Interviews by Topic: Great Depression

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 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.

Anna Rena Hass, class of 1917

In the first part of the interview, Anna discusses early life on her family’s farm and the decision to attend Pembroke despite wanting to get married and become a nurse. Anna 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, Anna 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) Krovitz, class of 1933

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

C. Elizabeth (Kenyon) Goodale, class of 1939

In the first part of this interview, Elizabeth (Kenyon) Goodale discusses her Aunt Nettie’s experience as a member of Pembroke’s first entering class in 1895. Elizabeth goes on to discuss her time at Brown living with her Aunt Nettie and Uncle John on Keene Street. She became the first woman alumna trustee of the Corporation in 1965, and both she and her aunt were Presidents of the Alumnae Association. She discusses Bessie Rudd and the “bubbler” installed in the athletic field behind Meehan Auditorium in her honor.

Caroline Flanders, class of 1926

“Every girl should go to college,” Flanders recalls telling her parents as a sophomore in high school. Flanders reflects on her arrival at Pembroke, 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 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.

Clarice d'Almeida Pitta, class of 1933

Clarice Pitta Chapman begins the interview by discussing her family background and the circumstances that led her to attend Pembroke College. In Part 1, she also addresses the effects of Great Depression on life at Brown, her ambitions to study medicine, pursuing a career as a woman, and drinking at Brown during Prohibition. 

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.

Dorothy Allen Hill, class of 1930

In this interview, Dorothy Allen Hill starts by discussing her aunt, Mary Hill who graduated from Pembroke in 1904 and her father’s early insistence that she attend Pembroke.

Eleanor Mc Elroy, class of 1937

In this interview, Eleanor Mc Elroy, 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

Eleanor Addison describes her time as a "day hop" at Pembroke College during the Great Depression. She comments on the makeup of the student body; relations between male and female students; dress; athletics; lectures she attended; and other student activities. Her interview also includes her impressions of the Providence community and recollections about Brown’s program in Applied Mathematics, which brought scholars from Germany during World War II.

Esther Amelia (Snell) Dick, class of 1934

Dick begins this interview by speaking of her childhood in Reading, PA; coming to Pembroke and struggling early on with Meniere’s syndrome.  She discusses campus rules & requirements; clothing standards; restrictions with alcohol and smoking; and access to the Brown campus.  She gives her opinions of several professors and discusses being deeply affected by the Great Depression which included cooking all her meals in the science labs. She speaks of being discriminated against as a woman by the University as a student and later as a woman doing research in the sciences.

Ethel Mary Humphrey Anderson, class of 1929

In Part 1 of her interview, Ethel Humphrey Anderson discusses the circumstances that led her to attend Brown University; academics and student relationships with the deans; her involvement in the Press Club and drama productions; coeducation; 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


Grace discusses her family life, dress codes, Pembroke student government, the Brown-Pembroke merger, Pembroke traditions, and the lack of discussion surrounding politics or the Women’s Movement during her time at Pembroke.


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.

Helen Hoff Peterson, class of 1923

Helen Hoff Peterson 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.

Jean Ellen Miller, class of 1949

Jean Miller tells the story of her life in this interview, which was recorded on three occasions in 2014 and 2015. In Part 1, she describes being a young child raised during the Depression in the home of her Scottish grandparents, following the death of her mother. Jean discusses how she received a scholarship to Pembroke College before she had even applied to attend the school and she relates several elements of her life as a student, including the summers that she spent working in New Hampshire.

Jeanette Dora Black, class of 1930

In this interview, Jeanette Black discusses her family; her education at Providence's Classical High School; reasons for attending college and for choosing Pembroke; her requirements and classes; her feelings about coeducation and the Pembroke administration, including Dean Morriss; working at the John Hay Library; and the effects of the stock market crash of 1929 and World War II on Pembroke.

Josephine (Russo) Carson, class of 1938

In this interview, Josephine (Russo) Carson, 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, Carson discusses the Great Depression and the importance of working while she was in school because jobs were so scarce at the time. Carson also recalls taking college boards and academic requirements, such as physical education, in addition to compulsory Chapel.

Justine Tyrrell, class of 1943

In Part 1, Justine discusses her family’s connections to the Brown community and how it affected her decision to attend; the campus-wide reactions and attitudes towards the events of World War II; her correspondences with soldiers abroad; her work with the Noyes Foundation; and her career in journalism including how she got her job at the New York Amsterdam News. In Part 2 of the interview, Justine goes on to explain her relationship with Malcolm X; discusses racism in the South; and briefly reviews what her life has been like since she has retired.

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. Katherine 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 Mary "Peg" Porter, class of 1939

Margaret "Peg" Porter Dolan begins her 1988 interview discussing her family background and her motivation for both going to college and choosing Brown. She reflects on what is was like to attend college during the Depression years, and while President Roosevelt came to office and the beginnings of WWII were forming in Europe. She considers her freshman year, required courses, and her classes, telling vivid stories of professors. Margaret 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 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.

Mary Bernadette Banigan, class of 1931

Mary 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; her relationships with them; 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 Eaton, class of 1933

In this interview, Mary Manley Eaton ’33, 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. Eaton generally remarks on the Sophomore Masque and crowning the May Queen.

Rose Beatrice Miller Roitman, class of 1931

In this interview, Rose Miller Roitman discusses the reasons she attended college; her graduate studies and career in bacteriology; Deans Morriss and Mooar; Magel Wilder, her sole female professor at Brown; 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

Rose Traurig starts her interview by stating that she has a long story to tell. She describes her family, from Waterbury, Connecticut, and the high value they placed on education. At Brown, 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 Rose had a tight group of friends: Joan Aschiem (Biel) and Eleanor Post.

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.

Sarah Gertrude Mazick Saklad, class of 1928

In this interview, Sarah Mazick Saklad describes working in Providence as a teenager; her desire to attend medical school, against the wishes of her mother; and her memories of World War I, including learning to knit, Armistice Day celebrations, and the influenza epidemic of 1918. She also discusses the lack of financial aid for female students, effects of the Great Depression, and her pre-med coursework at Brown. She remembers Lillian Gilbreth’s visit to Chapel, an exchange she had with Dr. J. Walter Wilson, and her affection for Dean Morriss.

Virginia Belle Macmillan Trescott, class of 1938

This interview begins with descriptions of Virginia's 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; life as a commuter student; attending college during the Depression; interactions with Brown faculty members; and student activities, including formal dances, Ivy Day and Scut Week.

Zelda Fisher Gourse, class of 1936

Zelda Fisher Gourse starts by describing her decision to enter Pembroke,  Dean Margaret Shove Morriss, and her favorite professors.  She and the interviewer discuss travel in Israel and Ms. Gourse’s daughter, author Leslie Gourse; annual student events like Sophomore Masque and Junior Prom; her older sister’s decision to return to college; being elected SGA President (“why not a Jewish girl?”); and other campus activities.  Gourse then describes her marriage and her career as a librarian at Bristol Community College.