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Letter to Alumnae, April 13, 2020

Letter to Alumnae, April 13, 2020

Dear alumna,

There is no doubt: it has been a difficult month for all of us. I hope you are doing well and have the support you need.

One thing that has given me great comfort is the connection I have to my classmates and fellow alums. I’m sure you feel the same way. All across the world, alums are stepping up to help their communities, stay social, and lift up the most vulnerable among us. I’ve been so inspired—but not surprised—by the thoughtfulness and generosity of our community.

Amid all the stress of these difficult days, it is important that each and every one of us finds the time to relax, perhaps avoid the news for an hour or two, and turn to things that soothe our minds, bodies and souls. In that spirit, we’ve put together a collection of fun and interesting Smith- and Smithie-related books, podcasts, binge-worthy shows and movies, along with a few other things to do while you are home and looking for a diversion. I hope these suggestions bring a smile to your face and take your mind off of the world outside, at least for a little while.

Connections are critical now more than ever, so I also want to encourage you to update your profile in the Alumnae Directory, connect with your class and check the Alumnae Relations website to find out how your local Smith club is keeping in touch. 

Remember: we are stronger together. I am thinking of you and wishing you the best.

In health and community,

Denise Wingate Materre ’74
Vice President for Alumnae Relations
Smith College


The Last Samurai (2000), Helen DeWitt ’80’s debut novel, is regarded as a modern masterpiece. Read the 2016 reissue from New Directions Publishing.

Maybe it’s time to finally tackle A Little Life (2015), Hanya Yanagihara ’95’s epic (720-page) story of male friendship. The novel was a finalist for the National Book Award and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

The Starless Sea (2019) is Night Circus author Erin Morgenstern ’00’s long-awaited sophomore novel about a secret subterranean library.

Drawing is a terrific quarantine hobby, requiring no more than pencil and paper. Let Claire Watson Garcia ’67 guide you with Drawing for the Absolute and Utter Beginner, the 15th anniversary edition of which was published in 2018.

Find more to read from Smithie authors at WordSmith. If you would like to have your work appear on our list, please fill out this form.


Raise Hell, Janice Engel’s 2019 documentary about the life and times of the late media firebrand Molly Ivins ’66, is streaming with a Hulu subscription.

A Wrinkle in Time (2018), Ava DuVernay’s big-budget adaptation of the classic novel by Madeleine L’Engle ’41, is streaming with a Disney+ subscription.

Curl up with The Bisexual, Desiree Akhavan ’07’s six-episode dramedy from 2018. Akhavan wrote, directed and starred in the television series, which is streaming with a Hulu subscription.

Arthur Moon, the avant-pop music project of Lora-Faye Whelan Åshuvud ’10, performed at NPR’s famed Tiny Desk on February 5, 2020. Watch the band’s three-song set on NPR Music’s YouTube channel.

Watch Premature, a web series created by Sabrina Brier ’17 and Marie Koury ’17 about the impact of female friendship. The series includes a leading performance by Isabella Tagliati ’19, and performances by Aisha Amin ’17 and Sidni Standard ’17.The original music is by Smiffenpoofs Grainne Buchanan ’17 and Sam Davis ’17. 


Parenting in the time of coronavirus? You need Ellie Knaus ’05’s popular weekly parenting podcast, Atomic Moms, now more than ever!

Word nerds: If you loved Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries (2017) by Kory Stamper ’96, check out Fiat Lex (2018), Stamper’s dictionary podcast with fellow lexicographer Steve Kleinedler.

Lori Tharps ’94’s My American Melting Pot is a biweekly podcast about the ways race influences and impacts daily life. “From technology to fried chicken, from music to motherhood, every aspect of modern society is ripe for discussion.”

Who couldn’t use a little extra chocolate these days? Tune in to The Slow Melt, journalist and educator Simran Sethi ’92’s podcast about everyone’s favorite sweet treat.

Punk trio Potty Mouth’s sophomore album, SNAFU, might be just the music you need to work out your quarantine anger. Two-thirds of the band are Smithies: Ally Einbinder ’10 (bass) and Victoria Mandanas ’12 (drums).

The Sage Chamber Music Society of the Smith music department presents a special livestream, Schubertiade VIII: 3 sonatas with pianist Jiayan Sun, on Thursday, April 16, at 8 p.m. The program features two piano sonatas by Franz Schubert, in D Major (D. 850) and B-flat Major (D. 960), along with an incomplete yet exquisite movement in F-sharp Minor (D. 571). 


Watch this workshop on using LinkedIn and the Alumnae Directory for your job and internship search

Watch Mary Ellen Hannibal ’81’s TEDTalk about saving the planet and monarch butterflies. 

Watch a recording of Rachel Rubinstein's lecture “Racial Confusion: Jewishness, Racial Formation, and the Many Faces of Antisemitism” as part of Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Floyd Cheung’s class Thinking Through Race. Email for access.

Feel Good

Try a new workout from Smith Athletics.

Meditate during a weekly mindfulness meditation led on Zoom by Ruth Ozeki ’80 and Mary Beth Brooker Mondays from 5 to 5:30 p.m. EST. A 10-minute guided meditation is followed by a short stretching break and a second period of silent meditation. No experience needed.

Sign up for Stephanie Small MSW '04’s webinar “Three Mental Health Nutrition Principles Everyone Should Know” on April 22 at 2 p.m. EST. Participants will explore the connection between the Standard American Diet, gut function and mental health—as well as learn some simple, highly effective interventions that you can implement in your life immediately.

Tell Us What You’re Doing

We want to know what stay-at-home orders look like for you. Submit your high-res #smithiesathome photos, or let us know what you’ve been doing to stay social, help your community, or connect with your classmates during this unique moment in our history. Send your stories to and we’ll collect them and run as many as we can in an upcoming issue of the Smith Alumnae Quarterly.