Undergraduate Student Blog, Speaking of Princeton

Undergraduate Student Blog

Author: Peyton Lawrenz ’19

Santa Fe, New Mexico • Politics View Profile

W: Women at Princeton, Women’s March on NY, Welcome

Princeton’s informal motto, “Princeton in the nation’s service and the service of humanity” speaks to a valued commitment to service that all Princeton students share. The motto unites part of President Woodrow Wilson’s famous “In the Nation’s Service” speech with part of Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s (Class of 1976) call for a broader definition of service in her speech at the reception for the Woodrow Wilson Award on Alumni Day in 2014. In her acceptance speech, Sotomayor spoke to the lasting value of the motto: “I live with Princeton’s motto in my heart, as you do, because it was emblazoned there during our time here.” 

The University’s informal motto, revised to accommodate her recommendations, imbues campus culture with important civic values including service and global involvement as citizens, voters and members of civic society. As a student, as a woman and as a citizen, on Jan. 21, I joined the ranks of thousands of others in marches across the United States and around the world, choosing to march for these values and “in the service of all humanity.”

The morning of the Jan. 21, I set an alarm for 4 a.m., strapped my wallet, water bottle and a stash of snacks to my body, stapled several prints by artists Jesus Barraza & Melanie Cervantes, emblazoned with the phrase “VIVA LA MUJER” to a poster board, and blearily marched to the Dinky train station (an NJ Transit stop) in order to meet a group of students planning to bus down to D.C. to participate in the Women’s March on Washington. 

Unfortunately, due to some logistical errors, we missed our bus, and I missed several hours of sleep. So, several hours later, instead of joining my older sister, who lives in D.C., and thousands of other pink hat-wearing women, I jumped on a train to New York City with one of my roommates and several friends. In New York, the subway was a sea of pink hats. Women, men and children pushed forward, moving as a mass toward the starting point of the march. Between Penn Station and 42nd Street, every block was swarmed with citizens and people wielding signs with powerful and honest messages. Every person, empowered by the understanding of unity, chanted together. “This is what democracy looks like,” the crowd chanted. This is what democracy looks like; this is what unity looks like; this is what the power of women looks like.   

When Girls Come to Princeton

A chapter heading from a book found in the Princetoniana collection in Chancellor Green Library: "When Girls Come to Princeton."

Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Meg Whitman and Michelle Obama: These are but some of numerous Princeton graduates who have led and continue to guide women at this University, serving as models of both the University’s core values and its students’ commitments to curiosity, intellectual passion and ambition. These are the women that have championed unity, diversity and equality at Princeton. These are the women that I looked to as I marched in New York and will continue to look to as I attend meetings for the Princeton Students for Gender Equality Club, and as I walk through the campus of a University that has worked hard to become welcoming to all.
Princeton became a co-educational institution in 1969, admitting 171 women as full members of the undergraduate student body. The students who matriculated as first-year students in 1969 graduated with the Class of 1973, becoming the first graduating class to include women for all four years. I will graduate in 2019 as the University celebrates its 50th year as a co-educational institution, one that welcomes students not only women, but also students of every gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status.