News

Mass. State Rep. Calls on University VP to Increase Transparency for Allston Multimodal Project

News

Harvard President Lawrence Bacow Made $1.1 Million in 2020, Financial Disclosures Show

News

Harvard Executive Vice President Katie Lapp To Step Down

News

81 Republican Lawmakers File Amicus Brief Supporting SFFA in Harvard Affirmative Action Lawsuit

News

Duke Senior’s Commencement Speech Appears to Plagiarize 2014 Address by Harvard Student

Silk Stockings And Cigarettes

By Barbara LEWIS Solow

The class of 1945 is your grandmother's age. We tested only three months of prewar college life: Pearl Harbor and V-E Day bracketed our years here. The wartime changes began to transform the College.

We looked a lot different from today's students, wearing our plaid skirts, baggy sweaters, and penny loafers to class. When we went to Boston it was silk stockings, heels, a dress, even hats. Underneath it all we wore girdles.

We were forbidden to wear "slacks" in class, in public or in the dining hall. After a big political, struggle an exception was made for "inclement weather."

Parietal rules were in full force. We had to "sign out" if we wanted to return to the dorm after 10 p.m., saying where we were going and when we expected to be back.

If your Harvard date took you to his room, you had to be signed in and signed out, and hours of departure were specified. First-semester freshmen were allowed out after 10 p.m. only 10 times. I spent one of mine double dating with Norman Mailer, drinking gin and water because he said it was the drink of the English working class.

From novels about the period, I later discovered there was a lot of sex going on. My naivete at the time was--well--impenetrable. I was by no means unrepresentative. Years later it dawned on me who had been doing what with whom. If you got caught, punishment was swift and severe. A friend of mine, spotted with her finance at a hotel one day before vacationended, was suspended.

I was patted on the fanny by a distinguishedprofessor, and I survived a failed attempt at daterape, by a v Medical School student no less, bothof us cold sober. I just went to back Eliot Halland cried on Mary Douglas' shoulder. She knewwithout m saying much exactly what had happened.It never dawned on me to do anything but endureit.

Our courses were segregated. Professorslectured at Harvard crossed the common, andrepeated the lecture at Radcliffe for a party sum.My instruction was almost completely by seniorfaculty members, rarely a teaching assistant oreven as assistant professor (or faculty instructoras they were called then). I had world-famouseconomists as my tutors and met with them weekly.Their doors were always ready for students, allyou had to do was knock. They were always around.

Although we had the same course work andassignments as the men, Widener was off limits. Wewere confined to a little room off the periodicalroom containing two oak tables and six or eightuncomfortable chairs. Eventually graduatesstudents and candidates for honors were admittedto the main Reading Room. When Lamont opened, nowomen were allowed at all.

History and Literature was a popularconcentration, especially exciting since Americanliterature had just been smuggled into the canon.Music I was the most popular course; fine arts waspopular; hardly any women concentrated in scienceor math.

I think we were conscientious students. Mycronies and I headed for the smoking room afterdinner, puffed away and played bridge until around9:30 p.m., when we dashed out to the Shepard Drugor the Midget for coffee and back by 10 p.m. Thenwe started studying Grade inflation was unknown.In the first semester of my freshman year, sevenof us made Dean's List: four B's and you were astar.

We read the papers every day for war news, andwe watched for the mailman like hawks. Like manyothers, I was engaged to be married, although notto Normal Mailer, and I wrote and received aletter every day. As Harvard students left, Navyand Army officer training a sprinkling ofMexicans, Greeks and Chinese in my economicscourses, which combined graduate students withupper level undergraduates.

So what because of us? The respondents to theclass questionnaire, and the response rate washigh, show a surprising similarity. Over 75percent of us married ,stayed married, had severalchildren, stayed home while they werepreschoolers, went back for more education laterand worked.

Ninety percent of the respondents worked, someare still working in their seventies. We had atleast seven doctors, four lawyers,) remember thatneither Harvard Law School nor Harvard MedicalSchool admitted women then), 19 PhDs, and loads ofMBAs. We voted in presidential elections fromTruman to Clinton, outdistancing Republicans bynearly five to one.

We had more Socialist labour Party voters (one)than Rose Perot voters (zero). We did and do a lotof volunteer work, sports and excercise, read alot, attend cultural events. We are overwhelminglysatisfied with are balance we struck between workand family. When I compare us with my husband'sHarvard class of 1944, I find they are moreRepublican, more wealthy and more divorced.

Just get rid of those girdles and see whathappens.

The author is a member of the Radcliffeclass of '45. She was an economic historian on thefaculty of Boston University.

I was patted on the fanny by a distinguishedprofessor, and I survived a failed attempt at daterape, by a v Medical School student no less, bothof us cold sober. I just went to back Eliot Halland cried on Mary Douglas' shoulder. She knewwithout m saying much exactly what had happened.It never dawned on me to do anything but endureit.

Our courses were segregated. Professorslectured at Harvard crossed the common, andrepeated the lecture at Radcliffe for a party sum.My instruction was almost completely by seniorfaculty members, rarely a teaching assistant oreven as assistant professor (or faculty instructoras they were called then). I had world-famouseconomists as my tutors and met with them weekly.Their doors were always ready for students, allyou had to do was knock. They were always around.

Although we had the same course work andassignments as the men, Widener was off limits. Wewere confined to a little room off the periodicalroom containing two oak tables and six or eightuncomfortable chairs. Eventually graduatesstudents and candidates for honors were admittedto the main Reading Room. When Lamont opened, nowomen were allowed at all.

History and Literature was a popularconcentration, especially exciting since Americanliterature had just been smuggled into the canon.Music I was the most popular course; fine arts waspopular; hardly any women concentrated in scienceor math.

I think we were conscientious students. Mycronies and I headed for the smoking room afterdinner, puffed away and played bridge until around9:30 p.m., when we dashed out to the Shepard Drugor the Midget for coffee and back by 10 p.m. Thenwe started studying Grade inflation was unknown.In the first semester of my freshman year, sevenof us made Dean's List: four B's and you were astar.

We read the papers every day for war news, andwe watched for the mailman like hawks. Like manyothers, I was engaged to be married, although notto Normal Mailer, and I wrote and received aletter every day. As Harvard students left, Navyand Army officer training a sprinkling ofMexicans, Greeks and Chinese in my economicscourses, which combined graduate students withupper level undergraduates.

So what because of us? The respondents to theclass questionnaire, and the response rate washigh, show a surprising similarity. Over 75percent of us married ,stayed married, had severalchildren, stayed home while they werepreschoolers, went back for more education laterand worked.

Ninety percent of the respondents worked, someare still working in their seventies. We had atleast seven doctors, four lawyers,) remember thatneither Harvard Law School nor Harvard MedicalSchool admitted women then), 19 PhDs, and loads ofMBAs. We voted in presidential elections fromTruman to Clinton, outdistancing Republicans bynearly five to one.

We had more Socialist labour Party voters (one)than Rose Perot voters (zero). We did and do a lotof volunteer work, sports and excercise, read alot, attend cultural events. We are overwhelminglysatisfied with are balance we struck between workand family. When I compare us with my husband'sHarvard class of 1944, I find they are moreRepublican, more wealthy and more divorced.

Just get rid of those girdles and see whathappens.

The author is a member of the Radcliffeclass of '45. She was an economic historian on thefaculty of Boston University.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Tags