Alumnae Oral Histories
Scroll down for a list of narrators and links to transcripts.
Judith Ames, Class of 1961
In this oral history, Judith Silverman Ames discusses why she chose to attend Smith, her experiences living in Clark House, and her participation playing on various sports teams and with musical groups. Ames also describes the campus atmosphere, the lack of diversity, the benefits of single-sex education, her post-Smith experiences living abroad in Mexico and Japan, and her various career choices.
Carolyn Carr, Class of 1961
In this oral history, Carolyn Carr discusses her work within the Art department (including spending a summer studying art in Italy), how it affected her later career, her experiences taking a class with Sylvia Plath, and her transition to Smith from a small town in Virginia. Carr also describes issues of race and the Civil Rights Movement on campus, and her reaction to the Newton Arvin pornography scandal.
Harriet Destler, Class of 1961
In this interview, Harriet Destler talks about Smith’s horse-back riding team, her History major, and engaging in political leadership on campus. Destler recounts a number of political actions that she both led and participated in during her tenure at Smith. Destler jokes about her inability to learn languages, and discusses skills she learned at Smith that have served her well in her work at both the US Agency for International Development and beyond.
Access to this interview is restricted. If you would like to view the transcript, please email Nanci Young at firstname.lastname@example.org
Susan Gesing, Class of 1961
In this oral history, Susan Gesing describes what it was like arriving at Smith from the Midwest, what the dating scene and social atmosphere were like, her work as an American Studies major, her opinion on the Newton Arvin scandal, and what a Smith education has meant to her.
Martha Grace, Class of 1961
In this oral history, Martha Grace discusses the overall atmosphere at Smith, her work as a zoology major, her experiences living in Dewey House, her marriage after her junior year, what a Smith education has meant to her, and her decision to attend law school and obtain a Master's degree in Animals and Public Policy.
Deborah Heller, Class of 1961
In this oral history, Deborah Heller discusses adjusting to Smith from Brooklyn, issues of diversity, the social pressures and her life after Smith, including her marriage, divorce, and coming out process, her involvement within the LGBT community, and her current work to establish an LGBTQQ alum affinity group.
Yvonne Johns, Class of 1961
In this oral history, Yvonne Johns describes the overall campus atmosphere, the dating scene, her experiences as president of Gillett House, her work as an American Studies major, her experiences as a woman working within the Civil Rights Movement, and what a Smith education has meant to her.
Access to this interview is restricted. If you would like to view the transcript, please email Nanci Young at email@example.com.
Phyllis Klein, Class of 1961
In this oral history, Phyllis “Patti” Klein describes the overall campus atmosphere, her work in the history, art history, and English departments, and her life after Smith.
Access to this interview is restricted. If you would like to view the transcript, please email Nanci Young at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Karen McClure, Class of 1961
In this oral history, Karen McClure describes the overall campus atmosphere, her involvement in sports, her work as a sociology major, issues of diversity, the dating scene, her experiences living in Wesley House, and what it feels like to be back at Smith.
Marilyn Nelson, Class of 1961
In this oral history, Marilyn Carlson Nelson describes why she decided to attend Smith, her experiences studying abroad in Geneva, her work within the theater and dance departments, her experiences working in the business world and as CEO of the Nelson Group, one of the largest privately held companies in the world, and what a Smith education has meant to her.
Access to this interview is restricted. If you would like to view the transcript, please email Nanci Young at email@example.com.
Laura Pires-Hester, Class of 1961
In this oral history, Laura Pires-Hester describes how she decided to attend Smith, what the overall campus atmosphere was like, her experiences living in Albright House, issues of race and class, the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, her work to increase the racial diversity on campus, her life and work after Smith, and what a Smith education has meant to her.
Topsy Siderowf, Class of 1961
In this oral history, Topsy Siderowf discusses the overall campus atmosphere, her work as a history major, the dating scene, the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, her interactions with Sylvia Plath, and her work at Golf Digest.
Joyce Spencer, Class of 1961
In this oral history, Joyce Spencer describes the overall campus atmosphere, her experiences singing in the choir, issues of race, ethnicity, and religion, and her life after Smith.
Janet Walker, Class of 1961
In this oral history, Janet Walker discusses what a Smith education has meant to her, her work as a history major, her experiences living in Gardiner House, and issues of diversity, and describes a typical Smith student during the late 1950s.
