Comments on: Grad applications, ca. 1961: Writer Phyllis Richman gets the last laugh, and a Harvard proffie remains clueless http://www.historiann.com/2013/06/12/grad-applications-ca-1961-writer-phyllis-richman-gets-the-last-laugh-and-a-harvard-proffie-remains-clueless/ History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Tue, 23 Sep 2014 15:56:07 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 By: LadyProf http://www.historiann.com/2013/06/12/grad-applications-ca-1961-writer-phyllis-richman-gets-the-last-laugh-and-a-harvard-proffie-remains-clueless/comment-page-1/#comment-1526910 Tue, 18 Jun 2013 06:09:10 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=21399#comment-1526910 One more sentence would have made Doebele’s whole letter awesome:

This is not a letter that I would write today. While far from perfect, conditions for women working in the profession of city planning are, I believe, far more accommodating than in 1961.But back then, even back then, I was wrong.

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By: truffula http://www.historiann.com/2013/06/12/grad-applications-ca-1961-writer-phyllis-richman-gets-the-last-laugh-and-a-harvard-proffie-remains-clueless/comment-page-1/#comment-1521642 Sat, 15 Jun 2013 01:57:09 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=21399#comment-1521642 I was on a search committee in the 21st Century during which a member of the committee opined that the one female candiate would not be able to learn how to use the technical equipment in the lab that came with the job. Did I mention that she had applied in, and the lab was built for, her area of expertise? The chair of the committee, not exactly a feminist himself, saw the potential for disaster and leaned in to restrain me.

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By: Z http://www.historiann.com/2013/06/12/grad-applications-ca-1961-writer-phyllis-richman-gets-the-last-laugh-and-a-harvard-proffie-remains-clueless/comment-page-1/#comment-1520963 Fri, 14 Jun 2013 14:27:39 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=21399#comment-1520963 Job market in 80s the same kind of thing happened, unwise to let your dissertation director or job search committees know if you were married, because that would be it for jobs and was for some.

I was on a search committee in 90s where they seriously discussed not hiring nonwhite women because they would allegedly get pregnant for sure, or their husbands “would not let them take” tenure track jobs, and so on. That contingent did not win, but thought it would, because it had always done in the past.

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By: truffula http://www.historiann.com/2013/06/12/grad-applications-ca-1961-writer-phyllis-richman-gets-the-last-laugh-and-a-harvard-proffie-remains-clueless/comment-page-1/#comment-1519222 Thu, 13 Jun 2013 09:29:33 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=21399#comment-1519222 No, it’s not a nice story koshembos.

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By: koshembos http://www.historiann.com/2013/06/12/grad-applications-ca-1961-writer-phyllis-richman-gets-the-last-laugh-and-a-harvard-proffie-remains-clueless/comment-page-1/#comment-1518885 Thu, 13 Jun 2013 04:12:16 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=21399#comment-1518885 So I learned that a douche isn’t a jerk and I guess vis a versa. No, things have not reached equality. Power and access will always prevail.

Phyllis, “the Martian appetizer lacked salt,” Richman took her sweet time, but he is a fossil. Fossils are natural; they’ll stay with us.

It’s a nice story.

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By: truffula http://www.historiann.com/2013/06/12/grad-applications-ca-1961-writer-phyllis-richman-gets-the-last-laugh-and-a-harvard-proffie-remains-clueless/comment-page-1/#comment-1518714 Thu, 13 Jun 2013 00:31:49 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=21399#comment-1518714 Nicoleandmaggie: but I also hear my mom and my aunts lamenting that they thought these things would have been fixed by now.

My mother, who majored in psychology at Penn State in the early 1950s, says this as well. It took me until 2008 (specifically, the Democratic party primary that year) to understand why my mother pushed me in the ways she did when I was thinking about college. I didn’t listen and it worked out okay but upon reflection, I think she was right.

The (science) department I left a few months ago has employed three female tenure-track* faculty over the whole of its 50+ years. Two of us overlapped for most of our time there and left within a year of each other. Now they are poised to hire two men to replace the two of us. What did they do, look at each other across the staff room table and ask, “hey, what don’t we have enough of here?”

*The woman I’m thinking of from the wayback might not have been t-t; not sure.

