Good Night, Sweet Princess


In a recent post on UVA, discussion in the comment thread turned to the imminent closing of Sweet Briar College. Assistant editor Chris Sharp offers the following musings.

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The pink and green world comprised of both alumni and the larger preppy diaspora was recently rocked by the news that Sweet Briar College is set to close. The women’s college situated on a former Virginia plantation and founded in 1901 announced that it would cease operations on August 25th of this year due to “insurmountable financial challenges.”


Recently I came across this video for prospective students from 2010. It is scenic, full of iconic pink and green imagery, heavy on the school’s equestrian traditions yet stressing inclusion, all presented to a hummable modern country feminist anthem by Stephanie Quayle titled “Sweet Briar Woman,” a song which appears to be a hit at parties.


“The Official Preppy Handbook” gives a nod to Sweet Briar. In 1980, the year of the book’s publication, 50 percent of the 700-member student body had attended prep school. The book wryly described Sweet Briar women as “very pretty girls all of whom aspire to speak French so they may spend junior year in Gay Paree.”


Politically correct objections aside, the Sweet Briar women of the 1980s were bright, beautiful and charming.  They were they type of woman that other women hated. One might go as far as to say they were “stone cold foxes,” or more correctly (and politically incorrectly), “vixens,” though that may not be obvious from the image below.


If this is really the end, if in the vernacular of the hunt “they are going to ground,” the least we can do is offer an Ivy Style homage to 114 years of Sweet Briar tradition.  Tally-ho, and thanks for the memories ladies. — CHRISTOPHER SHARP

17 Comments on "Good Night, Sweet Princess"

  1. I know nothing about this place, but I’m sorry to see it, and others like it, go. Just one less choice in the world. Doubtless, the lasses here have the mental horsepower to do well anywhere. Probably had the resources, too. Sad that they’ve been stripped of a cultural option. Who goes next? Vassar? Mills? What do we gain, and what do we lose when we keep throwing away molds until there are only a few left?

  2. Looks like the Sweet Briar culture that once was…changed.

    “…rich girl days were long gone.”

  3. Vern Trotter | April 11, 2015 at 9:35 am |

    Throughout my lifetime, at all the thoroughbred racetracks, Churchill Downs, Belmont and Saratoga, all the rest, and at the Maryland and Virginia, and all the rest, point to points, anytime there was a woman owner, trainer or jockey, it was a good bet that she went to Sweet Briar. Horses, and Sweet Briar, were infused into these families.

    Just a few years ago it was named the prettiest campus in America. This is a real tragedy!

  4. I always thought of Corkie, the Sweet Briar heroine of “The Preppy and the Trout,” as being as described — beautiful but somewhat cold. A shame about the old college closing.

  5. Never heard of that piece. What is it, a short story? Who wrote it and when?

  6. Etymologue | April 11, 2015 at 1:26 pm |

    Interview with the author of “The Preppy and the Trout”:

  7. I’ve had a few experiences with Sweet Briar women – all good – but will only write here about one. The wife of a close friend attend and she is a “right and proper” woman from Upperville, Virginia; a beautiful woman and an accomplished equestrian.

    I recall that back in the day the guys from UVA and and W&L would say that Sweet Briar’s motto was, “Ring by spring or your money back.” In any event, the institutions closing is probably another example of the cultural shift going on…

  8. A lot of formerly all-male colleges in the South are now coed. And a lot of them, like W&L and Davidson and Sewanee, are preppy havens. So, a safe guess is that the girls who might have once upon a time opted for Sweet Briar now look to one of those schools. Or similar.

  9. Christian, here is the link for “The Preppy and the Trout,”
    Also available on Apple. My daughters loved it.

  10. Janet Lee Bouvier, Jackie O’s mother was a graduate.

  11. Nice place, beautiful place. Ladies arriving there were bright enough but pampered all their lives and naïve about the world at large. No bottom fishing where men were concerned. Mothers saw to that. I had the privledge of dating a few while my cousin was a student there. Most married well and had a dowery. Although, the girls lived sheltered lives they were given good values, good education and respected. The college was a gem.

  12. I had the privilege of enjoying road trips there (and also to Hollins), when a high school buddy was an undergrad at Hampden-Sydney. I’m sorry to hear that it will be no more.

  13. I remember quite fondly a Sweet Briar lady with whom I had the pleasure of working for a couple of years.
    At the time, late 1970’s, I was a few years out of Rutgers and working in marketing for a large publishing house ( we sold real hard covered books, imagine that). Betsy, who was 4 or 5 years our senior, could enter a room and put a spell on us—NYC, Northeast Corridor boys– with her beauty, class, charm, wit and Virginia accent. Sweet Briar will remain alive due to the impression made by memorable women like her.

  14. Word is they’ve reached an agreement to keep Sweet Briar open. Good news for young ladies!

  15. DCG
    Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit has been covering the on going Sweet Briar legal issues, interesting and good news so far.

  16. Just checked out the SB website, all looks normal, accepting students, mention of Covid-19 precautions, etc. Still all women. Hope they are now stable enough to survive the Covid era and come out still intact and thriving. I think the all women, as well as all men colleges, and universities have a special cache that gives them a unique graduating product and focus without the distraction of social interaction. Per the OPH: Single-sex schools are preppier. Like boarding, going to a single sex school is just plain more old-fashioned and therefore Preppier.

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