Beatrice Wattman Miller, class of 1935

Beatrice Wattman Miller, class of 1935

Beatrice Wattman Miller was a Providence native who graduated from Brown in 1935 with an AB in Sociology. Her family includes three generations of Brown alumnae/i: her late brother Edwin "Bunty" Wattman '45, late sister-in-law Frances Singer Wattman '39, daugher Caryl-Ann Miller Nieforth '59, niece Selina Winicour Barron '57, and grandson Andrew Lewis Feldman '86, MD'91.

Beatrice "Bea" Wattman was the daughter of a jeweler who immigrated from Moldavia in 1895  at age 18, and a mother who came from Austria as a young child. Raised in Providence along with two younger brothers, she attended Hope High School, where her classes in the "Classical" curriculum track were taught by several Brown alumnae. This interview touches on many subjects relating to her family, education, and work. 

As a local "city girl," Bea walked or took the trolley to Pembroke College each day, and while she did not participate in the formal extracurricular activities that interested residential students, she fondly recalls the hours she spent playing bridge at West House with the other commuters. The account Bea gives of her time as a student is both rich and entertaining. She spent very little time in the library, since "that third floor was too high," and chose to major in Sociology because as a new department, it required the fewest courses and scheduled no classes before 10:00 a.m. or on Saturdays. Beatrice also comments on several of the required activities for female students at Pembroke College: posture photographs ("that was stupid"); physical education and swimming requirements; Human Biology, in which she got her partner to "do the dirty work" of dissecting the frog; and mandatory chapel, which was held on Tuesdays and Thursdays. At the Tuesday religious services, Bea and other Jewish girls would listen, but refrained from singing. On Thursdays, she remembers visits from pianist Martha Baird, who later married John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

Discussing her life beyond college, Bea insists on the importance of her self-taught ability to type. With typing, as with bridge, watching and listening were her key modes of instruction. She ends the interview by discussing the education she, her daughter, and her grandson all received from Brown and the school's reputation among local Rhode Islanders.

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Providence, RI

Interviewed by Jane Lancaster