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By: Indyanna http://www.historiann.com/2013/06/12/grad-applications-ca-1961-writer-phyllis-richman-gets-the-last-laugh-and-a-harvard-proffie-remains-clueless/comment-page-1/#comment-1518649 Wed, 12 Jun 2013 23:02:14 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=21399#comment-1518649 Interesting and sad in equal measure. I’d like to have a more detailed account of how it was different in Philly and at Penn than it would have been at Harvard. I used to live six doors down the street from the legendary city planner Edmund Bacon, and I have a visual memory (more than once) of Mrs. B., in a robe, at six a.m., on their top step, putting the old boy in a cab to a big conference or client meeting that soon after got covered in the press. Penn’s president then was also a legendary urban planner, ably backstopped by an accomplished spouse who ran the manse and did all of the institutionally uncompensated work that enabled big careers then and now. And the link below, if it *is* a (live) link, is to a recent story about how even if you were an architect-partner married to the legendary Louis Kahn, you could get muscled off of a huge, career-summarizing project by the boyz in the other offices. And then, yeah, there’s the Scott-Brown story.

If the link’s not blue, as the saying goes, youse could always cut and paste it into your browser, or google “Constructing a New Kahn.”

http://www.upenn.edu/gazette/0313/feature2_1.html‎

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By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2013/06/12/grad-applications-ca-1961-writer-phyllis-richman-gets-the-last-laugh-and-a-harvard-proffie-remains-clueless/comment-page-1/#comment-1518606 Wed, 12 Jun 2013 22:10:13 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=21399#comment-1518606 Thanks so much for this, CC! I also like the fact that like Richman, the women whose letters were published named names of universities and specific departments.

Like you, I also got that subtext about divorce and the importance of women having an education & an employment record.

I saw someone the other day pushing that meme in some article that “no one on his deathbed wished that he had spent more time at work,” a nostrum that’s meant to shame us all into spending more time with our families, or spending more time trying to make a family. But I think there probably are a lot of middle-class, educated women who *do* wish on their deathbeds that they had done more with their lives beyond organizing family life for a husband & children.

A recently published Alice Munro story featured a character who had 4 or 5 children. When running into a man in her past on a train, he–who never had children–remarked that having her family must be very nice. She said something like, “well, yes–they’re yours, of coruse, but at some point, they grow up and they just become people you know.” I thought that was an interesting way to think about the experience of parenthood from an older person’s perspective.

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By: Contingent Cassandra http://www.historiann.com/2013/06/12/grad-applications-ca-1961-writer-phyllis-richman-gets-the-last-laugh-and-a-harvard-proffie-remains-clueless/comment-page-1/#comment-1518586 Wed, 12 Jun 2013 21:54:11 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=21399#comment-1518586 There’s a nice batch of “this happened to me, too” letters (including one from a former college president) posted today: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/phyllis-richman-was-not-alone/2013/06/11/3e8b63d0-d20a-11e2-9577-df9f1c3348f5_story.html .

One of the underlying themes of Richman’s piece is the extent to which the expectation that marriage would be a lifelong economic partnership underlay many such exchanges, and the extent to which, for women (and men) of her generation, that turned out not to be the case. She pretty pointedly mentions that both she and Dr. Doebele have both been divorced (with the implication that not only she, but also his first wife, needed the further education, and careers, they both eventually pursued). I’m not sure whether she wrote the piece and showed it to him before asking him for a reply, or whether the references to his own personal history were, in part, replies to his huffy reply to whatever inquiry she did make. Either way, he doesn’t come out looking good (and, given the passage of time, it wouldn’t have been hard for him to at least partly redeem himself). Some people just have trouble admitting they were wrong, I guess, even 50 years ago (and I have a vague suspicion that such an attitude may not be entirely a handicap in becoming, and remaining, a Harvard professor — at least if one is male).

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By: Susan http://www.historiann.com/2013/06/12/grad-applications-ca-1961-writer-phyllis-richman-gets-the-last-laugh-and-a-harvard-proffie-remains-clueless/comment-page-1/#comment-1518460 Wed, 12 Jun 2013 19:39:25 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=21399#comment-1518460 What a smart response – and kind of shocking how Doebele responded. It would have been nice had he admitted that this was a terrible question.

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