November 12, 2001
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jill Ker Conway To Read
From Her New Book,
A Memoir of Her Years at Smith
NORTHAMPTON, Mass.-From her childhood,
spent on an Australian sheep farm, to her tenure as Smith College's
first woman president, Jill Ker Conway has led an extraordinary
life, as documented in three internationally published installments
of her autobiography.
With the publication in 1989 of "The Road From Coorain,"
Conway began sharing stories from early parts of her life, reflecting
on her Australian childhood and her education in history and
English at the University of Sydney.
In the second installment, 1994's "True North," Conway
writes of her life in America, from her arrival in 1960 to the
beginning of her presidency at Smith in 1975.
And now, in her book "A Woman's Education,"
published just last month, Conway recalls her years at Smith.
Jill Ker Conway will visit Smith on Friday, Nov. 30, as part
of a national book tour. Beginning at 8 p.m., she will give a
reading and hold a question-and-answer session in Wright Hall
Auditorium. A booksigning will follow. The event is free, open
to the public and wheelchair accessible.
Conway took over the helm at Smith at an important period in
the history of single-sex education. By 1975, many traditionally
male colleges and universities had started opening their doors
to women, and women's colleges were experiencing pressure to
But Conway was determined that Smith would stay a women's institution.
"Women's institutions were part of the solution to understanding
how to achieve a juster and more equitable society," she
said in an interview with Knopf, the publisher of her autobiographical
books. "They'd been doing for a century what everyone hoped
to do in the '70s-train women in science, economics, politics,
and they'd given them the support to pursue careers in those
fields. Smith stayed lively and strongly supported because we
were intent on developing the curriculum, the extracurricular
life and the funding to produce women leaders."
Conway's tenure at Smith was complicated by the usual pressures
of institutional administration, including conflicts between
herself, the faculty and the board of trustees. In "A Woman's
Education," she "is candid about the problems in her
decade [at Smith], revealing as well her own misgivings and vulnerabilities
and the stresses of her personal life," says a Publishers
Weekly review. Conway quickly learned "that she had to be
a political strategist, mediator and fundraiser," the review
Like the previous two installments of Conway's autobiography,
"A Woman's Education" has earned excellent reviews.
"These are engaging scenes from the most public chapter
of an accomplished feminist's life," writes Kirkus Reviews.
And again, according to Publishers Weekly, the book is "plainspoken
and gracefully written [readers] will respond to her high ideals,
courageous spirit and humanistic philosophy."