In a joint interview, classmates Edna Ruth MacDonald and Ruth Dorothea Peterson speak on the academic atmosphere at Pembroke College and the heavy constraints placed on women’s conduct and careers in the early 1900s. They begin by discussing their decisions to attend Pembroke, describing the expectation of college education their families had for them. MacDonald imagines that perhaps their mothers regretted getting married early and not going to college, and wanted something different for them. MacDonald and Peterson speak on the tremendous dropout rate of their class, with about half of the less than 100 women withdrawing from Pembroke during their course of study. They consider the strict division between campuses, and the disappointment of being prohibited from classes with certain professors and the imperative of being “seen not heard” for women in the academic world. They reflect on the limited career choices women had in 1919, and the devaluing of women’s education and intellectual competency. The alumnae end their interview by describing how they adored college, and pointing to how far women have come.
Ruth Dorothea Peterson, class of 1919
Interviewed by Barbara Raab
Topics: 1910s, Academics, Gender Expectations, Marriage, Professors, Sexism