Thursday, February 21

Newcomb Scholars

First of all, exciting news: as of the writing of this post, we only need about 2100 more views on the video to reach the big FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND. Woohoo! (Tell your friends!)

Next, I wanted to fill you in a bit on what's been going on with Newcomb Scholars. I guess I should begin by saying—I got in! Indeed, I have been a Newcomb Scholar since late November, but I haven't brought it up since I told you all about the program back in October.

We began our career as Newcomb Scholars on December 1 with a day-long “retreat,” in which we played some icebreaker games, came up with general rules and guidelines for our cohort, and generally got to know one another better. Since that time, we twenty girls have been meeting every Tuesday and Thursday at 8:00am for a seminar on “The History and Philosophy of Higher Education.” Basically, we have been reading about and discussing women in college through the years.

I have gotten to know some of the girls in my cohort quite well, and they are all wonderful women. Today we turned in our first major assignment of the semester, a short essay on some aspect of the history of Newcomb College. I chose to write about the Newcomb Women's Center—a center for women formed in the 1970s whose purpose was to counsel Newcomb women on career planning—and its involvement in Second Wave Feminism. Below is an excerpt from my essay:

“A Woman's Place is Every Place.” This popular 1970s slogan, which was often seen on bumper stickers and buttons across the nation, encapsulated the spirit of the mid- to late-twentieth-century women's movement known as the Second Wave of Feminism. This feminist movement began in the 1960s and lasted until the 1990s, and it's message was clear: women must no longer be confined to the home but must instead be free to explore their capabilities and ambitions without the oppressive restraints of patriarchy. Some of the most important issues of Second Wave Feminism, which questioned the dominant conception of a woman's role in society, included educational and career equality, women's reproductive health and sexuality, and laws and politics concerning women.

The feminism associated with the Second Wave permeated all levels of society, including the university. Although Newcomb College was, in some respects, a typical conservative Southern school, as an all-women's college it inevitably became involved in this social movement. In particular, the Newcomb Women's Center, today known as the Newcomb College Center for Research on Women, was active in the feminist ideals of this time. This center, though initially intended as simply a lounge, art gallery and career counseling center for Newcomb women, became involved in different aspects of Second Wave Feminism through its various programs, courses, events and resources. . . .

Women's centers like Newcomb's began forming in various universities around the country, and many of them had a particular focus on identifying and combatting obstacles to women's participation in society. As Mariam Chamberlain explains, many of these centers “went beyond [the education of women] to include some of the radical ideas of the growing women's movement . . . women's lives, roles, and expectations.” The Newcomb Women's Center was no exception. Indeed, in March 1975, Newcomb invited the famous anthropologist and author Margaret Mead to speak at the center's dedication ceremony honoring the Newcomb alumnae who raised over $50,000 to fund the center. Mead, an important feminist thinker in the 1970s, delivered a talk to over 400 people in the second-floor lounge of Caroline Richardson about “The Changing Role of Women.” According to the Newcomb Women's Center's print publication Womentalk, Mead explained that “now men and women are all doing most of the same things. Women are becoming more active in public life and men are more active in the home.” However, she said, “On the whole, many women are stuck still. College-educated homemakers are the cheapest form of labor we have in the United States.”

I went on to describe how the women's center promoted women's advancement in careers, women's health and reproductive freedom, and political and social equality for women, concluding with:

Today, the Newcomb Women's Center has become the Newcomb College Center for Research on Women, but its importance and influence are hardly lost. The Center was created in the height of the Second Wave of Feminism, and there could not have been a better moment for it. Overall, this era of feminism saw the “development of women-only spaces and the notion that women working together . . . would ultimately work for the betterment of the entire planet,” and the Newcomb Women's Center certainly proved this point true. With its emphasis on career counseling, sexual health and freedom, and political equality, the Center provided a space for Newcomb women of all ages to come together and work toward a brighter future for womankind. A woman's place truly is every place, and the Newcomb Women's Center saw to it that every woman found hers.

I am thoroughly enjoying this class, and I am loving getting to know my fellow Newcomb Scholars. I look forward to the next three years we will spend together—even if it does mean waking up for an 8am seminar!

Newcomb Scholars Class of 2016