This post is a summary of a discussion on “Speak Up” . It was inspired by LG’s first comment in the thread and contains some wonderful anecdotes about the takeover of Hopkins Hall, the first female Ephs, and a bit of history on early Catholicism at Williams.
Feel free to add to the discussion if inspired.
1. lgeorge says:
December 10th, 2008 at 11:56 am e
Thread ideas: We know about the first African American student at Williams. We may have found the first Asian student from Asia. Does anyone know who the first female to receive a Williams degree was? I’m thinking she was probably a professor’s/administrator’s or student’s wife or maybe a professor’s/administrator’s daughter. That would mean it could have been long, long ago. But what if it wasn’t and what if she is still alive and we could obtain her memories?
I’d also like to hear from the handful of very early female transfer and exchange students. We owe them a lot for helping to open the door. Many have said that Williams could not have become the place it is if the fraternity system had not ended; equally, Williams certainly could not have become the place it is had it not become coeducational.
I’d like to hear stories from women who did not go to Williams but who had brothers, friends, or boyfriends there and visited often in the pre-coed days.
I think there were some female professors or lecturers before the student body started to go coed. Their stories would interest me.
And if we hear from Chien Ho, I’d hope he (and others) could point us towards other international student alumni who went to Williams when there were few international students. I’d like to hear their stories.
And I’d be very interested to hear from African American students who went to Williams in the ’50s and early ’60s. I know that African Americans were long excluded from fraternities and I’ve read that a few of them were invited into fraternities towards the end of the fraternity system. That’s just one aspect of what would be interesting to hear about from them or their friends from Williams.
Does anyone know where I could find an account of the takeover of Hopkins Hall? Is it in the Rudolph book (which is out of print?)? I don’t have that, but could read it at the College someday I suppose. Is any account available online?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could have a joint EphBlog/student Winter Study that researched these sorts of questions, tracked down and interviewed people, and resulted in a bank of audio, photographic, and written materials, all available online as well as offline for College exhibits and publications?
2. David says:
December 10th, 2008 at 12:59 pm e
To answer your Hopkins Hall question:
Voices of change : Williams College black students and the 1969 occupation of Hopkins Hall by Penny Beach ‘87 is excellent, and available on-line. Highly recommended.
Suggestion: Read it and quote the best parts at EphBlog over a several day period, as I did with Lindsey Taylor’s thesis. Our readers love this stuff!
A perfect start to your (very ambitious!) Winter Study idea . . .
3. Diana says:
December 10th, 2008 at 2:26 pm e
There was also an account of the Hopkins Hall takeover in the Williams alumni magazine a couple of years ago. I suppose it is archived online. It was pretty thorough and good, and probably better than a thesis for the casual reader wishing to get a several-page story of the event.
4. Henry Bass ’57 says:
December 10th, 2008 at 2:33 pm e
The first woman may have been Katherine Berry ‘57 who married Charles Berry ‘57. The first women to get Williams degrees were all specail exceptions.
5. Ronit says:
December 10th, 2008 at 2:39 pm e
Alumni Review article on Hopkins takeover, by Jeffrey Jones ‘66:
6. lgeorge says:
December 10th, 2008 at 2:43 pm e
What a kick to see a woman’s name followed by “‘57″! Even if she wasn’t the first woman to receive a Williams degree, her story (and Charles Berry’s as it relates to hers) would be fascinating. And if she was not the first woman to receive a Williams degree, she may know who was, and the names of other early female Williams students.
I see both Katherine and Charles Berry’s names in the alumni directory. Would anyone who knows them be willing to contact them and ask for accounts of their time at Williams? I have read the story of a male Dartmouth student who was an exchange student recently at one of the women’s colleges, so I have just a glimmer of the modern flip side of that situation.
7. hwc says:
December 10th, 2008 at 2:59 pm e
I’m thinking she was probably a professor’s/administrator’s or student’s wife or maybe a professor’s/administrator’s daughter. That would mean it could have been long, long ago. But what if it wasn’t and what if she is still alive and we could obtain her memories?
I don’t believe that women who completed their coursework at Williams were awarded actual degree until women were enrolled in the College.
I know of one such women who was awarded her degree “posthumously” so to speak, even though she had completed her studies years earlier. She is now a prominent administrator at a prominent university.
8. Henry Bass ’57 says:
December 10th, 2008 at 4:32 pm e
Your suspicions are exactly right. Molly Asher ‘55, widow of Anil Asher is in an earlier class than Katherine Berry ‘57 but I’m pretty sure that Molly got her degree retroactivelly. Indeed, I suspect that all the women, who had attended classes with their husbands,and who had completed the course work for the degree, got them at the same time that the trustees so voted.
9. frank uible says:
December 10th, 2008 at 4:45 pm e
Kathy Berry was the President of the Society of Alumni for a term, both she and Charlie are strong supporters of Alumni and other Williams causes.
10. frank uible says:
December 10th, 2008 at 4:48 pm e
P.S. Kathy transferred from Smith, attended class at Williams for 2 years and marched for her sheepskin in 1957.
