Alumnae Bulletin February 2009

From the Editor

In this issue, the Alumnae Bulletin hosts the 2008 Annual Report of the College, which begins on page 5. Class Notes begin on page 43. The illustrations for the Report were drawn from Bryn Mawr’s collection of more than 300 works of African art (see page 42).

One of the semester’s first public lectures was a look at the opportunities for moral and social responsibility in hard economic times.

Journalist Elaine F.Weiss discussed Bryn Mawr’s role in the Women’s Land Army, which from 1917-20 brought thousands of city workers, society women, artists, business professionals, and college students into rural America to replace male agricultural workers who served in World War I.Weiss’s recently published book, Fruits of Victory: The Woman’s Land Army of America in the Great War is the first full chronicle of this largely forgotten movement, embraced by suffragists as a means of advancing their legislation and agenda.Not initially favored by the government, it proved the best way to help farmers continue to plant and harvest crops at a time of civil unrest over food shortages.

President M.Carey Thomas was an avid supporter and organizer of the movement. Jane Bowne Haines 1891, M.A. ’92, founded the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women at Temple University Ambler, where women were trained to lead. Dean of the College Helen Taft (Manning) ’15 worked as a “farmerette” along with many Bryn Mawr undergraduates (see Lenses, page 78), wrote articles about it for national magazines, and went on a national recruiting tour on its behalf.

Weiss shared with the Bulletin her transcript of a letter at the Library of Congress, written by former President Taft to his daughter on July 3, 1917. Helen’s earning of her master’s degree and election as Dean “constitute one of the great joys of my life,” he wrote.“They open for you a career of great usefulness and great distinction.” Taft, who hoped Helen might eventually become Bryn Mawr’s president, continued: “Women are to play a far larger part in the conduct and influence of affairs than ever before.”

As was the case for Thomas’s Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers, a goal of the movement was to bring together women of different educational backgrounds, social classes and ethnicities—although the barrier of race remained—making ability the sole standard of distinction.

Weiss’s January 27 lecture was sponsored by the Katharine Houghton Hepburn Center, the Department of History, and the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies.