December 2015 Uncategorized

Backtalk

In Black & White

I was heartened to read about the progress Bryn Mawr has made in welcoming students of color since I attended in the early 1960s, when the student body was almost all White, and the African-American maids were exiled to the dorm attics and not permitted to socialize with the students [“In Black and White,” Vol. 97, No.1.]. Many students were, however, sympathetic to the civil rights movement and a few of us attended marches in Philadelphia and Washington to protest segregated facilities and job discrimination. I want, however, to set the record straight about Dr. King’s 1966 address at graduation: in 1964, the senior class voted to invite him to speak but he was uninvited because of protests from parents and alumnae.

Ilene Winkler ’65

[Comment from bulletin.brynmawr.edu]

 

As a graduate of Bryn Mawr as well as Cornell University and the Philadelphia High School for Girls, I was horrified to read the story of the relationship between my three alma maters in Florence Goff’s article. The top four graduates of Girls High were offered scholarships to BMC in 1901, and after Jessie Redmon Fauset arrived at Bryn Mawr, she was sent off to Cornell after it was discovered she was a woman of color. May the new Cook Center and the increasing diversity of the student body serve as a clear contrast to this sad part of the history of BMC.

Alice Diamond, M.A. ’77

[Comment from bulletin.brynmawr.edu]

 

I was very moved, a few years ago—I believe it was the Volunteer Summit in the fall—when several BMC undergraduates presented papers they had written, during summer research fellowships, on the history of students of color at Bryn Mawr. While their presentation was going on, we all experienced a vivid demonstration of the insensitivity of White alumnae, when a table of those present, under the influence of wine, were laughing and talking during the presentation of some very difficult material about the suffering of Bryn Mawr’s earliest students of color. This is the type of thing that people call “microaggression”—it still makes life on campus difficult for students of color at many universities. At the university where I teach, students held a silent protest in the cafeteria recently where they held up signs, quoting things that people had said and done to them that were insensitive in this way. We all need to help our undergraduates of color by speaking up against those who do it and making it clear that we care about their well-being.

Carrie Buchanan ’74

[Comment from bulletin.brynmawr.edu]

 

Congratulations on a particularly exciting article in the recent Alumnae Bulletin. I’d no idea of the racist attitudes of our first president and other leaders of the College in the early years. However, we were certainly aware, in the ’50s, of how few, if any, Black students or faculty were among us.

As undergraduates in the ’50s, my friends and I in Rockefeller Hall sometimes talked about the way our help—that is, the maids and porters—were both racially and economically separated from us. The Maids & Porters Show was put on every four years, directed with assistance from undergraduates who had skills in theater and music, and was well attended. The early sit-ins were taking place in the South in the mid-1950s and a few of us discussed this with heated liberal admiration. I recall that three of us—Liz Radin and Ellie Silverman, also Class of 1957—and I sought an interview with the College President Katharine McBride. She listened with attention to our statement, in which we asked for a chapter of the NAACP on campus, before telling us that she considered it always a mistake for the College to establish any national organization whatsoever on campus. It would be controlled from another place, and not intrinsic to Bryn Mawr’s educational program and values. She was courteous and sympathetic, but we felt the door was closed on this particular effort.  

Virginia Gavian Rivers ’57, M.A. ’60

 

My doctoral dissertation is The Women of Summer, the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers, 1921–1938. My research describes how the summer school director, Hilda Jane Worthington Smith, created an integrated campus in 1926, of five Black women, 18 years before the College did so. These women lived on the Bryn Mawr campus. In addition, at the summer school reunion—which we, the documentary filmmakers, created to shoot the film—two women of color, Floria Pinckney, Class of 1928, and Marjorie Lynch Logan, Class of 1932, attended. In fact, Mrs. Logan appears in the film, at a staged class held in Taylor Hall. The pioneering story of these women deserves to be included.

Rita Rubinstein Heller ’59

 

Editor’s Note: To learn more about the Summer School for Women Workers, visit the online exhibition at the Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education at greenfield.brynmawr.edu/exhibits/show/the-summer-school-for-women-wo/introduction.

 

It is wonderful that Enid Cook’s story is being told, but it is worthwhile to note that much of the research that enabled that story to become a part of BMC’s institutional memory, and which majorly contributed to this center being named after her, was done by the Black at Bryn Mawr project. Not citing them in this article seems a terrible oversight, especially given the incredible work they are doing unearthing the institution’s past.

Sarah Powell

[Comment from bulletin.brynmawr.edu]

 

Editor’s Note: The editors are pleased to acknowledge the excellent research about the history of African-American women done by Emma Kioko ’15 and Grace Pusey ’15, led by Monica Mercado, director of the Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education, and Sharon Ullman, chair and professor of History and director of Gender and Sexuality Studies. To read the work of the Black at Bryn Mawr project, visit blackatbrynmawr.blogs.brynmawr.edu/.

 

Bryn Mawr Woman

Dear Dakota: Don’t worry, I think plenty of Mawrters feel the same way, though without having to suffer the trauma that you have. And well done for having come through with, if I may say it, such strength! [“From Graduation Gown to Hospital Gown,” Vol. 97, No. 1].

