This interview captures the undergraduate experiences of Helena Patricia Hogan, Pearl Schwartz, Margery Gould Sharp, Diane Joslyn Lake, Barbara Anton, Joan Wright Bliss, Barbara Reuben Levin, Marilyn Jane Carlson, Patricia Crabtree, Jettabee Edman, Diana Coates Gill, Kay Elizabeth Hellstrom, Felice Sara Rinder, and Sidney Okashige, members of the Pembroke College class of 1954, at their 50th Reunion.
The alumnae begin their interview by discussing their admissions process and reasons for choosing to attend Pembroke College. They speak on the coordinate status and atmosphere of Pembroke before moving on to discuss dormitories. They swap stories, reminiscing about pranks they would play and “enclaves” full of friends. The interviewees then move on to talk about dating and the social lives of Brown and Pembroke students.
The alumnae begin to reflect on the label “silent generation” to describe women of their time. They decide that they were aware of more domestic issues and civil rights, and were concerned about injustice in the world in a broad general way, but did not know what to do politically: “we cared, we just were naive.” While specific political issues were not as accessible to them, community engagement and volunteer work was. The interviewees discuss their work in these areas, and reminisce on major political moments of their time, including the McCarthy hearings.
The alumnae also discuss academic requirements, the scandal of posture pictures – a practice that included taking photos of nude students ostensibly as part of a eugenics project assessing social hierarchy; extracurriculars, parietal rules and gracious living, and the honor system, remembering the strict rules and codes they were expected to live by. Anton specifically shares her experience as married woman in college, and her prohibition from dormitories. Anton says she got the impression that she was contaminating, dangerous, going to lead other women astray.
The alumnae discuss Dean Nancy Duke Lewis, female teachers, and role models at Pembroke, reflecting on the importance of supporting the Pembroke Center and valorizing the history of women at Brown. They conclude their interview by considering their own careers and lives, agreeing that the message at Brown and for the rest of their lives was to lead a life of usefulness and reputation.
Alumnae Hall, Brown University