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Christine Dunlap Farnham Archive: History of Women at Brown University and in Rhode Island

The Christine Dunlap Farnham Archive collects and makes visible the history of women at Pembroke College in Brown University, the post-graduate lives of Brown Alumnae, and women in Rhode Island, spanning from the 19th century to the present.

History

From Encyclopedia Brunoniana:

Pembroke College celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 1941. President Wriston, who had announced that “we will celebrate Pembroke’s Fiftieth Anniversary if there are five wars going on,” made the anniversary the subject of the opening convocation of the academic year 1941-42. A larger celebration was held at the next Commencement, when a panel discussion on “Education for Women in the Next Fifty Years” was held, and honorary degrees were conferred upon five women, Nadia Boulanger, Katharine Burr Blodgett, Katharine McBride, Katherine Everett Gilbert ’08, and Margaret B. Stillwell ’09. Margaret Shove Morriss, who became dean in 1923, continued until 1950, with a leave of absence to travel in 1949-50. During her administration, Alumnae Hall and Andrews Hall were built. Morriss herself considered the most significant achievement of her administration the College’s “shift to a college at least two-thirds national from a college more than one-half local in scope,” and observed that “Brown and Pembroke have reached a sensible relationship which is good for both. The important things are shared together, the close social relations and the same academic work. But our administrative and organizational lives are separate, giving both institutions experience they could not get together.” Nancy Duke Lewis was dean from 1950 to 1961, and Rosemary Pierrel from 1961 to 1971. In 1966 the 75th anniversary of the College featured a three-day arts festival, including the first public showing of the art collection of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Rothschild, a recital by the Paul Taylor dancers, poetry readings by professors of English, and a 75th anniversary emblem designed by Professor Walter Feldman.

Oral Histories

 

Pembroke Center Oral History Project

Initiated by the Pembroke Center Associates in 1982, these oral histories record the experiences of the women, transgender, and gender non-binary members of Brown University and Pembroke College. Digitized interviews are available online and include transcripts, biographies, and photographs, by and about students, alums, faculty, and staff who studied and worked at Brown as early as 1907.

Since 1982, the Pembroke Center has documented the experiences of women who attended Brown University and Pembroke College by collecting interviews with alumnae of diverse backgrounds, academic and extracurricular interests, and life experiences. In 2018 the project welcomed its first two interviews with transgender students. In order to promote gender inclusivity in the collection the project's name was changed from Brown Women Speak to the Pembroke Center Oral History Project in 2019.  

The website was created in 2012 to make these unique first-hand stories accessible to students, researchers, alumni/ae, and other users interested in learning about the rich history of women, transgender, and gender non-binary people at Brown University. The site features a growing collection of digitized interviews and transcripts, as well as supplementary materials that include biographical sketches and yearbook photographs. We invite you to explore the oral histories, photos, and related materials.

The digitization of these interviews has been sponsored by the Pembroke Center Associates, a group of alumnae and friends that supports the activities of the Pembroke Center and their governing body, the Pembroke Center Associates Council.

The Pembroke Center Oral History Collection containing administrative records, audiotapes of interviews, transcripts, and related material, is also available for research.

 

1920s

Nine interviews are of alumnae who graduated at the time of, or after, Pembroke's establishment. Interviews include discussions of the different social experiences of boarders and day students; the separation of the Women's and Men's Colleges; inspiring professors and courses; Dean Margaret Shove Morriss, who arrived in 1923;  dormitory life; social events; and the Women's College's name change to Pembroke College in 1928. The women also share stories about their families, local communities, and their lives before and after college. Particularly interesting interviews include those of Sarah Gertrude Mazick, class of 1928, and Margery Chittenden Leonard, class of 1929

1930s

In their interviews, 27 alumnae of the 1930s recall elements of their experiences as on-campus and commuter students. 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. Particularly interesting interviews include those of Bella Skolnick and Ruth Estella Sittler, both from the class of 1933.

1940s
Twenty-seven interviews are from women who attended Brown in the 1940s. Generally, they describe student life during World War II and include several stories about balancing coursework with paid employment. Particularly interesting interviews include those of Justine Tyrrell, class of 1943, and Elizabeth Branch Jackson, class of 1945

1950s

A growing number of interviews from alumnae of the 1950s include recollections of Nancy Duke Lewis, who served as Dean from 1950-1960, academic and extracurricular activities, and social life and dating at Pembroke. Particularly interesting interviews include those of Rita R. Schorr, class of 1953, and Mary Jane Mikuriya, class of 1956.  

1960s

A growing number of interviews from the women who attended Pembroke College in the 1960s include discussions of the changing social expectations of the times; the Civil Rights movement; institutional inequalities between men and women; social culture on campus; attitudes toward sex, birth control, and abortion; creation of the Pembroke Pandas women's ice hockey team in 1964; the effect of national student movements; and political action on campus. The women also share stories about their families, local communities, and their lives before and after college. Particularly interesting interviews include those of the class of 1965 at their 50th reunion, Black alumnae at their 50th reunion, and Roswell Johnson. 

1970s

A growing number of interviews of alumnae who graduated before or shortly after the Pembroke-Brown merger discuss gender inequality on campus, student protests, academics, and extra curricular activities. These interviews currently include those of the Socialist Feminist Caucus at the 40th anniversary of Sojourner House, and Susan E. Graber.

 

For more information, contact Mary Murphy, Nancy L. Buc ’65 Pembroke Center Archivist, at 401-863-6268 or Mary_Murphy1@Brown.edu.

Student Publications

Brun Mael

Yearbook of the Women's College and Pembroke College, 1909-1970. Prior to 1909, women students were included in the Liber Brunensis. Digital copies of some yearbooks are available online in the Brown Digital Repository.

Pembroke Record

The newspaper of the Women's College, originally published as a supplement to The Sepiad literary magazine, later titled The Record, and from 1931-1970 The Pembroke RecordDigital edition available here. 

Sepiad

Established in 1901 and published until 1932 as the literary magazine of the Women's College. The Sepiad Supplement newspaper was the precursor to The Pembroke Record.

Student Scrapbooks

Alumnae collections that include scrapbooks are:

Ruth Bateman, class of 1923 

Amey Leone Brownell (Fagan), class of 1940 

Judith A. Creedy, class of 1965 (also includes correspondence)

Mary Ellen Driscoll (McKee), class of 1941 

Lenore D'Onofrio, class of 1958 

H. Zelda Fisher (Gourse), class of 1936 

Jean O. Gordon, class of 1938 

Ruth Harris, class of 1941 

Dorothy Marie Henry, aclass of 1938 

Lillian J. Hicock, class of 1935 (also includes personal papers and reunion materials)

Helena Hogan, class of 1930 

Jane Hollen, class of 1940 

Virginia Kenney, class of 1942 

Mary-Lucille LaFond, class of 1945 

Dorothy Laughlin, class of 1930 

Marguerite Lundgren (Purcell), class of 1949 

Caryl-Ann Miller (Neiforth), class of 1959 

Jean E. Miller, class of 1949 

Helen Elizabeth Moffitt and Katharine Burt, class of 1932 

Elizabeth Angell Rose, class of 1929 

Dorothy Slocum, class of 1930 

Margaret Smith, class of 1960 

 

For more information, contact Ray Butti, Senior Library Specialist Special Collections, at 401-863-2148 or Raymond_Butti_Jr@brown.edu.

Additional Materials

Other documents at the John Hay Library relating to the history of women at Pembroke College include:

Administrative

Academics

  • Course Catalogues
  • Freshman Directories, 1948-1970
  • Information for Entering Students, 1931-1968. This pamphlet was later titled "Instructions for Freshmen."
  • Students' Handbook

Student Groups

  • Brownies. Organizers of May Day and Ivy Day, class dances, and other social events
  • City Girls' Association. Known later as West House Association
  • Elizabethans debate and discussion club
  • Question Club
  • Women of Brown United

Student Government

  • Constitutions
  • Dormitory Council files
  • Honor Council files
  • Meeting Minutes
  • Presidents' reports
  • War Council files

Student Protests

Social Events

  • Father-Daughter Weekend
  • Ivy Day
  • May Day
  • Junior Promenade

For more information on university records, contact Jennifer Betts, University Archivist and Assistant Director for the John Hay Library Special Collections, at 401-863-6414 or Jennifer_Betts@brown.edu.

For more information on photosscrapbooks, and other items related to Pembroke College history, contact Ray Butti, Senior Library Specialist Special Collections, at 401-863-2148 or Raymond_Butti_Jr@brown.edu.

For more information on alumnae papers or oral histories, contact Mary Murphy, Nancy L. Buc ’65 Pembroke Center Archivist, at 401-863-6268 or Mary_Murphy1@Brown.edu.

Highlighted Collections

Individuals and organizations whose collections contain material on women at Pembroke College include:

Isabel Ross Abbott, class of 1922

Personal papers. See also, her Pembroke Center oral history interview.

"Alumnae Lives" Manuscript collections

Small collections that include papers of Doris Hopikins Stapleton, class of 1928, and Sophie Schaffer Blistein, class of 1941

Pembroke Center Oral History Collection

The Pembroke Center Oral History Collection captures the experiences of women, transgender, and gender non-binary faculty, students, and alums of Pembroke College and Brown University from 1911 to the present. Collection contains administrative records, audiotapes of interviews, transcripts, and related material. To listen to interviews and read transcripts online see https://www.brown.edu/initiatives/women-speak/.

