Students Interviewing Alumni About Women at Bowdoin

Story posted September 19, 2011

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Gender and Women's Studies Professor Jennifer Scanlon is asking her 200-level seminar students to think of themselves as excavators of history. That's because much of her course's source matter has yet to be discovered.

Scanlon is using the 40th anniversary of the matriculation of the first full class of women students at Bowdoin as the subject for an exciting, research-driven course, Forty Years: The History of Women at Bowdoin.

As part of the course, students are researching the Bowdoin College archives and interviewing live subjects -- Bowdoin alumni -- for firsthand accounts of what it was like to be among the first women at the College. Interviewees have already been selected from a large pool of alumni.

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From an 1890 publication of The Bugle.

"The students are excited to learn about the history of their own institution," says Scanlon. "They have a lot of questions about who these women were who made the decision to come here. What kind of person would make that choice? What were the responses of men?"

Their list of interviewees includes men as well as women, students, faculty, and staff. Research themes include the first year of coeducation, athletics, social life, and the classroom.

"We won't obviously tell the whole story, but hope to interview a sufficient range of individuals,” notes Scanlon. “It seems like every conversation I have with people around the campus, as I tell them about the course, provides new angles and new avenues for our research.

“We also have an interest in women in Bowdoin’s pre-coeducation eras: the women who came on buses for socials, the women of the Society of Bowdoin women, and the women who worked on campus as secretaries and in housekeeping or dining services.

The class will cap their research by creating a web site about women at Bowdoin, which will include student-written research, archival documents, photos, and streaming oral histories.

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