We’ve been watching every day for a month aggressive Russia trying to destroy and take over the country of Ukraine. Every day is heartbreaking and difficult to watch. This brought a smile to our faces:
We’ve been watching every day for a month aggressive Russia trying to destroy and take over the country of Ukraine. Every day is heartbreaking and difficult to watch. This brought a smile to our faces:
October 26, 2021: Apology from your Editor
Have you had a chance to read “The Maureen Papers and Other Poems” by classmate Susan Higgins Donnell?. It sounds wonderful, and information about it can be found under the heading “What We Do: The Arts – Literary”
This is a screw up on my part. I apologize that clearly this is a mistake, to have included both “What We Do: The Arts: Literary” along with another heading: “What We Do – Books, Great Reads”. I’m hoping that by some miracle you readers are looking at both. Aaargh. I’ll have to revise some headings which involves a lot of other shuffling.
I’m sure there are other categories of stuff that seem to be in the wrong place, and I would love it if you would please let me know. As the website grew, I’m afraid the menu and tabs eventually got a bit muddled.
Please consider getting Susan’s book and let us hear from you about it.
July 24, 2019
Perhaps some of you have already had the delightful experience of a
regional luncheon/talk get-together with new president Sonya Stephens.
Richard and I attended yesterday the Strawberry Banke Museum event (free
tours were a nice perk), the only ones from 1961, so I decided to share
a few highlights. Some helpful handouts were available, and “The Facts
and Photos Edition” brochure includes fascinating info and statistics.
such as the range of states (45) and countries (70; 50 languages spoken
on campus!) reflected in the last student body. Lots of stuff useful in
talking up Mt Holyoke to prospectives, such as the success of the new
Community Center, the high percent of students involved in research, the
number of internships, the fact that 96% of grads are working or in
grad school 6 months after commencement, and the innovation lab now
housed in the kitchen and dining areas of Prospect. One alum who had
toured it during her reunion says it is beyond fabulous, a must-see for
us all, where there is also an op to make something on their extensive
tech equipment. Of course it was pointed out that alumnae gifts made
this possible; good news is that general alum giving is slightly up and
College does fairly well in all rankings.
The presentation at a local site (this one organized by the NH club,
clearly far more active than Maine) of course contributes to pleasure at
being connected to South Hadley. Richard commented on the great
innovation going on there–but never fear, milk and cookies and Mountain
Day are among the traditions preserved. I know I will look more closely
at emails about conferences or whatever on campus to which we are invited.
Elsa Anderson van Bergen
Women’s colleges should admit trans students. It’s wholly consistent with their mission.
A new front has opened in the college culture wars: Should women’s colleges accept transgender students? Kassy Dillon, founder of Lone Conservative, articulated the conservative answer for the Wall Street Journal last month, asserting that women’s colleges have abandoned their feminist legacy by welcoming trans men. For Dillon (who, like me, graduated from Mount Holyoke), students who were assigned male at birth or who transition to male jeopardize the identity and reputation of women’s colleges as educational spaces for women.
Dillon’s take, however, is based upon a historical fallacy: It considers both feminism and the values of women’s colleges to be static things. It assumes that Mount Holyoke has been animated by a 1960s-style feminism since its founding in 1837, only to have been corrupted in recent years by a new, oppressive feminism. In reality, however, Mount Holyoke’s brand of feminism has been ever-changing.
Since 1837, American women’s colleges have striven to provide opportunities for women to pursue their goals. At different moments, those goals included training for missionary work, meeting romantic partners or, most recently, pursuing a career. Yet even as these goals have changed, the motivating force has remained the same: a mission rooted in public service and social justice.
Mary Lyon, a pioneer in women’s higher education, founded Mount Holyoke College as the first permanent, all-female institution of higher education in the United States. Establishing a women’s seminary was a radical act in a society where women were not expected to be educated. But although radical, Lyon’s mission was neither liberal nor feminist, at least not in the modern sense of those terms. Instead, she was partly motivated by a devout evangelical Protestantism specific to the nation’s religious revival of the early 19th century.
As such, Lyon’s school aimed to prepare women to travel worldwide to spread evangelical Protestant Christianity, democracy and capitalism. Mount Holyoke’s extant physical education requirement sought to prepare students to be fit for travel. Thus, imperialism, anathema to modern-day radicals, was central to the founding mission of the college.