11. lgeorge says:
December 10th, 2008 at 4:56 pm e
I was at Williams in the early ’70s, when there were exchange women, transfer women, and the first “coeds” to start off as first years (without some special situation). We knew that there had been the occasional woman in classes before us, but nothing about them. I’ll bet the “coeducation” generation of Ephs would enjoy hearing about and from them.
12. Henry Bass ’57 says:
December 10th, 2008 at 5:34 pm e
Anil Asher ‘55, late husband of Molly Asher ‘55, was Asian. But, was an English speaking native of the Indian Subcontinent and his dad sent him to the Lenox School in Lenox Mass. for 4 years to prepare for Williams. So I sort of feel that this still makes Chien Ho, the first Asian to come directly to Williams. Since Chien arrived from Hong Kong still struggling with the language and to have to adjust to a new culture. But, one could go on arguing forever. Anil is no longer with us so not surprisingly Chien Ho is the guru to the students.
13. Anonymous Eph says:
December 10th, 2008 at 5:38 pm e
I seem to recall reading about a female Eph from the 1920s, but I can’t seem to find any such reference online anywhere. Since the Record archives are still unvailable, I’m not sure where else to look. It might have been in the Williams Pictorial History 1793-1993 coffee-table sized book, but I can’t put my hands on a copy right now.
FYI, the first major study of co-education was done by a special committee in 1872 (big fat NO), with a minority pro-women opinion written by Prof. John Bascom whose daughter, I believe, was the first woman to get a degree from Johns Hopkins in the 1890s.
14. lgeorge says:
December 10th, 2008 at 6:09 pm e
@13- I seem to remember a female from the earlier part of the 20th century, too — maybe the 1920s. Perhaps that was a professor’s daughter. Could it have been a Hopkins? I also had the idea that Williams men were “not allowed” to marry until sometime more towards the middle of that century, and if so any wives would have been hidden rather than taking classes. But I don’t know where I got these ideas.
It must have been quite something when the first woman marched up for a diploma, whether it was Ms. Berry or someone before her. Or maybe her classmates took it for granted and it was “just one of those things” from the parents’ perspective. I’d like to imagine a large collective gasp from the spectators’ side.
15. lgeorge says:
December 12th, 2008 at 1:38 pm e
I would be interested in hearing from anyone who knows about the history of Catholicism at Williams, the College having been Protestant in orientation (although not official affiliation). I was told, second hand, that an alumnus from the early ’60s said that his roommate, who was Roman Catholic and from eastern Massachusetts, had received special permission from the Catholic Church (from his priest or bishop, presumably) to attend Williams rather than a Catholic institution ( I would imagine that he had to promise the Church that he would attend weekly services, and that he might have received some sort of exemption from mandatory — Protestant — chapel on the College’s part). Anyway, my source’s source said that Catholics were very rare at Williams at the time. I wondered whether that was true and what factors (Vatican 2?) led to the change, as it is my impression that Catholics were not rare a decade later, when I was at Williams.
I also wondered what Jewish students and the College did about the College’s mandatory chapel requirement.
16. frank uible says:
December 16th, 2008 at 2:59 am e
My SWAG is that Catholics comprised about 15-20% of the student body during the 50s (my fraternity had about 25-30% – most, perhaps a high majority, of the 15 fraternities had Catholic members). Attendances at Catholic services at either of the two Catholic churches in Williamstown were credited toward each student’s obligation to attend about 7 religious services per semester (there existed a lot of slack in the record keeping). Jewish services were had on Friday evenings – at least sometime in the First Congo Church – with similar crediting. When one of my roommate’s father attended Williams – probably in the late teens or early 20s, he was uniformly denied membership in fraternities due to his Catholicism.
17. Larry George says:
December 16th, 2008 at 9:17 am e
Thank you for answering my questions, Frank. That’s a higher percentage of Catholics in the ’50s than I had been led to believe. I was interested in your remark that your fraternity was a quarter to a third Catholic — did your Catholic fraternity brothers have other things in common? Was it a tradition that a lot of Catholics joined that particular fraternity? Someone told me that a disproportionate number of the Catholics on campus in the ’50s played football or maybe ice hockey, but I’m a little hazy about what I was told about that.
You may not know the answer to this, but I also wondered whether the Jewish services were student-only, or was there a significant outside Jewish population that participated?
18. frank uible says:
December 16th, 2008 at 12:04 pm e
Another one of my SWAGs tells me that the football teams of the 50s were very roughly 20-25% Catholic. I don’t have a good theory supporting the Catholic composition of my fraternity being significantly greater than that of the general student body. I like some other non-Jewish students attended Jewish services from time to time in order to get credit toward my religious services obligation to the College, Friday evening Jewish services at times being more convenient for me than Sunday morning Christian church services or non-denominational Sunday vespers services at Thompson Memorial Chapel.
19. frank uible says:
December 16th, 2008 at 12:39 pm e
P.S. As I recall, it was my impression at the time that the only persons in attendance at the Jewish services to which I became privy were Williams students.