Many of us left BMC with the uneasy feeling that we would be failures if we weren’t running IBM within five years. Individual friends on the faculty would say, “Of course not, we just want you to be happy and do well,” but the overall ethos is still that of the first students who had to fight to be recognized as worthy, no matter what they achieved.

Maybe a new challenge is for BMC to find a way to change its message so that it encourages achievement without inducing panic over unrealistic goals.

All the best with your health and your macaroons!

Allyson Bailey ’84

[Comment from bulletin.brynmawr.edu]

 

The Balancing Act

 

I appreciated “the balancing act” about Kathy Luneau Simons’s work [“The Balancing Act,” February 2015], in part, on creating work-life balance at MIT and beyond. At present I am finishing my 26th year of service in secondary and higher education, fifteen and a half of which were in public schools.

My sense is that work-life balance is largely a luxury of the academy and independent education. This semester at Albright College, where I work in the Education Department, I have had roughly 75 instructional hours. During my last semester in public education, the total was about 468. That does not involve various duties over the years such as homeroom, cafeteria duty, bus duty, study halls, and the expectation to stand in the hallways in between classes. I never heard of work-life balance during those public school years, although one colleague complained that she was expected to devote far more time to other people’s children than she was able to give to her own.

Regarding the “Ten Tips for Better Work-Life Balance,” please consider the following. One was expected to answer phone calls right away and to return parents’ phone calls and emails ASAP as well. Just saying “No” could be considered insubordinate. Forgetting about perfection was difficult when unannounced classroom observations became the norm, and “down time” was a lost art after a 42-minute lunch break was reduced to 30 minutes “bell to bell.” Furthermore, setting one’s own rules could result in an unsatisfactory evaluation.

While I would not trade the years in public education, I count my lucky stars that I am teaching once again at a college. Ironically, someone on NPR, as I recall, once referred to colleges and universities as early retirement homes for the young. That might be over the top, but in the “real world” work-life balance is more often than not “such stuff as dreams are made on.”

Sincerely,

Doug Stenberg, GSAS ’87

Assistant Professor of Education

Albright College

 

President’s Column

 

Dear Friends:

 

T

wo weeks ago the Bryn Mawr volleyball team was playing Centennial Conference rival Ursinus College. It was an exciting match, as the momentum and score went back and forth. I was riveted, but I had to leave to pick up my son Galen from his own high school sports practice. On our way home, Galen checked the live feed and discovered that Bryn Mawr had fought back and had a chance of winning the fifth game and the match. He urged me to drop him off for supper with my husband and to return to cheer the team on. I did, the team won, and the laughter, tears, and high-fives lasted a long time.

Why did I return? Why are competitive athletics, and sports more generally, important to a college like Bryn Mawr? And what does it mean to be a “scholar-athlete” at Bryn Mawr?

I returned because I love competition; I was a multi-sport athlete myself. But my primary reason for returning was to witness the pride of our students in representing Bryn Mawr and the competitive fire they showed that evening. In competition I saw their grit, their teamwork, and their passionate commitment to the game and to each other. I saw students taking risks and, in so doing, dealing with failure as well as success.

      In that match, and in all of our athletic programs, I see core elements of what I hope will be part of every Bryn Mawr student’s undergraduate experience. Participation in athletics creates a strong sense of community among teammates—even in more individual sports like cross country, swimming, or fencing. The joy in spending time together and working as a team transcends the bruises, scrapes, and sprains, as I was reminded this fall in passing a banged-up but laughing group of soccer players making their way to dinner. Playing their sport gives student-athletes a sense of purpose as well as practice in both leading and playing a supporting role. Finally, competing requires that each member of the team put themselves on the line; you cannot hide when an opposing player is challenging you. All of these translate into life skills that they will use in the other parts of their Bryn Mawr life as well as in the years ahead.

It might surprise many current alumnae that athletics were a significant part of almost every student’s life in the early days of the College. Writing about the daily pattern of student life in the Alumnae Bulletin in 1908, Helen Thomas Flexner, Class of 1893, wrote, “All the tennis courts are occupied in the afternoon; the basket-ball and Hockey fields are never empty and the gymnasium and swimming pool present lively scenes.” Bryn Mawr and its early leaders were prescient: we all now know that there is a strong link between mind and body. We captured that link powerfully in the fundraising slogan for the 2010 Schwartz Fitness and Athletic Center renovation: “Smart Women/Strong Women.”

We do not aspire to recruit only competitive athletes. We want to support all students in developing a regular fitness program and to increase the effectiveness of our wellness initiatives. We want to sustain the balance we have struck, in which our scholar-athletes choose Bryn Mawr for its academic challenge, perform well academically, and, in fact, graduate at higher rates. Bryn Mawr remains committed to the vision of Division III sports, in which the scholar in “scholar-athlete” always comes first. I do hope, however, that we become more willing to celebrate the importance of athletics in what Bryn Mawr was, is, and will be . . . and that we will win more of those tight games against our conference rivals.

 

Sincerely,

Kim Cassidy

President