Women and Men of Brown University
1924 – 2006
The ongoing history of Ladies of the Faculty, presents an interesting study of the roles of academic wives for more than half of the 20th century, and of the changes in social life styles of women in general. The name of our organization has somewhat reflected those changes over the years: Ladies of the Faculty, Sepia Club, Post Sepia Club, the Margaret Manning Club (in honor of the wife of the first president of Brown), the Women of Brown (WOB), and the Women and Men of Brown (WMB).
The purpose of the Ladies of the Faculty was to “promote acquaintance and fellowship and to afford opportunities for its members to meet each other socially.” Although the original social purpose remains, we now include an additional emphasis on service to the University Community, newcomers, and visitors.
The Ladies of the Faculty continued for over fifty years with fairly consistent formal meetings. During the feminist movement in the late 1960’s, the support for the formal format was weakening, and several adjunct groups were formed to serve the changing needs and life styles of faculty wives and also the increased number of women employed at Brown.
By February 1979 the Bylaws state, “the name of our organization is The Women of Brown Community.” Thus our name had evolved from the formal Ladies of the Faculty to the less formal Women of Brown or WOB.
Membership eligibility in the Ladies of the Faculty differed greatly from the present time. The lists were originally “determined by the Men’s Faculty Club since the Association is to be the guest of the Club in the use of the Club House.” The members were listed by their husbands’ names except for the possible few Pembroke College administrators or women faculty members. In 1935 the Pembroke College Dean invited the group to hold meetings in Alumnae Hall, and membership lists were then obtained from Department rosters.
Presently, membership is extended to all persons who are, or whose spouses or partners are, affiliated with the University as faculty, staff, graduate students, administrators, visitors or alumni. Indeed, as of May 2005, MEN were welcomed as members.
Monthly afternoon meetings of the Ladies of the Faculty continued until the 1970’s. The program was usually a formal address by a speaker followed by a meeting after which the members adjourned to a formal tea table with pourers assigned at ten-minute intervals. (The members’ attire was also very formal; through the 1950’s suits, white gloves, and hats were worn by the majority.)
At the present time there are only two meetings a year for the general membership, both held in the evening. At the first meeting in the fall newcomers are welcomed, there is a speaker and a presentation of the opportunities offered by the various Interest Groups. The program of the spring annual meeting includes reports, the presentation of the RUE awards and the election of officers. Refreshments continue to be served but more informally, buffet-style.
The Interest Groups
The present interest groups had some beginnings as early as 1933. Experimental “study groups” were formed with such topics as Dramatics, Bird Watching, Word Study, Swimming, and Gardening. The Garden Club continued as the Brunonia Garden Club for many years. The present successful bi-weekly coffee social hour developed from a swimming club, except that only an occasional member bothered to go swimming before the coffee hour.
The current list of interest groups is very diverse. The number of interest groups is flexible and will vary as new groups are formed and old ones are disbanded.
The Service Projects
Although service was not originally specified as an objective, in reality the Ladies of the Faculty was active in the community. It sponsored several fund-raising events and contributed to such projects as a Pembroke College dormitory and various scholarships. Red Cross service groups were established during World War II.
At present, a reception for newcomers is held each fall to welcome them into the Brown community. In addition the Household Leasing Service rents furniture and household items to international graduate students, visiting faculty, and RUE (Resumed Undergraduate Education) students. Furthermore, in recent years we have presented monetary awards to Resumed Undergraduate Education (RUE) students from the receipts of the Household Leasing Service and from the proceeds of the annual Spring Concert.
Our organization derives its strength from its ability to change and to meet new needs of its members. At the annual meeting in 2005 we voted to include men, and at the spring 2006 meeting the membership accepted the change of our name to Women and Men of Brown University (WMB). Who can say what the future will bring?
Revised from the 1996 directory.