Eleanor Woods, Class of 1961
In this oral history, Eleanor Woods describes her experiences playing in the orchestra, her continuing involvement with music, the dating scene at Smith, issues of racial diversity, the alumnae reaction to the Newton Arvin controversy, and what a Smith education has meant to her.
Roberta Boylan, Class of 1962
In this oral history, Roberta Walsh Boylan describes coming to Smith from Montana, living in Gillett House, campaigning for laxer social rules, moving to San Francisco after graduation with Mary Ann Savage Habib, going to Law School, and being the first woman at University of Montana Law School.
Mary Ann Habib, Class of 1962
In this oral history, Mary Ann Savage Habib describes struggling through her first year, the dating scene, seeing Martin Luther King Jr. speak at Helen Hills Hills Chapel, her decision to move to California after graduating, and working at the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections.
Lucille Nawara, Class of 1962
In this oral history, Lucille Nawara describes coming to Smith as a legacy student, her fear of posture pictures, coming from an artistic family and deciding to study art and music at Smith, feeling out of place in high school but comfortable at Smith, struggling through astronomy class, living in Tenney House and having President Mendenhall over for dinner, traditions like Mountain Day and regulations in the houses, the positive aspects of taking phys ed, and the confidence and analytical skills that Smith gave her as she continued on as an art professor and landscape designer.
Francie Pepper, Class of 1962
In this oral history, Francie Pepper describes shattering her high school teacher’s expectations by not only going to Smith, but succeeding as well. She discusses coming from a long line of strong women, participating in sports while at Smith, studying abroad in Madrid, going to secretarial school and using her Spanish to get top jobs, raising money for the YWCA, and working on social issues like birth control, domestic violence, and trafficking.
Margaret Freeman, AMS Class of 1963
In this oral history, Margaret Freeman describes her transition from University of Manchester, England to Smith College as one of the first group of the AMS Diploma Scholars. She describes the social life in Talbot House, the cultural differences, her surprise at the quality of Smith food and the practice of knitting in classes, and the ways Smith affected her life, particularly her intellectual confidence.
Celeste Hemingson, Class of 1963
In this oral history, Celeste Hemingson recalls the backdrop of political activism that marked her time at Smith, including student sit-ins to integrate the lunch counter at the Northampton Woolworths. She observes how her Smith experience gave her a love of learning and the self-confidence to pursue her passions, including becoming a priest.
Toni Kestenbaum, Class of 1963
In this oral history Toni Kestenbaum, who has attended every reunion since graduation, speaks of the affirming importance of this gathering. She also reflects on the changes she has witnessed over the years, including the diversity of the student body and an openness to sexual identity differences. She attributes her successful career in finance and business to the foundation she received at Smith.
Claire Moses, Class of 1963
In this oral history Claire Goldberg Moses reflects on the occasion of the 50th class reunion. She speaks of the important role the house culture played in her college experience and on the central role her junior year abroad in Paris played in her life. She recalls a progressive political environment at Smith, which included Civil Rights demonstrations in front of the Northampton Woolworth building.
Elizabeth Rosenthal, Class of 1963
In this oral history Betsy Robins Rosenthal recalls the divisions she encountered among students along lines of race, religion and class, and the way she’s observed diversity increasing on campus over the years. Asked about a “typical Smithie,” she reflects on how different Smith students are from one another, but that they are also universally serious students who continually impress her.
Susan Friebert Rossen, Class of 1963
In this oral history, Susan Friebert Rossen credits her Smith education, particularly her art history professors and her junior year in Paris, with giving her the foundation for a successful professional career. She talks about the experience of helping to prepare her class reunion book and all she learned while researching in the College Archives during that process.
Mary Smith, Class of 1963
In this oral history, Mary Oakes Smith speaks of the ways in which her Smith experience shaped her future activism and her career in international development. She talks about the importance of Smith’s engineering program and the emphasis on a global education and community service and recalls professors and classes that presented her with unique opportunities.
Joan Bouchard, Class of 1964
Joan Bouchard begins by recalling her time living in Dawes House and the exploits in which she participated. She brings up the importance of listening to contrasting opinions in the context of both George Wallace and Christine Lagarde. She also discusses the importance of believing that one can change the world and having an activist attitude. She tells about her involvement in sports at Smith and her positive experience with the posture requirements and her basic motor skills class. Next, she brings up her enjoyment of work study jobs that others might have disliked. The interview concludes with Bouchard remembering how Smith professors helped her understand her own value and intelligence, which has helped her get through many difficult times in her life.
Sally Katzen Dyk, Class of 1964
Sally Katzen Dyk begins her interview with a story about being one of the “dirty dozen,” a group that the dean admitted to Smith in spite of their low SAT scores, and who went on to be leaders on campus. She discusses her interest in the Civil Rights Movement, which was sparked by seeing the “I Have a Dream” speech and manifested itself in her role in organizing the Southern Student Exchange at Smith. She talks about her experiences with racism when she spent a week at an all-black college in the South. She recalls the assassination of JFK on her birthday as well as her role on campus during 9/11, when she had just returned to Smith as a professor. She considers the differences between the college in the 1960s and in the 2000s. Additionally, she discusses her work in three presidential administrations and the confidence that Smith gave her for her career.
Joan Gass, Class of 1964
In this interview, Joan Gass recalls her journey to Smith and her two years here. Feeling like an outsider compared to the “typical” Smithie, she has a different perspective on social life and traditions on campus. She reflects on the political climate at Smith and her own political canvassing she did here. Joan talks about transferring to Brown her sophomore year after marrying her husband, because Smith only allowed single students at the time. She speaks to the sexism she experienced at Smith and at Brown as a married student. Joan ends the interview by remembering how women in her class either married or aimed for more degrees after Smith, because a Smith education did not guarantee a career.
Ellen Hurwitz, Class of 1964
Ellen Hurwitz places a lot of emphasis on her academic experiences in this interview. She begins by telling a story about being reprimanded for knitting in class. She goes on to discuss the dating culture and how people reacted to her Judaism. She also talks about what it was like to study Russian in the Cold War era, as well as what it meant to be a woman in the 1960s. She emphasizes the importance of being open to hearing various points of view so that they can be dealt with in the wider world, and she expresses thankfulness that Smith exposed her to so many different viewpoints and subjects. She concludes by discussing what it feels like to come back for the first reunion she has attended.
Angela Margolis, Class of 1964
Angela Margolis reflects upon her college experience as the first Smithie from North Dakota. In this interview, she talks about negotiating her class and national identity as she moved back and forth between North Dakota and Massachusetts. She speaks to the dating culture and the rigid rules set by house mothers. She also recalls specific anecdotes about her and her friends breaking those rules. Margolis then remembers specific events during her Smith career, such as hearing Eudora Welty and Robert Frost speak. She ends the interview by talking about finding her passion for theater after graduating, as well as her path towards becoming a wife, a mother, and a spiritual person.
Susan O'Malley, Class of 1964
In this interview, Susan O’Malley begins with a small note of being placed in the maid’s quarters in King House. During this segment, O’Malley refers to a Kingsman (groundskeeper) who mentions that there were a number of suicides at Smith committed in the quad. O’Malley then discusses her dating life, the rigid curfew, and Father’s Weekend as issues that were shaped by the restrictive culture of Smith. O’Malley also mentions her amusing stint playing the carillon. She speaks of visiting sex lecturers at Smith, her post-grad experiences in the South, the Smith posture pictures as an invasive practice, and the overall homophobic culture of Smith in the 1960s.
Katharine Panfil, Class of 1964
Kathie Panfil begins her interview by recalling her time living in Albright and some of the house traditions in which she participated. She talks about the challenges of coming from a less prestigious high school than other Smithies. She discusses the student reactions to George Wallace coming to speak, as well as the overall revision of her political views that she went through while at Smith. Next, she remembers the assassination of JFK. She discusses her experience of the rules and regulations that the college placed on social life. Moving on to academics, Panfil brings up the importance of having enough focus in one’s major and the influence of Dean Robinton. Finally, she recalls the expectation that she would get married right after college rather than start a career, and the extent to which she did and did not fulfill this expectation.
Gail Stempien, Class of 1964
In this interview, Gail Stempien talks about some of her favorite house and college traditions. She recalls the strictness of her house mother, the weekend curfews, and dating culture at Smith. She remembers meeting Ted Kennedy with one of her classes, and her professor’s reaction to him. Stempien concludes the interview by discussing her time at Smith as a moment of opportunity and privilege.
Carol Sudhalter, Class of 1964
In this interview, Carol Sudhalter talks about feeling removed from many of her classmates when she was at Smith and discusses her frequent ventures off-campus into the surrounding area. She recalls the class and racial tensions that led her house mother to forbid her friendship with a black cook. Finally, she talks about her love for and career in music and how it led her back to Smith for reunion.
Jane Thurber, Class of 1964
Jane Thurber begins her interview with the story of coming to Smith as a result of the music program and her sister’s attendance before her. She talks about feeling younger than her other friends in Wilder House. She moves on to discuss her music major and her career in teaching music, and closes by speaking to the importance of listening to other people’s opinions and being grateful for the opportunities that Smith affords.
Pamela Jean Akiri, Class of 1965
In this interview, Pamela Jeanne Akiri discusses her academic life at Smith, pursuing a zoology major and how her Smith career influenced her post-grad career choices. She details her first marriage, the difficulties she and her husband faced as an interracial couple in the U.S. in the late 1960s and their subsequent move to Nigeria for work.
Carol Berde, Class of 1965
Carol Berde discusses her apprehension upon arriving at Smith, how she eventually found her footing, despite religious segregation, in part by becoming president of Wilder house and her involvement with the honor board. She recounts the political culture at Smith during the Civil Rights Movement, regret at not being more involved out of fear, and her memory of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Berde details her life and career after Smith, particularly her work with Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, and offers unique personal insights regarding the evolution of student engagement pertaining to political and social justice issues on and off campus.
Mary Jo Deering, Class of 1965
In this interview, Mary Jo Deering discusses her transition from public high school and the inspiration she derived from Smith’s academic community. She recalls her junior year abroad in France and her introduction to oral history as a result of that trip. Deering also recounts the first African American Studies courses offered at Smith and the resulting contestation. She credits her Smith education in fostering a set of critical thinking skills that remain with her today.
Paula Ferris Einaudi, Class of 1965
In this interview, Paula Ferris Einaudi discusses her desire to attend Smith from an early age and the limited choices available to women at that time. She reflects on her feelings upon arrival as a freshman and the personal transformation that occurred during those four years. Einaudi details her house community, social and dating life on and off campus, the political climate during the Women’s Movement and Civil Rights Movement, as well as gender, sexuality and the evolution of Smith’s student body. Einudi expands upon her post Smith life and career, specifically how Smith remains an influential presence via networking and alumnae.
Francine Haber, Class of 1965
In this interview, Francine Haber recounts her arrival at Smith in 1961 and its reputation as the “Ivy League” college for women. She describes her house community, strict rules and regulations, the roles of house mothers and social life on and off campus. She describes the atmosphere on campus at the start of Vietnam War, her participation in the civil rights student movement, and the contention surrounding George Wallace’s invitation to speak at Smith. Haber details her years in London immediately following graduation, and credits her Smith education with shaping her formative years in a way that benefited her personally and professionally.
Jona Burgess Hammer, Class of 1965
In this interview, Jona Burgess Hammer describes moving from Iceland to the United States and the cultural differences she encountered as a student at Smith, particularly her surprise at discovering Smith was a single sex institution. She details social life on campus in the early 1960s, specifically mixers and dances in which men from neighboring colleges were brought to Smith, and how she met her husband at the first mixer she begrudgingly attended. She her English major, coursework and notable professors and the overall conservative climate of the Smith campus in the early 1960s.
Christine Heyworth, Class of 1965
In this interview, Chrissy Heyworth describes her transition from a small farmhouse in eastern Massachusetts to communal living in the modern Ziskind dorm. She recalls the close, lifelong friendship she and her roommate developed, and details the diversity that was particular to the Cutter Ziskind community. Heyworth describes social life and dating as well as the challenge in balancing her athletics and studies. She discusses the evolution of the Smith student population and offers her perspective on issues of sexuality, gender and identity.
Laura Goodman Jacobs, Class of 1965
In this interview, Laura Jacobs discusses her move from New York City to Northampton. She discusses the social and academic difficulties she faced during the transition and recalls the relationships she formed with her roommate and fellow students who helped her during that adjustment period. She discusses her house community, the roles that house mothers played within that community, as well as her experience as a Jewish woman at Smith and one of two women majoring in physics.
