Interviews by Decade: 1930s

In their interviews, alumnae of the 1930s recall elements of their experiences as both “city girls” and “dorm girls.” They discuss Pembroke College’s academic curriculum, mandatory physical education and chapel, the effects of the Great Depression, and student traditions. The women also share stories about their families, local communities, and careers.

Image: Athletics, 1936. Bessie Huntting Rudd became Pembroke College's Director of Athletics in 1930. A believer in competitive sports for women and in mandatory physical education, she introduced new activities to the curriculum, including tumbling, badminton, and lacrosse. Rudd was named Full Professor in 1952. She was succeeded by Arlene Gorton in 1961. Image source: Brun Mael.

In this interview conducted in 2012, Theresa Elizabeth Gagnon Mellone ’39, discusses her auspicious start at Pembroke College at the age of fifteen. She remembers being interviewed by Dean of Admissions Eva Mooar and being denied Spanish classes by Dean Margaret Shove Morriss because they were full of men. She also recalls the character of President Henry Wriston. Mellone shares her favorite memories of attending proms, passing the swimming test, and participating in field hockey, bowling, and basketball under the supervision of the Director of Physical Education Bessie Rudd.

In this interview conducted in 2012, Theresa Elizabeth Gagnon ’39, discusses her auspicious start at Pembroke College at the age of fifteen. She remembers being interviewed by Dean of Admissions Eva Mooar and being denied Spanish classes by Dean Margaret Shove Morriss because they were full of men. She also recalls the character of President Henry Wriston. Gagnon shares her favorite memories of attending proms, passing the swimming test, and participating in field hockey, bowling, and basketball under the supervision of the Director of Physical Education Bessie Rudd.

Cecile Lena Kantrowitz Israel, class of 1930

Cecile Lena Kantrowitz Israel begins this interview by explaining her Russian heritage and Jewish upbringing, her father's career as a Hebrew teacher and cantor, and tracing her roots to Baal Shem Tov. She discusses her education at Classical High School, her mother’s liberated beliefs, and why she chose to attend Pembroke College. Regarding her education at Pembroke, Israel describes her first days, joining Phi Beta Kappa, and being a student of languages.

Dorothy Allen Hill, class of 1930

In this interview, Dorothy Allen Hill starts by discussing her aunt, Mary Hill, who graduated from Pembroke College in 1904, and her father’s early insistence that she attend Pembroke. She recalls mandatory chapel and physical education, making friends, and smoking cigarettes on campus. She also remembers mentorship by senior class members, teas, and working part-time at a local department store.

Helena Patricia Hogan, class of 1930

Helena Patricia Hogan was born in Ireland and was a student in 1928 when the Women’s College in Brown University became known as Pembroke College. She worked her way through school as a commuting student, or “city girl,” who came to campus every day on the trolley. In her interview, Hogan describes buildings on the Pembroke campus; her choice to major in Psychology; physical education; people she knew at Pembroke, and elements of her family history.

Jeannette Dora Black, class of 1930

In this interview, Jeannette Dora Black discusses her family, her education at Providence's Classical High School, and her reasons for attending Pembroke College. She remembers her requirements and classes at Pembroke, her feelings about coeducation, the Pembroke administration, and Dean Margaret Shove Morriss. Black recalls working at the John Hay Library and the effects of the stock market crash of 1929 and World War II on Pembroke.

Mary Bernadette Banigan, class of 1931

Mary Bernadette Banigan begins her interview by discussing her family background, her experience at Classical High School, and her reasons for attending Pembroke College. Throughout Part 1, she describes her favorite professors, and postgraduate options for an English major at Pembroke. She ends the section by explaining her time at Chapel and her extracurricular interests, particularly her intense involvement with Varsity Debating.

Rose Beatrice Miller, class of 1931

In this interview, Rose Beatrice Miller discusses the reasons she attended Pembroke College, her graduate studies, and career in bacteriology. She recalls Deans Margaret Shove Morriss and Eva Mooar, and biology professor Magel Wilder, her sole female professor at Pembroke. Mikker also shared memories of sex and dating, attending Pembroke as a "city girl," life during the Depression, and her work with Planned Parenthood.

Katherine Perkins, class of 1932

In this interview, Katherine Perkins talks about her family and her upbringing in East Providence and how she came to attend Pembroke College.  She discusses her travel as a day student to campus, the courses she took, extracurricular activities, the one Black woman in her class, and the Great Depression. Perkins describes her first career as a social worker and her later work as a French teacher at East Providence High School. At the end of the interview she discusses her activities in retirement, including the Brown Street Series and the Pembroke Club.

Bella Skolnick, class of 1933

Bella Skolnik’s interview provides a passionate story of activism in health, education, and welfare. She begins by reflecting on her thoughtful and supportive family and her childhood and moves on to tell vivid stories of her freshman year at Pembroke College, including her college friendships, house mother, dating, dormitories, "gracious living," and seeing the world through rose colored glasses. She considers the stock market crash in October 1929and the way it formed her and her peers’ college careers.

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