Sylvia Rosen, class of 1955

Sylvia Rosen, class of 1955

Sylvia Rosen was born in 1933 in Toronto, Canada and raised in a small mill town in Massachusetts. When she was 13 her family moved to Springfield, Massachusetts, where her father worked in textiles and her mother was a housewife. Although neither of her parents attended college, Rosen was always expected to receive a formal college education. She attended Pembroke College in 1951, where she studied art history and French literature, and graduated in 1955. Three weeks after graduating from Pembroke she married her fiancé and college sweetheart, Sid Baumgarten.

In Part 1 of this interview, Sylvia Rosen reflects on her freshman year at Pembroke College, the dormitories, dating, and meeting her husband.

In Part 2, she expands on the “thrilling” academic atmosphere at Pembroke, as well as her experience as one of the few Jewish students on campus.

In Part 3, Rosen considers at length the perception of sexual activity on campus and the gendered expectations of sexual experience. She speaks on the rules about dating and the confusion around sex in a culture that never spoke of it. She also reflects on her life after college, including getting married and having children. She discusses the tension between her and her husband because of her domesticity, and the fact that her life, as many other women’s lives, revolved around her husband’s.

In Part 4, Rosen recalls threatening her husband with divorce. Committed to changing her life, she remembers becoming a freelance interior decorator and writing novels.

In Part 5, she speaks of her writing process, inspiration, and research. She discusses her own difficulty selling books that were not “love at first rape,” and considers the way in which literature was shaped by the gender and sexual norms of the time.

In Part 6, Rosen concludes her interview by explaining the genre of the romance novel, and considering writing as a way to create men who are healthy to fall in love with. 


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6
Recorded on Jul 6, 1988

New York, New York

Interviewed by Miriam Dale Pichey