After the Civil War, schools such as Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Radcliffe and Smith joined Mount Holyoke in teaching women, developing the network that we now call the Seven Sisters. These colleges were founded for different purposes than Mount Holyoke was, although not always for more progressive ones. For example, part of the motivation behind the founding of Radcliffe was educating women who sought Harvard-level studies, while keeping them out of Harvard.
Meanwhile, as Catholic and Jewish students started attending Mount Holyoke, the mission moved away from Lyon’s religiosity and proselytizing. By the turn of the 20th century, women’s colleges were no longer primarily associated with evangelical missionaries. Religion transitioned from an explicit objective of women’s higher education to an implicit driving force, one pushing students toward progressive activism and advancing social change.
Indeed, while religion may have become less important to these schools, the service part of their missionary identities remained foundational. Women’s colleges contributed significantly to the progressive movement of the early 20th century, steering students toward vocations in which they could channel what they learned into social reforms through institutions such as Hull House, a settlement home for mostly poor and immigrant women in Chicago. Women’s colleges moved from preparing women to be missionaries to preparing them for the careers then open to women, such as social work and labor reform, as well as being pioneers in social reform.
After World War II, wealthy, mostly white women attended women’s colleges to earn a degree, and many hoped to meet veterans attending partner Ivy League institutions on the GI Bill. However, total retreat into the domestic sphere wasn’t what most women wanted, as Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique” made clear.
In 1957, Friedan, a graduate of Smith College, polled her 1942 college classmates to research and write “The Feminine Mystique.” She argued that educated women did not feel fulfilled as housewives, inspiring generations of women to champion their own equality in the workplace and society.
Second-wave feminism progressed so quickly at women’s colleges that when Friedan spoke at Mount Holyoke in 1965, students shouted, to no avail, for Friedan to support legal abortion. At the same time, second-wave endeavors to subvert the patriarchy remained dominated by privileged, cisgender women, particularly at women’s colleges.
Throughout this history, one thing has remained constant at women’s colleges in the United States: an ethos of adapting in response to social change has remained at the core of their educational values.
It is highly consistent with that ethos, therefore, that in the fall of 2014, Lynn Pasquerella, the president of Mount Holyoke, announced that the college would accept all women, regardless of anatomy at birth.
Conservatives, however, tend to see trans identity and inclusion as a project of the social-justice-warrior left, the latest salvo in progressives’ efforts to overturn the historical nature of women’s colleges. They imagine that a benign feminism has shaped these institutions since the 1830s, one that reached its fruition by offering an elite education for women while connecting them to men at partner Ivy League institutions. But this vision was never the animating mission of women’s colleges.
Dillon advanced this false narrative when she claimed that “the women’s college movement started with Mount Holyoke. Now it appears our campus will be the hill feminism dies on.” But Dillon’s portrayal of “feminism” misses the true mission of schools such as Mount Holyoke.
Contrary to Dillon’s claims, accepting trans women and including trans men aligns with the historical legacy of women’s colleges: preparing a new generation of leaders for public service and advancing social justice. Barring transgender applicants would betray this mission. This is profoundly important on the campuses that offer the most freedom from patriarchy.
12/15/18 Frankly, your editor has absolutely no idea what this is all about, but it seemed like something to include on our website. If you understand what’s going on, please let us know. 12/17/18 Email comments from classmates follow at the end. Thanks from Liz Webfoot
We are listening.
As many of you know, Mount Holyoke is currently working with an outside design firm on developing a new visual identity for the College.
We originally charged our design partners to be bold, modern and to differentiate Mount Holyoke from other colleges. More importantly, we asked the design firm to develop a visual identity that could speak to the College’s identity as a gender-diverse women’s college.
Guided by initial discussions with trustees, graduates, faculty, staff, alumnae and students, our partners also thought it important to express the important role that women’s colleges have played in exploring issues of gender, particularly with regard to populations that have typically been marginalized in society.
This past Thursday, we had the occasion to solicit feedback on the design firm’s identity work from a group of students. We listened to feedback regarding the use of the Venus symbol as an option for the brand identity and logo, as proposed by the consultants. It is now evident to us that this symbol has a long history of exclusion connected to movements that, while trailblazing for some groups, represents the erasure of others.
We have thus determined that the College cannot move forward with a word mark that references this symbol as we rethink how we will distinguish Mount Holyoke College. While it is always disappointing to realize that our creative work has not achieved its goals, it is deeply upsetting to realize that the work is seen as offensive and damaging.
