the bulk of the load financially, eventually you will feel some kind of way about it. Also, finding a partner while still in college is ideal due to your acceptance of him BEFORE he gets to the top. That is important to a man. Knowing that you were with him when he had nothing makes all of the difference. Lastly, there is nothing worse as a woman then having to ” dumb down” and dim your bright star in an effort to make your man feel masculine. You have worked too hard to earn that education/position to not be able to enjoy your achievements. So, by having a man who has also taken this path, you have a partner who can truly appreciate where you are, and what it took to get there.

  • DoinMe

    She is ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY 100% right. I think this is more important for black women especially. Once we leave from college, finding a black man with a degree who isn’t married, engaged, or gay does indeed get harder. We’re always expected to “lower our standards” but white women aren’t taught this. They are taught to go after guys with high earning potential.

    There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be with your equal and for black women working on their degrees, that means snagging and bagging a man on college campus. Once the guy gets his degree and a decent job, he’ll be well on his way to marriage. Unlike these other lost jokers who can’t get it together and will string you along for 5-10 years , get you knocked up, and no wedding anywhere in sight.

    • qui8tstorm83

      I agree with her too! I regret not doing the things she mentioned. Now I’m dealing with being single…no kids and having to go through all the bad apples. I wish i at least would’ve dated a little more or established more friendship with males in college b/c it is hard trying to find that guy who is educated…no kids..etc…etc. as i get older.

      • DoinMe

        Luckily I did marry my college sweetheart (married for 10 years, but now divorced), but I look at my friends who didn’t snag a man while we were in school, and they are STILL searching. We have to teach the younger girls that “being a strong independent superwoman” first and then finding a man, is overrated.

        • Brit

          I don’t think there’s a specific way to date. Only you know what works for you. I had a long relationship my first couple of years of college and it stifled my growth and progress. I put so much energy into him that my grades slipped. It’s hard to balance grades, a relationship, extracurricular activities, and a social life.

          We meet so many people in college, so I definitely think we should keep our options open, but for some, it can be more troublesome than anything else. My best friend has been in a relationship all 4 years, but not without being so stressed that she lost a significant amount of weight. It can definitely take a toll. On top of that, many of us grow so much during our early 20’s. Right now, I’m still figuring out who I am and what career path I truly want. It’s very possible to outgrow your significant other. Also, I find that a lot of college guys dont want a serious relationship. They play around a lot, but not many are looking for a potential wife. Basically, there are pros and cons to both, so there’s no right or wrong way to go about it.

          • qui8tstorm83

            Good points and all true. That’s why i say establish friendships for those that don’t want a relationship or it’s too much to handle for them in while in college. You certainly deal with a lot attending college but if some sort of friendship or encounter is built with a guy in college you never know you may run into him and have a catching up conversation which could turn into a date and a date into marriage! 🙂

            • Brit

              Definitely! That’s why I keep my options open. You never know who will end up being the one.
              Some people find love in completely unconventional ways while others are more traditional. My mother knew my father for two months before they got married and they’ve been married for 30 years. Love knows no boundaries.

  • guest

    I think she has a valid point. I’m a single black woman about to be 30 who is dating in the ATL. Yea…i know! lol. I do wish i had scoped out more potential husbands candidates in college. lol. Meaning I think it would’ve been essential to at least create more friendships or encounters with quality guys. When we start getting into our careers I think it becomes harder to date and find a likely match.

    Not everyone will find their mate in college but college is a good “seed” to plant regarding potential dating opportunities in the future when you are ready for a relationship/marriage partner. I have had 3 or 4 college female classmates who re-connected with a guy friend from college; where they were just friends in college but ended up dating and now married.

    It’s no secret that people that are evenly yoked are very compatible. Plus, i think it helps to take the stress out of dating b/c it is highly likely you’re able to gain some knowledge on about a person and their background. The degrees of separation apply (The friend or a friend effect) and it would not be hard to get a little 411 on someone you may be interested so you would know if to pursue or not.

    • guest

      I just don’t agree about the Ivy League points she makes. I don’t understand why he would need to be an Ivy League guy. If he is educated or has a good trade or skill and progressing i don’t need him to share my IQ or match me college degree for college degree. Everybody with a degree doesn’t = smart or common sense!

