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A Memory: Smith College Library

In the fall of 1947, or perhaps it was in the spring of 1948, the class of 1950 was summoned to an evening gathering in the Reading Room of the William Allan Neilson Library. Perhaps only part of our large class was there; the room is probably not big enough to have contained the entire class.

As I recall, we sat on the floor looking up at the Dean of the Faculty, Miss Esther Lowenthal, professor of economics. We were there to be urged to think seriously about choosing a major. Dean Lowenthal was a no–nonsense lady: her white hair was neatly pulled back in a small bun, she wore a tailored suit and sturdy flat–soled oxfords, and she looked down at us through wire–rimmed glasses. Oddly, I have a vivid memory of this meeting; yet no one else in the class (and I have asked many classmates their recollections) seems to remember it. As soon as we were seated and quiet, Dean Lowenthal began her remarks to us with the following: "Now, I don't want to hear anything about JOBS!"

I found this baffling. Here was a professional woman who definitely had a "job" (and a highly respected one for a woman in 1947 or 1948) opening her remarks to us—young women who undoubtedly would have to or would wish to work after graduation—with what seemed to me to imply that upon graduating we would all become wives and mothers supported by a working husband, or volunteers living at home and being supported by our families. In retrospect, I believe what she meant to say to us was that our Smith years should be devoted to broadening our general education, exploring the wealth of knowledge and opportunity the college offered, not limiting ourselves to a narrow employment–oriented choice of courses, but it seemed to me then (and even now) to be a very strange way to preface a conversation about our future.

Mary Bishop Coan '50
Greenwich, Connecticut

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