Regardless of our intent, learning that the impact of the work is offensive, painful or damaging reminds us why it is so important to solicit opinion and input from members of the community who care so deeply about the College and how it is represented.
Moments like these that remind each of us of the important work that remains ahead. This is bigger than conversations of logos and color palettes. The questions surrounding the identity of the College speak not only to how we represent ourselves visually but also the ways in which we engage one another.
And as the leader of the communications and marketing office, I feel it is vitally important that the work we produce celebrates the broad diversity of our institution without tokenizing or marginalizing any members of our community.
As people who work and study at a women’s college, we are all deeply committed to gender equity and justice. Our commitment to being a trans-inclusive space is critically important to who we are as a campus community. We recognize that Mount Holyoke is evolving and has much work to do in demonstrating its support for the diversity of genders and perspectives represented by the students, faculty, staff, and alumnae of the institution.
At one point during Thursday’s presentation to students, it was suggested that the people in charge of rebranding had heard the students in earlier presentations, but that we had not been listening. That is criticism that I take to heart. Our team is going to take a step back in the design process, both to more fully engage the community in a conversation about what it means to be a gender-diverse women’s college and to re-envision the ways in which we solicit feedback and participation in the design process.
As we start the new year, we look forward to reconnecting with students who volunteered to continue advising us on this process as well as others who might be interested. In addition to creating a formal student design advisory board, we will also solicit more regular feedback from graduates, faculty, and staff.
This current process has also pointed out a need for a more formal means by which feedback can be shared with the communications and marketing team. As we develop this process, I encourage interested parties to continue to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I may not be able to respond to each email individually, but I sincerely appreciate the feedback.
On behalf of the College, I am grateful for your insight and thoughtfulness in being willing to interrogate the brand development. We hope you know that your feedback is vital to us.
And as the leader of the communications and marketing team, I always seek to fulfill the College’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion by assuring that what we produce supports a future that is bold, distinctive and affirms gender variance as a core part of the human experience — and particularly at Mount Holyoke College.
Charles L. Greene II
Vice President, Office of Communications and Marketing
DITTO. Babbie: email@example.com
Dumbest and ugliest “logo” I’ve ever seen! Puleeze!!! Diana Diggin, (former advertising professional)
I agree. Jo-Ann Mayer Orlinsky
Just seven years after graduating from Mount Holyoke, Mary Ann (known also as Mary and Annie) and Charlotte Ely, both class of 1861, established their own version of the Mount Holyoke Seminary in Bitlis, Turkey. A handwritten “autobiographical sketch” found in Archives and Special Collections, presumed to have been written by Mary, reveals the school’s origins. In 1866, after having spent several months touring Europe, including a visit to the Kurdistan region (which she spelled Koordistan), the sisters encountered missionary families who were eager to recruit teachers to educate Armenian women in Bitlis.
The sisters “finally offered to go ourselves,” wrote Mary, after “failing to get a response to our numerous appeals and letters, and unable to stifle the sound of that Macedonian cry.”
The city of Bitlis is situated more than 5,000 feet above sea level in the steep-sided valley of the Bitlis River, a tributary of the Tigris. A sepia-toned photograph of the exterior of the school reveals the original four-room, two-story building nestled beneath low mountains with few trees.
The walls were constructed of large rectangular stone blocks, extras of which were piled on the ground outside—records indicate they were used to build at least three other facilities on the missionary compound. Small square windows appear on the first floor, and windows twice as tall open out from the second floor. The flat-topped roof is framed by decorative pointed cupolas. A low wall, made of the same rectangular bricks, encloses the grounds.
Mary wrote of the place: “In the spring of 1870 the corner stone of a small but substantial building was laid, and in less than a year afterward eight pupils were happily domiciled in the Mt. Holyoke School of Koordistan.”
Another photo provides a view into a classroom. The ceiling is supported by many close-set, rough-hewn rounded beams, and another beam stands in the center of the room like a column. An oil lamp hangs from the ceiling, and abundant natural light streams through windows on two sides. The ledges of the windows house dozens of leafy potted plants, a few of which have vines so long that they are growing up onto the walls where framed artwork is hung up high.
A multitude of patterned rugs covers the floors. A globe is set on a table in the back; a small piano—noted to have been played by Mary—against one wall. A dozen or more desks made of wood and iron are set up in neat rows facing the front of the room.
