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Alumnae Oral Histories


The decade of 1940-1949 was one of change and challenge for the College. Long-time president, William A. Neilson retired in 1939 after a 22 year tenure. The new president, Herbert J. Davis guided the College through the years of World War 2, and the post-war campus. Rationing, black outs, and the loss of faculty to war service efforts, as well as hosting the WAVES division of the U.S. Navy provided challenges for him, and the students that were left behind.

Full videos

Scroll down for a list of narrators and links to transcripts.



Adelaide Cromwell, Class of 1940Adelaide Cromwell, Class of 1940

Adelaide Cromwell recounts the influence her aunt, Otelia Cromwell, had on her decision to attend Smith, and her acceptance into the Smith community as one of four admitted African American students at the college. She discusses social and academic life on campus at the time and the lasting friendships that developed. Cromwell recounts her interest in sociology and how her education at Smith benefited her post-Smith career. She discusses career milestones; establishing an African American studies program at Boston University being the first African American woman to teach at Hunter College and later at Smith. Cromwell offers her insight as
to how to college has evolved, socially and politically, citing the admission of transwomen as proof of progress.

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Patricia Cunningham, Class of 1943 Patricia Cunningham, Class of 1943

In this oral history, Patricia Cunningham describes living in Comstock, studying abroad in Mexico, focusing on her studies rather than on dating, feeling as though women should be able to do anything, and being gratified when feminism began developing a few years after she graduated from Smith. Lastly, she describes working in France and her experiences in the Foreign Service.

Access to this interview is restricted. If you would like to view the transcript, please email Nanci Young at nyoung@smith.edu.


Anne Kingsley Thorpe, Class of 1943Anne Kingsley Thorpe, Class of 1943

In this oral history Anne Kingsley Thorpe looks back on her experience of being on campus during World War II, including rushing from classes to listen to reports of critical battles. She remembers Smith traditions which inspired her during her years on campus and the professors who shaped her college career.

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Dr. Evelyn Boyd Granville, Class of 1945Dr. Evelyn Boyd Granville, Class of 1945

Dr. Evelyn Boyd Granville begins her interview recounting her time at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., and the educators who encouraged the student body to apply to ‘Ivy League’ colleges. She describes her personal experience as the only African American student in her graduating class, campus life during WWII, academic interests, achievements, memorable internship opportunities, and favorite Smith traditions. Granville describes her post-Smith academic career, becoming the second woman to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics in 1949, and her career trajectory from joining IBM in 1956, to working NASA's Project Vanguard and Project Mercury space programs. She details her career in education and life after retirement.

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Group Interview with Members of the Class of 1946Group Interview with Members of the Class of 1946

In this oral history, Abby Minot Gross, Rosalie Taylor Howlett, Jane Hill, Helen Goddard, Margaret DeMott, and Araxi Prévot discuss what it was like being at Smith during World War II, working on the farms, the fire in Dickinson House, and what it has meant to them to be Smith graduates.

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