In this interview, Lorraine Estelle Adler, Brown University class of 1945, discusses her experience as a student during the war years and also touches upon the events of September 11, 2001, and the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Adler begins by talking about her family background and early childhood. She describes growing up in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, as well as her family’s legacy at Brown and the assumption that she would attend Pembroke College – the women’s college in Brown University. She remembers graduating high school in June 1942 and deciding to attend Pembroke’s summer semester just 10 days later – an accelerated program that began due to World War II.
Adler goes on to elaborate on the war years. She details the time she spent going to the movies in order to see the news reels and hearing about the bombing of Pearl Harbor while listening to the radio in the living room with her parents and brother. Adler likens the nation’s experience with Pearl Harbor to the nation’s experience with COVID-19, specifically how both events caused a near immediate change in the way of life. She recalls watching uniformed male students march past her dorm room in West House as well as the stigma attached to male students who could not enlist for medical reasons. More specifically, Adler chronicles the secret government volunteer work she did while on campus which, she later learned, aided the Ally forces in the development of radar technology.
Additionally, Adler touches upon Pembroke’s parietal rules, grading structure, and traditions such as May Day. She recalls Saturday night dances where Pembrokers would go to meet men in hopes of getting married and she explains the pressures of having children before the age of 30.
Furthermore, Adler talks about her life after Pembroke, living in Boston, working as an interior designer, and celebrating VJ Day in the streets. She describes meeting her husband and leaving her career to have a family. In closing, she also briefly describes watching the events of September 11, 2001, and comments on having lived through several major historic events.