Tenured Radical has the second in her three-part series on single-sex education for women at her blog, “Feminism’s Unfinished Agenda: If Women Have Equal Opportunity, Why Are The Outcomes So Very Unequal?” There’s a lot of food for thought, but I thought I’d highlight that she features some reminiscences of Harvard University President Drew Faust of her student days at Bryn Mawr under President Katherine E. McBride:
I will never forget Miss McBride up on the stage telling us to be humble in face of Our Work. I had not before realized that I had Work. I had thought I did assignments and took tests and wrote papers. But Miss McBride’s address instilled in me a new found reverence for learning and scholarship. My awe at being invited to play even a small part within that sacred and timeless world has never left me.
I’m with Drew Faust, although I followed her by more than 20 years in the late 1980s, when the United States–when it contemplated feminism at all–was already slipping deep into its “post-feminist” delusions. Like I said a few days ago: we were taken seriously, so we took ourselves seriously. We didn’t have the luxury of holding back in class discussions and letting men take the lead. We didn’t have the pressure of heterosexual performance in an academic setting (mostly–Haverford women and men could and did enroll in most of my classes over my four years, so an entirely single-sex classroom was probably a rarity.) I and my classmates wrote the student newspaper, ran for the Honor Board and for student government, and competed against each other for scholarships, prizes, internships, and honors. It was a great laboratory for women’s leadership and (mostly) friendly competition.
I never knew President McBride–Mary Patterson McPherson, a woman even taller, blonder, and more regal than McBride was president of the college when I was a student. But her convocation addresses–both at the start of the fall and winter terms–were not to be missed. They were always passionate–about contemporary politics as I recall (these were the Reagan-Bush I years) as well as the life of the mind and the value of a Liberal Arts education.
I used to wonder why all Bryn Mawr Presidents (save for the lone rooster in the 20th century hen house, Harris Wofford) had to be Scottish giantesses who read Greek. (I knew I would never qualify, so that took the pressure off.)