Interviews by Topic: Feminism

Alice Mary Clark Donahue, class of 1946

Part 1 begins with Alice Clark Donahue's recollections of her first impressions of Pembroke College, her involvement as a speech teacher, and being an assistant to Sock and Buskin. She then mentions her vast volunteer experience and discusses the implications of marriage and children on women's career opportunities. She elaborates on her volunteer work after graduation and her positions with the Junior Women's Club and the Junior Assembly of Rhode Island.

Charlotte Ferguson, class of 1924

In this interview, Ferguson tells why she chose Pembroke over Wellesley; how following a woman she admired, she wanted to become a Boston insurance agent; and that she never felt she needed to be liberated.  She discusses the remnants of Victorianism; marching for suffrage before age ten, and always having had a female doctor. She recalls the rules and regulations of Pembroke; mandatory chapel and the speeches given by Deans Allinson and Morriss; and the Brown/Pembroke merger which she opposed.

Constance Worthington, class of 1968

Connie begins by talking about her family’s involvement in Brown University, and her eventual decision to transfer to Brown. She then discusses her challenging time at Brown being a student, single mother, and a widow, and what it was like raising a son later diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Connie continues on talking about her involvement the Josiah Carberry Book Fund and the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women. She also mentions her female role models at Brown during both her time as a student and professional in Providence.

Cynthia Lee Jenner, class of 1961

In Part I, Cynthia begins by describing her family background. She talks about the contemporary stigma against a middle class wife with a career—and the effect of this on her mother and herself. From this context, she attended an all-girls boarding school and Pembroke, both of which sought (though failed) to prepare her for “gracious living.” She goes on to discuss deciding on Pembroke; her tour guide; living at 87 Prospect Street (now Machado House); and her advanced, discussion-based coursework.

Diane Scola, class of 1959

Diane Scola’s oral history is an example of autonomy and feminist conviction despite gender discrimination. She begins her interview discussing her Italian-American family background, applying to college, academics at Pembroke, and commuting to school. In track 2, Diane focuses on gender expectations in academia and the professional world, and the lack of women role models at Pembroke. She considers the expectation for women to get married, have children, and stay at home in suburbia, blaming society for placing limits on women.

Doris Madeline Hopkins, class of 1928

Doris Hopkins Stapleton begins Part 1 by discussing her early education and family life in Rhode Island. Doris talks about the expectations for “nice girls” at Brown in the 1920s, and about the curriculum at Brown, and the classes she took. She talks about 1920s fashion, dancing and bootleg liquor, including clubs around the city where students could go to drink. Doris talks about reading for classes and getting books from the public library when they were unavailable elsewhere. She mentions her friendship with Alice Chmielewski.

Edna Frances (Anness) Graham, class of 1950

In Part 1, Edna discusses her family background; preparing for Pembroke at Classical High School; attending classes with "mature" veterans who had just returned from WWII; her dating experiences and traveling with the Glee Club. She speaks briefly about her work as a teacher and what she would change in hindsight. She says the worst experience in college was the death of her father, while the best thing about college was the social life and attending dances.

Eleanor (Sarle) Briggs, class of 1928

In this interview, conducted sixty years after her graduation, Eleanor (Sarle) Briggs, class of 1928, explains that there was never any question that she would become a school teacher and receive her education at Brown University – known then as the Women’s College at Brown University – because her father, three uncles, and cousins had all graduated from Brown. She also explains that after taking courses in education and biology she found her niche in sociology.

Galia Siegel, class of 1989

In the first part of her interview, Galia Siegel speaks about her work with Project Birth – an advocacy, service, and educational program for pregnant and parenting teens in South Providence – and founding its corollary, Peer Sister, which matched women in Project Birth with women at Brown who would tutor them. In Part 2, Galia discusses her belief that the general atmosphere at Brown turned her into an activist. She then speaks of her family life, cultural expectations, and going off to college.

Helen Elizabeth Butts, class of 1928

In this interview Helen starts by discussing life at Pembroke, the academic arena, Silver Bay (a Christian summer conference), higher-level science classes, post-graduate life, and the career/family dichotomy. She goes on to talk about her experience with Dean Morriss, marriage ideals, and transition to computer usage. Helen finishes the interview by revealing her opinions on graduate school, housewives, and feminism.