Judy Clymer Welles, Class of 1965
In this interview, Judy Clymer Welles discusses poignant experiences as a freshman at Smith, student activism and political climate on campus during the Civil Rights movement. She speaks candidly about the house communities, rules and regulations during that time period, the strict honor code as well as social life and extracurricular activities. In closing Welles comments on the physical changes on campus as well the evolution of academics and class offerings.
Elinor Yahm, Class of 1965
In this interview, Elinor Yahm discusses her difficult transition into the Smith community as a young Jewish woman from New York. She talks about her major in political science and how it influenced her post Smith work during the Women’s Movement. Yahm recalls the expectations placed on students and the affect it had on her academically as well as the pros and cons of attending a single sex institution.
Kye Cochran, Class of 1966
In this interview, Kye Cochran reflects on her life after Smith. Having been at Smith for a year, Cochran decided to leave, going on to travel the world with a marine biologist. Cochran talks about her travels as well as starting the Alternative Energy Resources Organization, and the conception of her co-op, Local Energy and Food, in White River, Montana.
Glenna Hazeltine, Class of 1966
In this oral history, Glenna Hazeltine describes why she chose to attend Smith, her reactions upon arrival, the overall campus atmosphere, her membership with the SDS, her involvement with Gold Key and the Sophian, her work as an English major, her opinion of President Mendenhall, and what a Smith education has meant to her.
Ellen Moorhouse, Class of 1966
In this interview, Ellen Moorhouse reflects on her transition to Smith as a Canadian international student. She remembers her community in Martha Wilson House and Dawes House. Moorhouse also talks about her idea of a “typical Smithie” and women’s role in the workplace in the 60s.
Sylvia Perlman, Class of 1966
In this interview, Sylvia Perlman talks about her time in Talbot and Cutter House, Ivy Day traditions, and formal house dinners. A member of The Sophian and Hillel, Perlman remembers her time in each community, as well as her work in the Sociology department.
Gretchen Ridgeway, Class of 1966
In this interview, Gretchen Ridgeway reflects on the traditions of Hubbard House, where she lived for three years. She describes the roles that the house mother and house professor played in student’s daily lives, providing among many other things emotional support and good dinner conversation. Ridgeway also talks about the merits of Smith’s study-abroad programs.
Susan Thoresen, Class of 1966
In this oral history, Sue Thoresen describes why she chose to attend Smith, the overall campus atmosphere, her experiences singing in the choir and glee club, the social changes that occurred at Smith during her time there, campus reactions to the Vietnam War, and her life after Smith.
Paula Duffy, Class of 1967
In this oral history Paula “Polly” Duffy discusses how her love of the French language drew her to Smith with the promise of the JYA Paris program. She describes her first impressions at Smith, the house community she found in Hubbard House, and her experiences as someone coming from a family with a lower income than most Smithies. She goes on to talk about the dating scene and her participation as the vocalist in a rock-and-roll group on campus called the RhymeStones. She ends by discussing the opportunities afforded to her through the Smith network.
Sandra Gleason, Class of 1967
In this oral history, Sandra Gleason describes becoming an economics major, coming from a military family, living in Capen House, her housemothers, the traditions of Mountain Day and Rally Day, her experience as a research assistant, the atmosphere of acceptance and open-mindedness at Smith, the benefits of the women’s college experience, and her career in the academic world.
Ellen Kanner, Class of 1967
In this oral history, Ellen Kipnis Kanner describes her experience at Smith as a Jewish student, her time studying abroad in Spain, and a love of Smith College that continues years later.
Brenda Lewis, Class of 1967
In this oral history, Brenda Lewis describes her class as the last traditional class, comments upon the changes that took place during her tenure at Smith, and discusses her success in the world of business after graduating.
Jerri Long, Class of 1967
In this oral history, Jerri Pantages Long describes arriving at Smith from California, living in Parsons for one year and then Tenney House for three years. She talks about Mountain Day and May Day traditions and the importance of a women’s school.
Paula Roberts, Class of 1967
In this oral history, Paula Roberts discusses her political consciousness starting at a young age, and how it grew and developed at Smith. She describes interning with Congressman Conte and Project Cornerstone, an experience that developed her understanding of racism. She talks about becoming a welfare caseworker and going to law school after Smith.
Leslie McKenzie, Class of 1968
In this oral history, Leslie McKenzie, a philosophy of religion major, recalls the professors and classes that made strong marks on her life and tells stories of unique teaching moments which she has never forgotten. She also recalls the difference that living in a small house made in her college experience.