In these classrooms, the sisters taught courses in physiology, physical geography, grammar, algebra, natural and moral philosophy, zoology, astronomy, botany, and “much study in the Bible,” according to a letter from Mary housed in the College’s Archives and Special Collections. “In making out rules and routine for the new school enterprise our aim has ever been to follow as nearly as might be those with which we were familiar at our beloved school home—the grand New England mother of this far away Mt. Holyoke of Koordistan,” she wrote.
Though the school had as many as two hundred boarding pupils in attendance at one point, due to the early marriages of many students, a devastating earthquake in 1907, and lack of tuition dollars, only about fifty students received diplomas after forty-seven years, “but many others have secured a pretty good education within these walls and gone forth to lives of earnest Christian usefulness,” Mary wrote. Many graduates later taught at the school, which grew through the years to include primary, intermediate, and high school levels for boys and girls, including orphans of the region.
Mary died in 1913. With Charlotte’s death just two years later, and the Armenian Genocide an imminent threat to citizens of Turkey, the school closed its doors.
—By Anne Pinkerton
—Photos courtesy of Archives and Special Collections
Just in case you didn’t get a notice from the college about our new President, here’s the college web site:
September 29, 2017
Just sharing a few tidbits from the Volunteer Symposium at MHC that I attended September 15-17 as head class agent. Since I was the only one there from the class of ’61, I was quickly adopted by the Class of ’64—all sixteen of them—head class agents, class agents and the class president. It made for a fun two days.
Acting President Sonya Stephens shared updates on strategic priorities and new initiatives at the College. She emphasized building a community of scholars around the new community center. There are now 50 majors and a distinctly diverse and international student base. With over $700 million in endowment MHC has a stable financial outlook but is limited in the ability to spend money.
The term “liberal arts” creates public relations issues. MH continues to seek innovation within tradition, emphasizing new disciplines and pathways and most important collaboration among faculty, students and the wider community.
Alumnae Association priorities include more use of technology and engagement of global alumnae.
Jon Western, Dean of the faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs, discussed the turnover in faculty during the last few years and noted that 45% of faculty members have been at MHC for less than ten years. Especially with the fundamental challenges facing the world today, the need for critical thinking is paramount.
We are also seeing a great diversity of faculty. The younger faculty members tend to have deeper, more specific areas of expertise than before, and faculty seminars are held to encourage collaboration among disciplines. There are exciting initiatives in the academic program, especially the expansion of “make spaces”, these are object-oriented, project-based and team-based learning experiences.
All in all, MHC seems to be in great shape as we venture into the 21st century. Everyone thanked the attending alums for their work in fundraising for the College. However, since the majority of funds needed to support the College come from individual donors, our contribution to our college must be ongoing.
Let’s try to increase our percentage of participation for this academic year. Last year was 53%–let’s try for 60%!!
Sandra Svihovec Hewitt
Head class agent
By Keely Savoie
Sonya Stephens, whose commitment to women’s colleges dates back to her undergraduate days at the University of Cambridge, assumed the presidency of Mount Holyoke College on July 1.
The former vice president of academic affairs and dean of faculty, Stephens will be the acting president of the College for the next three years.
In her new role, Stephens will lead the implementation of a new strategic plan, The Plan for Mount Holyoke 2021, and guide the College through the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) reaccreditation process. She will also oversee the building of the Community Center, a campus hub that she has called a “third space” where students, faculty, and staff will have new opportunities to collaborate and engage in intellectual and social exchange outside of classrooms and residence halls.
Stephens sees these and other initiatives as paramount to enhancing the student experience, which is one of her top priorities.
“The hallmark of the Mount Holyoke experience is the kind of high-contact learning and intellectual exchange fostered by our excellent faculty and the curious, bright, engaged students who are drawn here,” she said. “Our commitment is to continue to deliver and to enhance that experience for all.”
The strategic plan, to be finalized this fall, calls for the College to assert its distinctiveness and the value of a liberal arts education, to embrace new programs in support of the liberal arts, and to develop a comprehensive approach to engaging with the global world.
“Through the unique opportunities that a diverse women’s college affords them, Mount Holyoke students develop the habits of mind, intellectual rigor, and agency to transform the world,” Stephens said. “They learn to think, speak, and act with confidence and courage, and do so with a global perspective.”
Stephens holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge and a master’s degree from the Université de Montréal, in addition to her BA from New Hall (now Murray Edwards College), a women’s college at Cambridge.