Alumnae Bulletin
August 2010

Top Ten ways you know you are a member
of the class of 1970

by Barbara Freedman

10. Your parents are members of the Greatest Generation. You were born after the Depression and World War II, but not much after. Thrift, sacrifice, patriotism and loyalty formed our parents’ characters. Ours would be formed by the assassination of JFK when we were in high school, the struggle for civil rights, the war in Viet Nam, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy within months of each other at the end of our sophomore year, and the murders of students (protesters and bystanders) at Kent State University as we prepared to take our final comprehensive exams in the spring of 1970. The institutions our parents had loved and fought for didn’t look so good to us.

9. When you entered Bryn Mawr in the fall of 1966, Katharine McBride was the president of the College, and Mary Patterson McPherson was a masters’ student (at the University of Delaware – take that, Joe Biden!) and a warden in Pem. Miss McBride announced her retirement in our sophomore year. You hoped that her replacement would be a man, but by the time he was named in your senior year, you were furious her successor was not a woman.

8. You were in the first class admitted by Director of Admissions Elizabeth Vermey ’58. Only 12 years older than we were, Miss Vermey followed in the footsteps of Annie Leigh Broughton ‘30, who had been Director of Admissions for over 25 years. We didn’t realize it at the time, but our class must have been watched very carefully. What would Betty do? And how would she do it? She was director from 1965 until 1995. For many of us, she was the first Bryn Mawr person we met. She certainly, in 30 years of choosing students to attend Bryn Mawr, molded the College.

7. You chose to attend a college for women. It was not an unusual choice back then – many of the best colleges and universities your fathers and brothers attended did not accept women as undergraduate students. Many of the best colleges were women-only. Many of your male friends had chosen all-male institutions, and no one thought their choice was odd. If you attended a co-ed secondary school, you wondered if you were crazy to choose a women’s college. If you had attended a girls’ high school, you worried if, well, was it too much of a good thing??

6. You lived in one of those Collegiate Gothic castles. Even the one that wasn’t Collegiate Gothic was gothic in its own way, if “gothic” means putting your cigarette butts in the little reinforced concrete holes in the walls of the dorm. Maybe Erdman is where GOTH began? Who knows? You could eat all your meals in your dorm, breakfast in your bathrobe, and have dinner in pants with your navy blue gym tunic over that, since skirts were required at dinner. After dinner, coffee was served from a demitasse set that had dozens of cups and saucers. If you got a phone call in the dorm, the person running the switchboard buzzed your room (“bells”) and you ran to one of the four or five phones in the dorm. Kind of funny how we’ve come full circle on phones – no one in my kids’ generation will pay for a land line, just like 1966!

5. You encountered the Honor System. It gave you tremendous freedom, and tremendous responsibility. Parietal hours at Bryn Mawr were more liberal than at any men’s college we knew about, and certainly more liberal than at the house I grew up in. After two years of unproctored exams, we moved on to self-scheduled exams. The Honor System built character in a big way. The president of the Self-Government Association our sophomore year was Drewdie Gilpin. She was honing her skills for that place that’s spelled almost like Haverford.

4. You encountered your 220-or-so classmates. We thought we were a diverse group – five classmates from Springfield (Montgomery County) High School, and five from Brearley. We had more than 20 classmates from Philadelphia and its suburbs. We had one classmate who was a graduate of a segregated black high school in Nashville. We had a number of classmates who were daughters and even granddaughters of Bryn Mawr graduates, but they kept it quiet. Our valedictorian, Jan Oppenheim, was here with her sister Barbara, a year ahead of us. We had a classmate from Martha Mitchell’s home town, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and we loved her accent.

3. You encountered the Bryn Mawr academic juggernaut. If you came from a large public high school, you’d had calculus, maybe, and two years of your favorite science. If you came from a good prep school, you could write 10-page papers IN FRENCH, and discuss them in French too. Freshman (yeah, we called it “freshMAN”) was a great leveling-out year. By the beginning of sophomore year, we all knew, regardless of where we had gone to high school, that we would be six weeks behind in the reading after one week of class. It didn’t matter where you went to high school. You were sunk, academically, and those professors insisted on calling you “Miss Cohen” or “Miss Heaps” like you knew what you were doing.

2. You met and admired the Bryn Mawr faculty. You quaked in your boots at the Bryn Mawr faculty. They were up close and personal. They called you “Miss Cohen” or “Miss Heaps” and you called them “Miss Potter” or “Madame Lafarge.” Even Miss McBride went without academic title. Only Dr. Berliner, I recall, was “Dr.,” but that made it easier to distinguish him from Mrs. Berliner! Our weekly conferences with our freshman composition instructors began four years of long walks to professors’ offices, hoping against hope they weren’t in, and that we could slip a note or a paper under the door.

1. You graduated (or maybe you didn’t), and left the Gothic wonderland for greener (or not greener) pastures. You studied, worked, married, had children, worked, read, studied, worked, sought treatment for your bad knees, worked, but never forgot your days at Bryn Mawr. And that is why you are here today, to celebrate our survival and the survival of our College. You hope against hope that both you and the College are strong, stronger and wiser than in May, 1970. We all hope that we, and the College, will continue to study, work, and lead women for another 40 years, another 125 years – as long as it takes to make peace and justice prevail in our world.

Barbara Freedman
May 26, 2010

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