  • No matter how much you love each other, a lack of compatibility will come in between you and your partner. I can only imagine how intimidating it must’ve been to date/marry someone who is way more educated and successful than you. Unfortunately, love can’t soothe the bruised ego of a man.

    As far as marriage is concerned, most women want the security and love that it provides. The more we act like we don’t want or need it, the less likely we are to get it. Don’t be afraid to say what you want or need in your life. Be true to yourself.

  • Brit

    I’m 22 now and I personally do not feel like I’m even close to finding a partner for marriage. I had a guy during my early years of college and it was too stressful & distracting. College can be a good place to find a guy, but it’s not guaranteed.

    If anything, I see more of my peers worried about dating than career planning. It won’t kill you to wait until graduate school or age 24 to start seriously dating. Do what works for you. Some ppl can manage both, some can’t.
    Also, a college education doesn’t guarantee intellectual compatibility.

    • IllyPhilly

      On point about everything!

    • Danes

      You’re missing the point. Her advice and conclusions were not absolute but strong advice that you should mindful of. I’m 30 and I was where you are now. Yes, a ring and babies is the last thing on your mind now but the majority of woman WILL be thinking about these at least by their late 20s. Be safe and God bless.

  • Kendall

    I found absolutely nothing wrong with this article. What’s wrong with finding your equal? My boyfriend does not have a four year but went to a two-year but he happens to be smart as a whip but couldn’t complete school due to life circumstances. I don’t believe in turning men down and only wanting to be with an Ivy league graduate but I also don’t believe in being someone with a negative IQ either.

  • Moe

    But why in college? If you get a good job, why not find a potential husband in that field. If you become an engineer, why not wait to find another engineer, why do you have to grab one in college where no ones future is certain? Just my thought.

    • qui8tstorm83

      We know realistically that every woman will not find their husband in college but it doesn’t hurt to try and to establish plenty of friendships and encounters that gives a woman more and better options once they are ready to find a husband. In college you have a larger selection of Men who clearly are like minded and share interests to you to some degree. You both are pursuing an education to gain a good career, in the same are range, you can find someone through campus organizations and interest groups that make you more likely to be compatable.

      There are several ways to find someone compatable to you in college verses going to boring seminars meeting a guy who works in your field…plus there are more options for women to pick from in college. Besides getting an education…college is one big “social networking” place. I think she is saying women should try to take advantage of those things more than what we are doing either through dating or establishing more friendships with males while in college. I know i wish i had done so.

    • FromUR2UB

      Like she said, the pool of eligible, desirable men will never be larger than at that time. She didn’t say that women had to be married by the time they graduated, just that if they hope to marry someday, and possibly have children, why not do a little multi-tasking while in college. I think it’s good advice. If most women could find the kind of man they wanted when they were ready to marry and have children, in their 30s, it would be a different matter.

    • Sherice Howard

      Good luck with finding a single man in your “field”. By the time his career has taken off, the woman who saw his star rising in COLLEGE has nailed him. It is not common to find a great guy in a great field who is single. Those that are single usually are the players who are loving the attention their high paying position affords them, and are in no rush to settle down. So if you are looking for a good time, look for someone in your field. If you are looking for a husband, father for your children, catch him in COLLEGE.


    White parents tell their children this all the time….aint news to me

    • guest

      Exactly! lol. They think something is wrong with them..esp the girls if they didn’t have at least 1 serious relationship in college. lol. They are essentially killing two birds with one stone…getting a degree and a potential husbad.

  • silkynaps

    It’s easy to say that times are changing and people need to adapt to the new standard, but as much as we like to believe to the contrary, humans are just not that progressive. We’re doing the same thing today that we did in the beginning of time just with better technology.

    Relationships are just more successful with a stronger male counterpart. Most women prefer a strong male, but are lucky if they can settle for an equal.

    Some men are secure in themselves regardless of financial position, but most are uncomfortable with a more successful female counterpart.

    You can probably think of a million exceptions: Women that like to be in charge, male gold diggers looking to post up and lounge off his woman’s success, etc. etc. and a cashmere sweater. But those are exceptions.