Seven Takeaways from the Bryn Mawr Experience

In defeat you retreat and prepare to fight—yet again.

1. At my public high school graduation in 1950, I received a copy of Edith Finch’s Carey Thomas of Bryn Mawr. I still have it! It chronicles her struggle for the higher education of women. Seventy years later, I insist that we must tell her story—our story—the story and stories which resonate with us. And we must tell them over and over again. To all who might/will listen. Many young Mawrters today have no idea of the struggles we have endured over the years. We have not told them our stories—the stories of struggle and oppression that bring women to where we are today—still struggling and still oppressed.

2. I recently revisited “Black is Beautiful but not enough …” [from the spring 1969 Alumnae Bulletin]. Indeed, really what lies beyond slogans? I embrace all I wrote and still cherish every word. My essential message was a mandate to challenge the injustice encountered everywhere and to change the world we never made.

3. I see my Class of 1954 as a metaphor for my endearing and continuing relationships with Bryn Mawr women: Barbara Thacher, Frieda Wagoner, Claire Liachowitz, Nancy Hayward, Molly Plunkett, Chloe Drabkin, Marion Pertz, Barbara Kalb, Jane Miller, Helen Thurston, Dianne Johnson, Ryna Appleton, Joyce Mitchell, Luvon Roberson, Nia Turner, and so many others. ... We shared adventures … some intangible and continuing.

4. I see activism as a component of the Bryn Mawr experience. My activism—spawned in an African-American working-class family— found its voice on the campus and beyond. Equally important is my tolerance/acceptance/ respect for those holding different views. Activism has shaped my life and continues to do so today.

5. Bryn Mawr builds leaders. There are different kinds of leaders—some recognized and some not! The price of leadership is steep, and exploring its attributes and expressions are topics for another time and place. I have told myself repeatedly that all too often you win when you lose and that in defeat you retreat and prepare to fight—yet again.

6. I am intrigued by today’s responses to adversity—especially on the part of young women of color who are justifiably critical of the flaws in society but seek a “safe space” and anonymity rather than standing and fighting publicly. I say to them that you never win that way!

7. Finally, growing old is my newest adventure. Organizing seniors to stand and fight in the midst of trying times exacerbated by the pandemic gives me new energy. Finding new, creative ways to stay alive, in touch, and in the struggle is a challenge. In my immediate surroundings, I do it in my leadership in progressive organizations, in my “group of buddies,” in my pod, and in my newsletters. I take my message far and wide. I’m reminded of my mother’s words: “Always stand up for right and justice—and when you do, never look around!”

This issue of the Alumnae Bulletin presents reflections from Black alumnae/i and students spanning 65 years in the life of the College.