Interviews by Topic: Great Depression

In this interview, Ruth May Bugbee ’23, remembers her father encouraging her to attend Pembroke College after high school. She recalls segregation of men and women on campus, the Maypole dance, formal gatherings in Sayles Hall, and Dean Anne Crosby Emery Allinson. She mentions her first job as a psychiatric social worker at Howard State Hospital in Cranston, Rhode Island, and details her twenty-year career at the Rhode Island Birth Control League (later Rhode Island Maternal Health Association, then Planned Parenthood) in Providence, Rhode Island.

In part 1 of this interview, Alison discusses her childhood, her decision to attend Pembroke, and the Pembroke experience. In part 2 she discusses hazing at Pembroke, her summers while at college, working in New York City, her original interest in the State Department, and her time in Ghana. In part 3, Alison talks about her time in the Belgian Congo. In part 4, she discusses her deployment to British Guyana, gender discrimination, and her decision to volunteer for Vietnam. In part 5, she talks about her opposition to some of the tactics used in Vietnam.

Alison Palmer, class of 1953

In part 1 of this interview, Alison Palmer discusses her childhood, her decision to attend Pembroke College, and the Pembroke experience.

In part 2 she discusses hazing at Pembroke, her summers while at college, working in New York City, her original interest in the State Department, and her time in Ghana.

In part 3, Palmer talks about her time in the Belgian Congo.

In part 4, she discusses her deployment to British Guyana, gender discrimination, and her decision to volunteer for Vietnam.

Anna Rena Hass, class of 1917

In the first part of the interview, Anna Rena Hass discusses early life on her family’s farm and the decision to attend Pembroke despite wanting to get married and become a nurse. Hass describes the courses she took in her two years at Pembroke and some of the formative people she met during that time. In the second part of the interview, Hass elucidates the Brown dress code and describes political events, life in Cuba, and her arrest. 

Beatrice Wattman Miller, class of 1935

Beatrice "Bea" Wattman was the daughter of a jeweler who immigrated from Moldavia in 1895  at age 18, and a mother who came from Austria as a young child. Raised in Providence along with two younger brothers, she attended Hope High School, where her classes in the "Classical" curriculum track were taught by several Brown alumnae. This interview touches on many subjects relating to her family, education, and work. 

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.

Caroline Flanders, class of 1926

In this interview, Caroline Flanders recalls telling her parents that "every girl should go to college." Flanders reflects on her arrival at Pembroke College, taking many sociology classes on Brown’s campus, and working as a babysitter to help pay tuition. She reflects on the newfound freedom and the individualistic attitude of the “Roaring Twenties.” She mentions the Charleston, Prohibition and drinking hot liquor from a flask.

Charlotte Ferguson, class of 1924

In this interview, Ferguson tells why she chose to attend Pembroke College over Wellesley College; 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.

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.

Clarice d'Almeida Pitta, class of 1933

Clarice d’Almedia Pitts begins Part 1 of her interview by describing her family including her father’s job as a surgeon and her mother’s job as a homemaker. She explains that she ended up at Pembroke College because she flunked her exams for Radcliffe College.

Doris Madeline Hopkins, class of 1928

In Part 1 of this interview, Doris Madeline Hopkins begins by discussing her early education and family life in Rhode Island. She talks about the expectations for “nice girls” at Pembroke College in the 1920s, about the curriculum, 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. Hopkins talks about reading for classes and getting books from the public library when they were unavailable elsewhere. She also mentions her friendship with Alice Elizabeth O'Connor.

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.

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.

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.

Esther Amelia Dick, class of 1934

Esther Amelia Dick begins this interview by speaking of her childhood in Reading, PA and struggling with Meniere's Syndrome. She recalls her reasons for attneing Pembroke College and discusses campus rules, requirements, clothing standards, alcohol and smoking restrictions, and access to the Brown campus. She gives her opinions of several professors and talks about being deeply affected by the Great Depression and, as a result, cooking all her meals in the science labs.

Ethel Colvin Nichols, class of 1934

Ethel Colvin Nichols begins her interview discussing her plans for the future and speaking of her wish to return to the workforce despite discrimination based on ageism. Also in Part 1, she reflects on classes at Pembroke College, her relationship with Dean Margaret Shove Morriss, training to become a dean herself, as well as her ideas about education.

Ethel Mary Humphrey, class of 1929

In Part 1 of her interview, Ethel Mary Humphrey discusses the circumstances that led her to attend Pembroke College. She talks about academics and student relationships with the deans, her involvement in the Press Club and drama productions, and coeducation. She also recalls attitudes surrounding the name change to Pembroke College, and social interactions between men and women, including drinking during Prohibition.

Grace Amelia McAuslan, class of 1928

In this interview, Grace Amelia McAuslan begins by explaining why she decided to attend Pembroke College and what her first impressions were. She notes some of the courses she took as a sociology concentrator and momentarily remembers participating in the Pembroke orchestra. She shares brief memories of Dean Margaret Shove Morriss and Dean Anne Crosby Emery Allinson.

Harva Zelda Fisher, class of 1936

In this interview, Harva Zelda Fisher explains her reasons for attending Pembroke College, particularly citing geographic proximity to her home and small student population. She recalls Dean Margaret Shove Morriss, Physical Education Director Bessie Rudd, and Professor George Downing, but says one of her favorite professors was Israel Kapstein. She gives a brief educational and personal background of her parents and moves on to vaguely remembering some Pembroke traditions and more clearly remembering Sophomore Masque.

Helen Anderson Hoff, class of 1923

Helen Anderson Hoff begins her interview by discussing her childhood education in New Jersey and her family background. She explains that a high school superintendent convinced her to apply to Pembroke, making her the first person in her town to attend college. She discusses her experiences in various academic departments and her extracurricular involvement, which centered around the Christian Association. After an unhappy stint teaching, she went on to work for the Young Women’s Christian Association.

Helen Elizabeth Butts, class of 1928

In this interview, Helen Elizabeth Butts starts by discussing life at Pembroke College, 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 Margaret Shove Morriss, marriage ideals, and transition to computer usage. Butts finishes the interview by sharing her opinions on graduate school, housewives, and feminism.

Jean Ellen Miller, class of 1949

Jean Ellen Miller tells the story of her life in this interview, which was recorded on three occasions in 2014 and 2015.

Jeanette 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 Pebroke 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.

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.

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.

Margaret Waterman, class of 1927

In this interview, Margaret Waterman discusses her decision to attend Pembroke College – known then as the Women’s College in Brown University – for one year, her transfer to Smith College, and her return to Pembroke for her senior year. She mentions medical care in the early twentieth century when she discusses her diagnoses of swollen glands and her father’s fatal battle with pneumonia. She speaks extensively of her time in athletics at Pembroke, primarily on the basketball and tennis teams.  She also recalls interacting with men on campus and discusses mid-1920s fashion.

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.

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 her 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.

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.

Mary Manley, class of 1933

In this interview, Mary Manley discusses her family’s decision for her to attend Pembroke College despite entering at the beginning of the Great Depression. She mentions life as a City Girl and the assumed superiority of the girls who lived in the dorms and specifically recalls required courses and her decision to major in history. She reminisces about participating in the Elizabethans and being able to attend parties at her boyfriend’s fraternity as well as the dynamics of dating at the time. Manley generally remarks on the Sophomore Masque and crowning the May Queen.

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.

Rose Roberta Traurig, class of 1928

In Part 1 of this interview, Rose Roberta Traurig describes her family, from Waterbury, Connecticut, and the high value they placed on education. At Pembroke College, Rose's first dorm was Angell House, and she talks about entertaining guests there on weekends. She mentions that while she and her family never distinguished between Jews and Christians, Jewish girls were never invited to the parties held by the men. There were no sororities, but Traurig had a tight group of friends including Joan Aschiem Biel and Eleanor Lenore Post.

Ruth Estella Sittler, class of 1933

In this interview, conducted over fifty years after her graduation, Ruth Estella Sittler begins by describing her childhood in Uniontown, Pennsylvania and the difficulty of her parents’ divorce in 1929. Sittler explains that her older brother graduated from Brown University in 1930 and that she was determined to follow in his footsteps. In 1929, she did just that, matriculating into Pembroke College the same year her family moved to Providence, Rhode Island.

Ruth Lilian Wade, class of 1933

In this interview, Ruth Lilian Wade begins by sharing her biographical and family background. She talks about her mother who was a supporter of female suffrage and determined that her daughter should attend Pembroke College. In Part 1, Wade also describes her experience at as a "city girl" from Central Falls and the attitudes of her classmates. She discusses the limited job opportunities for women during the Great Depression and taking courses at the Rhode Island College of Education.

Ruth May Bugbee, class of 1923

In this interview, Ruth May Bugbee, remembers her father encouraging her to attend Pembroke College after high school. She recalls segregation of men and women on campus, the Maypole dance, formal gatherings in Sayles Hall, and Dean Anne Crosby Emery Allinson. She mentions her first job as a psychiatric social worker at Howard State Hospital in Cranston, Rhode Island, and details her twenty-year career at the Rhode Island Birth Control League (later Rhode Island Maternal Health Association, then Planned Parenthood) in Providence, Rhode Island.

Sarah Gertrude Mazick, class of 1928

In this interview, Sarah Gretrude Mazick describes working in Providence as a teenager and her desire to attend medical school against the wishes of her mother. She shares her memories of World War I, including learning to knit, Armistice Day celebrations, and the influenza epidemic of 1918. Mazick also discusses the lack of financial aid for female students, effects of the Great Depression, and her pre-med coursework at Brown University.

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.