For many years, fraternities were an integral part of social life at Bowdoin. They resided in the buildings that are now college houses and hosted events such as interfraternity sports competitions and weekend parties. Though women were not allowed to attend Bowdoin as students, fraternity members brought women from surrounding communities and women’s colleges to campus as dates for dances and weekend socializing. In 1940, Life Magazine gave national attention to Bowdoin’s house parties, depicting men and women socializing together on campus more than thirty years before coeducation. Both the women guests and the men hosts conformed to the heterosexual and gendered expectations for romantic socializing. Men sought dates who were attractive, fashionable, and pleasant. Only these women were invited as men students’ dates.
“Life Goes to a Houseparty on the Campus of 150-Year-Old Bowdoin College at Brunswick, ME” in Life Magazine, January 8, 1940