Lyn Crost
Eleanor Elizabeth Crost graduated from Brown in 1938. She was a noted World War II correspondent who wrote especially about the lives of Japanese-American soldiers. This collection contains material from her work as a war correspondent and research for her 1994 book Honor By Fire.

Deans of Pembroke College
Materials relating to the Pembroke College deans include correspondence and speeches of Dean Margaret Shove Morriss; photographs and film footage of the installation of Dean Nancy Duke Lewis in 1950; condolence letters following the death of Nancy Duke Lewis in 1961; and speeches given by Rosemary Pierrel Sorrentino between 1961 and 1971. 

Department of Physical Education 
11 scrapbooks dating from 1919 through 1971 contain clippings, programs, photographs, and some letters that document every aspect of the department's activities. They indicate, for example, the department's involvement in May Day, the Sophomore Masque, athletics, dance, the Athletic and Recreation Association, and interclass competitions. They also include clippings are about department faculty.  

Verna Follett, class of 1930

Lecture notes from Freshman Orientation, 1927

Alice Collins Gleeson, class of 1928

Personal papers which consist of radio plays

Jane Webbink Goldman, class of 1960

Course notebooks

Penelope Hartland-Thunberg 
Penelope Hartland-Thunberg graduated from brown in 1940 with a degree in Economics. After earning her Ph.D. from Radcliffe, she taught at Brown, and later for the National Bureau of Economic Research, the CIA, and as President Johnson's appointee to the federal Tariff Commission. Holdings include scrapbooks, clothing (physical education pants and necklace), correspondence, and speeches (1965-1989). See also, her Pembroke Center oral history interview.

Mary Emma Hume, class of 1926

Political Science course materials

Nancy Kantor, class of 1947

Biology coursework

Elsa Keil, class of 1927

Biology coursework

Mary Jane Mikuriya, class of 1956

This collection consists of the personal papers of Mary Jane Mikuriya, Asian-American Pembroke College alumna from the class of 1956. Papers document Mikuriya’s time at Pembroke and include clippings, room assignment correspondence and cards, commencement and Father Daughter Weekend programs, facebooks, scrapbook pages, her diploma, and contemporary reminiscences. The collection spans from 1952 – 2017 and is particularly compelling for users researching the experience of post World War II, Asian-American college students. See also, her Pembroke Center oral history interview.

Alison Palmer 
Alison Palmer, class of 1953, was the 13th woman to be ordained as an Episcopal priest in the United States; a career Foreign Service Officer; and the first person to file a sex discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. State Department. Her papers include documents relating to EEO sex discrimination complaint and suit, images from her work in the Belgian Congo and Vietnam, and documents relating to an age discrimination suit filed by her mother against New York State in 1927. See also, her Pembroke Center oral history interview.

Anna C. Renzi, class of 1947

This collection consists of the personal papers of Anna C. Renzi, Pembroke College alumna from the class of 1947. Renzi was the first woman to receive a Bachelor of Science with a concentration in Civil Engineering from Brown University. She went on to become chief of the District Highways and Traffic Department’s programming division in Washington, DC. Papers document Renzi’s time at Pembroke and her subsequent career. Materials include Junior Promenade, May Day, and commencement programs; photos of senior prom, senior sing, and parties hosted by Renzi’s coworkers; and clippings regarding Renzi’s graduation and career. The collection spans from 1945-1997. See also, her Pembroke Center oral history interview.

Ruth Estrella Sittler, class of 1933

French coursework. See also, her Pembroke Center oral history interview.

Beverly Moss Spatt, class of 1947

This collection consists of the personal papers of Beverly Moss Spatt, Pembroke College alumna from the class of 1955. Papers document Spatt’s work as a city planner in New York City and her involvement as a Pembroke alumna. Materials include books, reports, and essays by Spatt on city planning, as well as a book of sonnets from 1944 and the class of 1945’s 50th anniversary yearbook. The collection spans from 1944-2015. See also, her Pembroke Center oral history interview.

Anna Canada Swain 
Anna Canada Swain, class of 1911, became Brown's first female trustee in 1949. This collection contains speeches from 1940-1952 on topics including the subjugation of women in Fascist countries; fundraising; foreign missionary work; and women missionaries.

Frances Thompson, class of 1941

Biology coursework

Pembroke College "Reminiscences"

Collected by alumnae and staff

Women and Men of Brown 
Holdings include 36 volumes of minutes of the Brunoniana Garden Club (1933-1983) and minutes and other records of the Post-Sepia Club (1923-1969)

Elizabeth Rhodes Wright, class of 1933

Greek notebooks