Helen Julia Thayer grew up in North Smithfield, Rhode Island. She remembers Pembroke as a place of "gracious living," including maids to clean the dorm rooms. The main pastime was dancing in the living room of Miller Hall to Jazz records. Rebellious activities included smoking in one's closet, sleeping out on the fire escapes, and sneaking out to the drug store after hours for treats. Prominent visitors to the Brown campus were figures of importance in World War I, and Helen's interest in music lead her to attend performances as often as she could in downtown Providence and on campus. Off campus events required a trusted female chaperone or a house mother-approved escort.
Thayer regrets not having more interaction with men in her day at Brown, aside from social occasions. People didn't protest together or work on causes together; she feels that it would have been a good way to get to know the male mind. While at Pembroke, she worked at the Pembroke library, as a babysitter, and in the Pembroke office answering the door and telephone to earn money to help pay for her expenses, including tickets to many musical and theatrical performances.