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.

Eleanor Rosalie McElroy, class of 1937

In this interview, Eleanor Rosalie McElroy, class of 1937, begins by describing her family and educational background, emphasizing the liberal-minded nature of her single mother that encouraged her to attend Pembroke College and study American history. She also briefly describes a teaching fellowship that she received after graduation, in the midst of the Great Depression, and the nature of dating on campus. She generally recalls deans Margaret Shove Morriss and Eva Mooar, and physical education director Bessie Rudd.

Eleanor Mary Addison, class of 1938

In this interview, Eleanor Mary Addison begins by considering the difficulties of being a commuter student, not being able to build a community on campus, and the financial strain of living in a dormitory. She recalls participating in choir, correcting math papers, and tutoring, all for money, in order to continue studying at Pembroke College through the Great Depression, and she explains that this was not unusual at the time.

Josephine Mary Russo, class of 1938

In this interview, Josephine Mary Russo, class of 1938, explains that she had wanted to attend college since the age of ten. When she came of age, her parents required her to remain in her home state of Rhode Island, so she chose to attend Pembroke College. During the interview, Russo discusses the Great Depression and the importance of working while she was in school because jobs were so scarce at the time. Russo also recalls taking college boards and academic requirements, such as physical education, in addition to compulsory Chapel.

Virginia Belle Macmillan, class of 1938

Virginia Belle Macmillan begins Part 1 of her interview by describing her childhood and family in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. She recalls her years at Pembroke College, in particular her role on the Pembroke Record staff, and as President of the Student Government Association. She also discusses life as a commuter student, attending college during the Depression, and interactions with Brown faculty members.

Clara Elizabeth Goodale, class of 1939

Clara Elizabeth Goodale ‘39 is the niece of Nettie Goodale Murdock who was a member of Pembroke College’s first class in 1895. This interview captures the memories Murdock shared with her niece of her time at Pembroke.

Elaine Barbara Frank, class of 1939

In this interview, Elaine Frank ’39, the daughter of a Providence-born father and Lithuanian-born mother, describes herself as a “City Girl” and discusses her decision to attend Pembroke College as a transfer student from LaSalle Junior College. She details her involvement in various dramatic societies at Hope High School, Pembroke, and throughout Rhode Island. Frank also recalls her Pembroke gym teacher, Bessie Rudd, and Dean Margaret Shove Morriss, as well as coeducational and single-sex classes on both the Pembroke and Brown campuses.

Margaret Mary Porter, class of 1939

Margaret "Peg" Mary Porter begins Part 1 of her 1988 interview discussing her family background and her motivation for both going to college and choosing Pembroke College. She reflects on what is was like to attend college during the Depression years, Franklin Delano Roosevelt becoming President of the United States, and the beginnings of WWII. She considers her freshman year, required courses, and her classes, telling vivid stories of professors. Porter speaks on the then archaic social and academic rules for Pembroke students, and her extracurricular activities on campus.

Theresa Elizabeth Gagnon, class of 1939 - First Interview

Theresa Elizabeth Gagnon begins Part 1 of this interview by discussing her early experiences at Pembroke, including freshman orientation week and the embarrassing experience of taking posture photographs. She also talks about the academic curriculum at Pembroke, her passion for languages, and the strict physical education requirement. 

In Part 2, she talks about the interactions between men and women, dress codes and rules on campus, dorm girls vs. city girls, her passion for teaching, and the positive female influences found in college.

Theresa Elizabeth Gagnon, class of 1939 - Second Interview

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.

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