Miriam Dale Pichey’s interview is an energetic insight into the politics of student life at Brown University in the late 1960s and early 1970s. She describes both the campus atmosphere of gendered social rules and struggling for equal representation after the Pembroke-Brown merger, and the broader political environment of student activism during the Vietnam War and Civil Rights movement. She begins her interview discussing her family background and reasons for coming to the East coast to attend Brown. She moves on to discuss the disadvantages of being at a women’s college in a larger university setting, describing old fashioned rules such as curfew, bed checks, and posture pictures – a eugenics practice that included taking photos of nude students under the guise of checking for scoliosis. Pichey speaks on the absurdity of these rules that reinforced strict gender divisions and gender expectations while the Vietnam War and Civil Rights Movement were in full swing: “the world was exploding around us and we’re sitting there, learning how to use forks and walking with books on our heads.”
Pichey considers the social changes at Brown during her time there, describing the campus’s move from a staid environment to a more open, experimental one. She spends most of Part 1 discussing her political involvement and activism on campus against a backdrop of immense social unrest. She speaks of the Anti-War movement on campus, the struggle to institute the New Curriculum that did away with course requirements and encorporated the radical idea of self-directed study, the Black Student Walkout in 1968, and the Student Strike in 1970. She also discusses the birth of the Women’s Movement and organizing for women’s rights on campus.
In Part 2, Pichey considers the difference between women and men in social movements themselves, and the hostility or indifference the women’s movement was met with. She ends her interview by celebrating the struggle to advance rights for women, people of color, and minorities of any sort.
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts