Cromwell Day provides dedicated time and space for reflection and education about diversity, racism and inclusion. Through the work of the Office for Equity & Inclusion (OEI), together with campus partners, the college seeks to take individual and community responsibility for our behavior with an awareness of how that behavior furthers and disrupts patterns of structural oppression.
Confronting Challenges. Creating Change.
Through individual and community engagement, we reach hearts. Through inclusive education and programming, we nourish minds. Through institutional change and collaborations, we realign systems. Since its beginning, Smith has been at the forefront of envisioning a world where we all belong. Cromwell Day gives us an opportunity to reflect upon our accomplishments and look ahead to all that we can still do to evolve and transform. Every voice matters, and every step—whether large or small—makes a difference.
Equity & Inclusion in Action: Selected Examples from 2020–21
The History of Cromwell Day
Mary Maples Dunn, then president of Smith College, initiated Otelia Cromwell Day in 1989 to provide an opportunity for further education and reflection about issues of diversity and racism. At the 2019 ceremony, the college announced that the event would be renamed Cromwell Day, following the wishes of the Cromwell family and to honor the legacies of both Otelia Cromwell 1900 and her niece, Adelaide Cromwell ’40.
Smith Voices: Progress & Possibilities
Celebrating Otelia Cromwell
For the 2021 Cromwell Day convocation, the Smith community created an inspiring digital quilt.
“The Life and Legacy of Otelia Cromwell” was created as part of the college’s 25th annual Cromwell Day celebration honoring Smith’s first African American graduate.
“Maven” by Nikky Finney
For Otelia Cromwell, 1874–1972
"When you are a thinking woman neither violence or sugar plums can muzzle the power of thought."
Imagine, hatch, comprehend, apprehend:
Know the inside and the out. You are just
a girl when your mother dies. Left to tend
the rest of the flock, you, the oldest,
the one most like your father, taught
to leave no stone unturned, marry thrift
and industry, while burying your head
in the stacks. Sang-froid but never
silent. Inquire, picture, ponder, think
over, think and think, again. Giddy
with your own mind, "Master everything"
is the family crest, no veil feigning, faking,
guise, masquerade, or fanfare. There is
a right way and a wrong. When you give
your hand to the world, your responsibility:
To have a mind, keep in mind, change
a mind—and be the last to die.
"An educated group is a thinking group."
Intuit, divine, check and recheck, invent:
Know the backward and the forward.
You care nothing for the popular, even
less for the slipshod. Your arms flower
with all the leading out books, choosing
wisely what and who trains you: Frankness,
virtuoso, mastery, crackerjack. Think and
think, again. You leave college and university
exceptionally prepared. You are complex
and astute, as calm as a comma. No time
for jewelry or parlor beaus. There is
a gold watch, a signet ring, a Smith
College pin: White letters on gold just
above the heart. Diligent, proficient, self-
possessed, you weigh in with words, to state
your tolerance to the inefficient. You never
back down from what is right. Young Adelaide
is your "dependable" and the 9th graders
leaning in to your instruction whisper: This
must be college. You gray beautifully—but early.
"The genius does not write to please."
(nor live to marry)
Veritas. Words pulled through a fine-tooth
comb, then, before sleep, pulled through,
again. You refuse to segregate language from
life, read German for sport and swing golf
clubs just to stay on the qui vive. You write
of the legality of taxes, pica out democracy,
vow and edit for the intergral Negro intellectual.
Winnow, probe, sift through, quest: Think
and think, again. Solemnly engaged now to
Lucretia & Thomas, you dislike being called
"Dr." and remain forever keen on "Miss."
What the dutiful trained hand can perfectly
stitch delights you. Unconventional and easy-
going, your desire never wanes: To be put
through the paces, edify, enlighten, to work
outward—from simple seam to monogram.
We herald your bright hallmark of firsts,
those sprightly high-waisted truths; the soft-
spoken whippersnapper, eloping still.
All words in italics are the words of Otelia Cromwell.
©2009 Nikky Finney.