Home > Libraries & Collections > College Archives > Alumnae Oral History Project > 1970-1979

Alumnae Oral Histories


Massive social changes occur during the 1970-1979 decade that impact the College: anti-war protests; rise of student rights movement; the Kent State killings in the spring of 1970; Black Pride; gay and lesbian awareness. Each cause had followers and detractors. The College celebrated the inauguration of its first female president, Jill Ker Conway in 1975. The oral histories provide insight into how Smith women participated in the changing social dynamics, and how they navigated what were swiftly changing narratives.

Full videos

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



Kathryn Rodgers, Class of 1970Kathryn Rodgers, Class of 1970

In this interview, Kathy Rodgers recalls her decision to apply to Smith and desire for a college rather than university experience. She discusses her transition from a public high school and the challenges she faced, academically. Rodgers details her house community, including the chores and household duties that students were expected to carry out. She also describes the internal changes that were occurring on campus in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam War.

View transcript


Sheryl King, Class of 1971Sheryl King, Class of 1971

In this oral history, Sheryl King discusses what it was like being Southern at Smith during the late 1960s/early '70s, the overall campus atmosphere (particularly in regards to activism and feminism), and her experiences after Smith.

View transcript

Marcy Friedman, Class of 1972Marcy Friedman, Class of 1972

In this oral history, Marcy Friedman discusses her initial impression of Smith as conservative, her activism protesting the Vietnam War, and the changes she saw during her time at Smith. She comments on the racial dynamics and the silence surrounding lesbianism and same-sex relationships. She describes graduating as an “emerging radical second wave feminist,” and her current position as a New York Supreme Court Justice.

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

Sharon Leyhow, Class of 1973Sharon Leyhow, Class of 1973

In this oral history, Sharon Leyhow recalls the political climate during her years at Smith, including  student protests against the Vietnam War and other events and issues. She recalls her involvement with the Black Students Alliance and their activism to bring African-American Studies to Smith and affect other changes.

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


Barbara Pilvin, Class of 1973Barbara Pilvin, Class of 1973

In this oral history, Barbara Pilvin relates memories of Smith professors who made important and lasting impressions on her. She recalls a life-changing year abroad and talks about the importance of reunion and why she has only missed one since her graduation.

View transcript

Linda Charles, Class of 1974Linda Charles, Class of 1974

In this interview, Linda Charles discusses a wide range of her experiences during and after Smith. She discusses attending Smith during a socially tumultuous time especially around racial diversity, and the student activism that occurred on campus in response. Charles speaks highly of friend, mentor, and student activist Phoebe Haddon, and recalls having meaningful discussions with her professors about being a student of color. Charles describes her professional life after Smith and attributes her success to some of the skills she learned in college. Towards the end of the interview, Charles discusses her position as a trustee and her current perspective on the commencement speaker controversy of 2014. Charles closes with thoughts on the future of Smith and advice to current students.

View transcript

Sylvia Lewis, Class of 1974Sylvia Lewis, Class of 1974

In this interview, Sylvia Lewis discusses her experiences as a member of the class of ’74, which had the largest amount of admitted African American students in Smith’s history. Lewis discusses her first experience at Smith, a party thrown by Smith’s Black Students Alliance to encourage newly admitted Black students to come to Smith. During her time at Smith, Lewis was part of a very active student group who were instrumental in the formation of the African American studies program. Lewis mentions the other contributions of her class, including a Black theater group, the Mwangi Cultural Center, and the Black Alumnae Association.

View transcript

Kimberly Roberts, Class of 1975Kimberly Roberts, Class of 1975

In this interview, Kimberly Roberts discusses how she came to Smith and the changes that were occurring on campus at the time, specifically the removal of house mothers from the dorms which offered students more freedom and greatly impacted social life. She discusses her political activism, the climate on campus at the end of the Vietnam War as well as the racial divide on campus during the Civil Rights Movement. Roberts also details her life and career after Smith and the benefits her Smith education has afforded her.

View transcript


Marianne Bickerton, Class of 1976Marianne Bickerton, Class of 1976

In this oral history, Mary Bickerton discusses her involvement in choir and service organizations, the campus dialogues surrounding feminism, issues of race and class, 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 nyoung@smith.edu.

Deborah Davis, Class of 1976Deborah Davis, Class of 1976

In this interview, Deborah Davis remembers finding community at Smith, both in Lawrence House and beyond. She also talks about how she came to double major in Molecular Biology and English, while still having time to found the Smith Prank Committee.

View transcript

Charity Imbrie, Class of 1976Charity Imbrie, Class of 1976

In this oral history, Charity Imbrie describes her initial reaction to Smith, her involvement with choir and her work within the music department, the political and social atmosphere at Smith (particularly in regards to feminism and lesbianism), and her work within the legal field.

View transcript


Ruth Rosenberg, Class of 1976Ruth Rosenberg, Class of 1976

In her interview, Ruth Rosenberg remembers her time in Wilson House, working as house vice president, and Smith’s social life.  Rosenberg also talks about the transition from President Thomas Mendenhall to President Jill Kirk Conway, and student activism around the Vietnam War.

View transcript

Esther Rothblum, Class of 1976Esther Rothblum, Class of 1976

In this interview, Esther Rothblum talks about coming to Smith as an international student and learning how to be an American. Rothblum also reflects on her time at Smith as raising and engaging her feminist awareness. A clinical psychologist, Rothblum also reflects on what it was like to be a women pursuing a PhD in a male dominated field in the 80s.

View transcript

Edith Bershadsky, Class of 1977Edith Bershadsky, Class of 1977

In this oral history, Edith Bershadsky describes her experiences living in Sessions House, specifically her experience dining with the male exchange students, the tradition of tea, being a feminist, and the strong friendships she formed at Smith.

View transcript

Anne Devaney, Class of 1977Anne Devaney, Class of 1977

In this oral history, Anne Devaney describes being at Smith for its centennial, living in Wilder, Washburn, and Lawrence and the house traditions she remembers, the struggle for funding for the lesbian organization Sophia’s Sisters, being the only white student in an African American literature class, the excitement and happiness around President Conway’s appointment, her experiences as head of rec council, and her career after Smith in student services and human resources.

View transcript

Margaret Greer, Class of 1978Margaret Greer, Class of 1978

In this oral history, Margaret Miller Greer speaks about the critical role that the self-confidence she acquired during her Smith years played in helping her meet future challenges. She recalls favorite Smith traditions, including tea and Vespers, the importance of lifelong friendships she formed at Smith and wise words from Jill Kerr Conway.

View transcript


Cynthia Kohlbry, Class of 1978Cynthia Kohlbry, Class of 1978

In this oral history, Cynthia Kohlbry recalls her love of Smith’s theater department and the professors who made long-lasting impressions on her life. She reflects on some of the extracurricular activities which shaped her Smith experience, including performing with the Smiffenpoofs and the enduring friendships which were formed in that singing group.

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


Katherine Lehmann, Class of 1978Katherine Lehmann, Class of 1978

In this oral history, Kate Lehmann recalls the women’s movement and lesbian activism as significant pieces of the political backdrop during her Smith years, as well as her experience living in a Green Street rooming house. She speaks of the many ways Smith prepared her for the future by helping her develop analytical thinking and self-confidence.

View transcript


Agnes Bundy Scanlan, Class of 1979Agnes Bundy Scanlan, Class of 1979

In this interview, current trustee Agnes Scanlan discusses how Smith being a women’s college affected her decision to attend. Scanlan describes the political atmosphere of the late ’70s as an extension of the early ’70s, with many different student groups on campus advocating for rights and visibility. She talks about growing up in a variety of different places and social cultures and how this prepared her for the multi-cultural environment of Smith. Scanlan also speaks to the perks of attending a women’s college, the five-college social scene, and balancing her social life with her academic work. She closes with advice to current Smith students and reflection on her Smith experience.

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

Need Help?  Ask a Librarian! Smith College Libraries Research Help Library Services About the Libraries Libraries & Collections Smith College Web Smith College Directory Smith College Moodle Course Management System Smith College Email Smith College BannerWeb system Smith College Libraries on Facebook Smith College Libraries Mobile Website Smith College Libraries Suggestion Box