Hilary (Ross) Salk, class of 1963

Hilary (Ross) Salk’s oral history is a story of feminism and community. She begins her 1988 interview discussing her search for community at Pembroke, and speaks about her experience as a “City Girl,” Pembroke rules, and studying women in Shakespeare. For Hilary, the birth of her first child galvanized her to feminism and specifically women’s health issues. For her, childbirth should be entirely in the hands of the woman who gives birth and her loved one.

Ingrid Winther Scobie, class of 1964

Ingrid Winther Scobie’s interview expresses the nuanced frustration women experience as a result of gender expectations that limit them and suppress their full potential. She begins her interview by discussing her childhood and early education. She reflects on her memories of the first day at Brown, her active social life, and her academics, pausing to note the lack of female role models at Pembroke.

Katherine May Hazard, class of 1933

In Part 1, Katherine begins by discussing daily life at Pembroke. For her, this meant commuting to campus and becoming used to the regimented life at Pembroke. She explains some of the requirements, what it was like to date mathematicians and that there was no way to not be involved on such a small campus. While she had mostly male professors, she believes that they were unhappy with trekking up to the Pembroke campus. Outside of class, there were a variety of activities and, oftentimes, formal dances.

Katherine Virginia (Niles) Faulkner, class of 1936

Katherine describes her early life in North Carolina; coming from a rural town with little emphasis on education; her initial hardship adjusting to life at Pembroke; her involvement in the Pembroke Christian Association (PCA); the Peace Movement between the two World Wars; fraternities; dorm life; and graduation. She discusses the death of her first husband; the decision to go back to work; and supporting her family. She outlines her career working for universities, museums, and corporations.

Linda Jennifer Peters Mahdesian, class of 1982

Linda Peters Mahdesian begins this interview by talking about her family background in Chicago, Illinois; her reasons for choosing Brown; the experience of bi-racial students at Brown; and the Women's Movement on campus. In Part 2, she discusses her jobs after graduation; hiring of minority faculty; and the choices that women have to make as a result of the gains of the Women's Movement.

Lucile Kay Wawzonek, class of 1972

In part 1 of her interview, Lucile Wawzonek Thompson discusses changing attitudes towards formal gender divisions on campus during the Pembroke/Brown merger. She begins by reflecting on the regulations at Brown in the late 1960s, including the male caller system and curfews. She speaks on the housing lottery and the advent of coed dorms, which she feels led to a looser social structure, especially in terms of dating.

Lydia Lauretia English, class of 1985

Lydia English came to Brown in 1981 as a resumed undergraduate education student, after having worked in banking in the US Virgin Islands for eight years. English states that her initial motivation to receive a liberal arts education was her newfound interest “in how cultures interact,” gathered from her extensive work in the Caribbean. English talks extensively on the challenge of juggling an adult, professional, career life with an undergraduate education, particularly with regards to managing finances, as she supported herself throughout.

Margaret Moers Wenig, class of 1978

[2013 Interview] Margaret Wenig begins by discussing her admission to Brown, where she was involved with the Brown University Women's Minyan. She discusses the rigor of the Religious Studies Department, the strength of its professors and their mentorship, specifically Professor Jacob Neusner, and her subsequent inspiration to go to the rabbinate at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Margery Chittenden Leonard, class of 1929

Margery Chittenden Leonard’s 1982 interview reflects her tireless passion for the Equal Rights Amendment. While she discusses her classes at Brown and her dormitories, the majority of Margery’s oral history is dedicated to discussing the fierce discrimination women faced because of their gender, and the necessity of the Equal Rights Amendment as the only way to reverse all of the gender discrimination encoded in the law.

Margot Landman, class of 1978

In Part 1 of this interview, Margot discusses her family background and their influence in her choice of college and major; her nerve-wracking first day at Brown; her best and worst memories as an undergraduate; the Chinese and Asian history departments at Brown; her extracurricular activities, including work at the Rape Crisis Center the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center and Hillel activities; and the social events she attended.

