Vivian Gruder, BC ’57 — Interview

Vivian Gruder BC 1957
Interview on 9 17/2015 in Lehman 417c (also videotaped)

To BC in 1953 – 15 ½  not very good NYC Theodore Roosevelt HS – Bronx

My purpose – To get Mrs. McIntosh’s time as Barnard’s head recognized
Her role anticipating women’s liberation unlike elsewhere
“No, if you had been at Barnard, you would have heard Mrs. McIntosh”
Wanted the event oval in Diana named for her. Administration opposed doing so.
VG — Accepted proposal that the student dining hall to named for her – my daughter thinks it even better naming location
Confluence between the person and the time
MCM a pioneer in telling us all that we might have both a career and being a wife/mother

Each entering class encouraged by her to seek out careers – testimonials attesting to her impact
BMc — How many contemporaries contacted
Any criticisms of her??  500 responses; only 1 critical (“a bit distant and old-fashioned”)
Mrs. McIntosh anti-Semitic??
No. “My perusal suggests more students  with Jewish-sounding names, me among them.”
BMc – My impression the same – an upsurge in Jewish students at Barnard in the McIntosh years

Earlier BC admitted Jewish girls from wealthy families à MCM to admit non-wealthy students and more recent immigrants
VG commuted for the 4 years – option for dorms?? Don’t think so.
Bronx commute – “a painful commute”
Then family moved to Inwood as sophomore – difficult dating from  the Bronx
Majored in history – Mostly European/no French history (my subsequent field)
First to U. Chicago à dangerous town; living in International House
Transferred to Radcliffe – Mrs. McIntosh had written on VG’s behalf to Radcliffe
Going  directly to graduate school to 1957 – Many of my classmates going on to graduate/professional schooling
Any discriminatory experiences at Chicago and Radcliffe
Fellowships at both places – no $$ for Yale – went to a man
At Harvard, lost a second-year traveling fellowship going to a married man
Phoebe Morrison in political science dep’t urged her law-school-bound students need not limit them to domestic law
Prevalence of students being pinned and pursued their  “Mrs” before their BA….

Prospects for women looking up – academic world opening up
Hired at Queens in 1967 – first f/time tenured member of history department

Campus relatively quiet in the McIntosh years
Why?
BMc – Students saw themselves becoming what their teachers were
VG – Friends at Barnard had schlepped from Queens
Hunter College HS experienced made Barnard less novel…

VG not finding women mentors  at Barnard that special – male mentors also important
BC history dep’t – Remembers only Annette Baxter in history

Mrs. Niebuhr very much a presence
Dealings with CU curriculum – harder to take courses at CU – wanted to take John Mundy’s course but not allowed by BC chairman – Told to take the medieval course at Barnard.

Not keen on “Silent generation” applicability to BC in the 1950s
BC more open to outside speakers than CCNY

1955 Hurwitz and a Palestinian in debate
1956 presidential campaign
VCG and Anti-Zionist position – VG not aware of that

VCG very limited presence on campus; MCM refreshingly present (holding teas)

“RPark  left at 55 to marry. That’s wonderful.”
MCM anticipated women’s revolution – prepared us for what was to come —  uniquely so
Easier to say after women’s revolution underway in late 1960s

One other criticism in her class survey  – She didn’t want students to wear pants… too conservative
VG not buying the criticism
BMC – Describe your Barnard – its shape during your fifty years involvement
Today’s Barnard – Too feminist-centered
VG – Favored Barnard going co-ed
Her husband at University of Turin – VG encountering men and women in that university – it was an epiphany – co-education is the natural way…
Letter to alumnae magazine favoring co-education – not published; editor later apologized
Peter Juviler proposal – have both CC and BC co-ed and autonomous
It didn’t happen.
Class of  ’52 – Alumna  who wouldn’t advise her daughter to come to Barnard because it was too rigidly single-sex to be appropriate in this age.

Thanks.

 

Transcript finished 10/07/2015
ram31@columbia.edu