Examining Our History:. Inclusion/Exclusion at Bryn Mawr. … for the “Advanced Education of Females”. Joseph Taylor directed in his will that his money be used to erect buildings “for the comfort and advanced education and care of young women, or girls of the higher classes of society.”
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Examining Our History:
Inclusion/Exclusion at Bryn Mawr
Joseph Taylor directed in his will that his money be used to erect buildings “for the comfort and advanced education and care of young women, or girls of the higher classes of society.”
Founded in 1885, Bryn Mawr was the first college in the country to grant a Ph.D. degree to a woman.
I eagerly accepted the offer of admission to Bryn Mawr because I felt that it could prepare me to fulfill my role in promoting fundamental changes in our society. I was on of the first poor, black, full-time resident students to enter.
I played pinochle with the maids and porters in Taylor’s basement and bridge with the girls with whom I lived on campus.
In the spring of my senior year at Bryn Mawr (1954) the College rallied to my support when a local restaurant which I had patronized for four years refused to serve me and a Negro male escort. Miss McBride believed that the college’s responsibility to me extended beyond the campus and embraced the community at large. In the following months after we won a change in policy there, teams of Bryn Mawr and Haverford students tested restaurants along the entire Main Line without encountering discrimination. This experience is memorable because the College came through when the chips were down – quietly, firmly, successfully.
For everyone, I suppose, college is the best and worst of times. Discovery and challenge, unknown in such sweet peaks before, certainly characterized my Bryn Mawr years; but so, too, did the culling and sorting through whitenesses that I did unconsciously. . . .
Intelligent women in a male-run world make their confrontations, discardings, choices, and adaptations. At each stage there is that internal questioning: is this the issue in which to invest my energy? What will happen to me, that soft, quiet self I like, if I constantly rant? . . . Black people simply have to pose these questions more often.
The national climate and attitudes were different in 1963, so that my class mates and I experienced problems on an individual level and felt no particular unity because of our blackness. It was the era of integration and we were intent on finding a niche in the college community. The fact that there was only one Negro per class (we often joked about being “THE Freshman, THE Sophomore, etc.”) aided this search for absorption. I personally had trouble adjusting to the system of maids and porters. They were older people who addressed me by the title “Miss”, and whom I called by their first names. Until then the contrary had been true.
Bryn Mawr has certainly affected my life and I am truly a Mawrtyr, lantern, owls and all. But there is one thing the “Bryn Mawr experience” will not change, the fact that as long as my skin is black, the value of a Bryn Mawr education will not be the same for me as for a white student. . . .
The important thing for the black Mawrtyr is to keep the “Bryn Mawr experience” in perspective. One must remember that this is four years out of a life time, one episode in the lifelong process of learning and adjusting; the people and situations encountered here are definitely not a representative sample of what awaits beyond.
SO, with reality lurking in the far reaches of my mind, I enjoy the “Bryn Mawr experience” . . . Lanterns, owls and all. It’s interesting while I’m here . . . But I won’t be here forever.
There is no stereotype black student at Bryn Mawr. . . I represented one of the more moderate elements among black students. The black “conservative” student – whether a member of a silent minority or majority, I’m not sure – often must withstand criticism from fellow black students which ranges from being called a black bourgeoisie to a white nigger. . . .
As a black “conservative” student, I find myself more useful in t he background. . . . Those white students who marched with blacks, worked and lived in schools with blacks, and tried to find out their own line of thinking in reference to blacks are part of the hope for the future. There are many white college students who never know blacks in their youth and whose first exposure to blacks has come with college. For this reason, I see my part of the black battle as educating and directing the line of thinking of those whites who are sincerely trying to understand the way things are.
The goal of this institution is to challenge women intellectually and socially. It is Bryn Mawr’s responsibility to provide access to an education that is progressive; that not only gets in the room together . . . But also helps us interact and learn from one another. Bryn Mawr is definitely a work in Progress and I fell with more involvement among students, faculty, staff, and administrators, Bryn Mawr can meet its potential as a truly diverse institution.
“Because we are committed to diversity in its fullest sense, we are responsible as individual and as a community to identify and confront the aspects of our character, our culture, and the ways in which we function, which may reflect unconscious remnants of prejudice. Discussing these complex issues is challenging work because the involve each of us at a personal, human level. They demand more than our intellectual, political or ideological engagement. Conversations of this kind require all of us to be especially responsible in how we speak, and to keep ourselves open to learning from one another. But they also require us to take risks, to share what we are thinking even when we worry we may be judged for it, and to plow through anger and confusion in search of understanding. The chance to make a difference here and now on these questions is a goal worth of women who will become the change agents of tomorrow and of the staff and faculty who support their education.
The war years had helped to sharpen Quaker consciences on matters of race. The relocation of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast, in response to racial hysteria, and their placement in virtual concentration camps had led the AFSC [American Friends Service Council] to enter a protest and to launch a program of trying to place the students in colleges and others in jobs in less prejudiced areas. AFSC staff work in finding homes and jobs for refugees from Germany had also taught them lessons in anti-Semitism, and the movement of blacks into northern cities was making it clear that patterns of discrimination had to be ended in jobs and housing. How, then, could Quakers continue to justify having all white student bodies in some of their schools?
Henry Cadbury had been asking this question for many years, and slowly change had begun to take place. Bryn Mawr College had admitted its first black in 1927, and she had lived with the Cadburys when there was question about her acceptance in the dorms. The Oakwood School had followed in 1933, Media Friends School in 1937, and both Haverford and Swarthmore in 1943. These were still the exceptions, however. It was only after the April 1944 conference, led by Henry Cadbury, that the two bastions of Philadelphia Quakerism, Westtown and George School, were ready to move, in 1945 and 1946 respectively. After that, changes came rapidly.
From Let This Life Speak: The Legacy of Henry Joel Cadbury by Margaret Hope Bacon., U of PA Press., 1987