Marjorie Alice Jones, class of 1954

Marjorie Alice Jones Stenberg speaks as a member of the silent generation and considers the busy, active life she’s lead despite the fact that nobody expected anything from the women of her generation. She begins her interview by discussing her family background and reasons for attending Pembroke. She describes her experience as a transfer student and speaks on professors and academics, considering the closed attitude towards women in academia.

Martha Naomi Gardner, class of 1988

In Part 1 of this interview, Martha Gardner discusses the women's march and speakout held in the spring of 1985. She describes the fraternity activities and campus conditions that prompted female students to plan a day of events that addressed sexual violence, gender discrimination, and homophobia at Brown.  Part 2 focuses on the aftermath of the 1985 women's march and speakout; Martha's involvement with the Sarah Doyle Women's Center; gay and lesbian outreach and activism on campus; and her work as a Woman's Peer Counselor.

Mary Hill Swope, class of 1955

Mary Swope begins her interview discussing her childhood and family background, especially her family’s emphasis on education. She explains her decision to transfer to Pembroke from the Women’s College at the University of North Carolina for her junior and senior year of college, making her decision largely due to Brown’s art program. Mary also speaks on her mother’s expectation that she would marry, while she preferred to pursue academic and professional interests. An art major, Mary reflects on her courses and teachers at Brown and RISD.

Miriam Dale "Mimi" Pichey, class of 1972

Miriam Dale Pichey’s interview is an energetic insight into the politics of student life at Brown 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.

Penelope Claire Hartland-Thunberg, class of 1940

Penelope Hartland-Thunberg begins this interview by focusing on her education. She describes her academic achievements at Brown University, as well as the significance of being the only Pembroke student to concentrate in Economics. She details her educational and social experiences at both Brown and Radcliffe, where she received her Ph.D. The interview then transitions to Hartland-Thunberg's career, which began with a teaching appointment in Brown's Department of Economics. She describes her interview with Brown University President Henry Wriston.

Phyllis Kollmer Santry, class of 1966

In this interview, Phyllis Kollmer Santry ’66, discusses the general course requirements for obtaining a degree from Pembroke College in Brown University as well as some of her favorite courses, including Ancient History, Classical History, and Economics. She mentions her musical contributions to the Chattertocks and the social dynamics of coeducational courses. Additionally, Santry details the different rules for men and women living on campus and how an infraction involving a visit to a fraternity house resulted in her and her boyfriend being expelled for one semester.

Polly Adams Welts Kaufman, class of 1951

Polly Welts Kaufman begins this interview by recounting her family life  in Haverhill, Massachusetts before and after World War II. In Part 1, she also talks about the dating scene among freshmen at Pembroke; her work as a waitress; the participation of city girls in work and extracurricular activities; and her role as editor of the Pembroke Record.  

Rosemary Pierrel, class of 1953

Dr. Rosemary Pierrel Sorrentino describes her leadership as Dean of Pembroke from 1961 through 1972. Dr. Sorrentino, or Dean Pierrel as she was known to Pembrokers, reviews the rapidly changing societal norms, her perceptions of the demands upon Pembroke and upon her role as Dean, and the failure of leadership that led to the abrupt end of Pembroke College as an administrative unit within Brown University. She is quite candid about her opinions and her colleagues. She notes that shared values began to erode after 1966-67.

Ruth Lilian Wade Cerjanec, class of 1933

This interview begins with biographical and family information about Ruth, whose mother was a supporter of female suffrage and determined that her daughter should attend Pembroke College. In Part 1, Ruth also describes her experience at as a "city girl" from Central Falls and the attitudes of her classmates.

Sylvia Rosen, class of 1955

Sylvia Rosen Baumgarten says of her decision to attend college: “My generation of women was relatively mindless; we did what we were told.” This opening sets the stage for much of Sylvia’s interview, and her struggle against these gender expectations before the women’s movement. In Part 1, Sylvia reflects on her freshman year at Pembroke, the dormitories, dating, and meeting her husband. In Part 2 she expands on the “thrilling” academic atmosphere at Brown, as well as her experience as one of the few Jewish students at Brown.