This interview with members of the Pembroke College class of 1962 spotlights the undergraduate experiences of Letha Brooks Smenton, Diana Lee Wilkoc, Jane Alice DeCourcy, Roberta Jean Adams, Dale Ronda Burg, Joan Ferris Baker, Helene Enid Schwarts, and Joyce Klaber, at their 50th reunion.
The interviewees begin by introducing themselves and sharing where they are currently living and what they do personally and professionally. They explain their various reasons for attending Pembroke, including the homey feel and the coeducational classes, and then open up about their on campus experiences with emphasis on living in the dormitories. They highlight curfews, dining, and the honor code, as well as the consequences for breaking the college’s rules.
The interviewees agree that Pembroke provided the best of both worlds because they were part of a women’s college and were still able to take courses with men and enjoy the benefits of attending an Ivy League college. Yet, they acknowledge areas of Brown University that women could not participate in such as working for The Brown Daily Herald.
Other topics discussed are the school’s physical education requirements, including a swimming test required for women to graduate, and posture pictures – photographs that Brown University captured of freshman students while they were naked in contribution to a eugenics-like experiment developed in the 1940s by the psychologist William Herbert Sheldon. Sheldon collected thousands of photographs from Ivy League institutions under the auspice of checking for scoliosis but likely to examine body types and social hierarchies of Ivy League populations. For more information about posture pictures, see the following article.
The interview concludes with the alumnae explaining the unique historical context of their time at Pembroke, positioned between the traditionalism of their mothers and the Women’s Movements of the 1960s.
Pembroke Hall, Brown University