reflections by the decade
The goal of this project is to capture a representative look into the diverse and myriad experiences of the Women of Williams. We thank you for offering your voice and perspective in this moment of recognition and celebration.
"Fall of '69 I met a guy quite casually at a party. A while later he called and asked if I would type a paper for him. I asked how he got the idea that I typed papers for people, and he said, 'you're a girl, aren't you?'"
—Nancy Tisdall '71
"I felt welcomed by the community of Black students while many on campus rejected me: the marching band refused my participation and one professor called me Mr. Martinez. Although we lost every game and sometimes the coach had to play to field a full team, I was thrilled to participate in the first Eph women's basketball team."
—Carol Martinez Weber '72
"Best part was all the music. Symphony with Professor Shainman. First choral group ever to sing at the Kennedy Center. Resurrecting defunct Ephlats as co-ed. Squash with Coach Sloane since the guys wouldn’t play with the only girl in gym class (required for the ten sophomores). Leading campus tours as first woman admitted to Purple Key Society. Most embarrassing memory: Professor Gottschalk telling Econ 101 class of 65, “Well, there were six A’s on the mid-term, five of which were earned by the five women in the class.”
—Jane Forrell Casey '73
"Transferred to Williams as a Junior. Wonderful and varied experiences. Mr. Shainman was a musical mentor encouraging me to use my vocal skills in many diverse areas of music. Teachers were so supportive and open. Psychology major; Tyler and The Fort; meals at Greylock; Honeybuns; 8 am classes on snowy mornings; Adam’s Theater; winter study. The beauty of Williamstown. So lucky to be a part of women at Williams."
—Linda Vipond Heath '73
"Beautiful, male, difficult. It was the best of times and the worst too. The 'men' were full of cruel pranks ('would you provide directions to Bronfman?' and sent to the opposite end of campus) and the professors were sometimes less than welcoming ('there are too many of you in this seminar.... 19 plus her'.) The dress-up dinners at Greylock were painful (sitting at a table of eight with nobody joining me or sitting at a table with empty chairs on either side.) But friendships last to this day, the education was superlative, the physical beauty of the mountains is breathtaking. And being a part of a very special group—Williams Women of the Early Years."
—Dede Gotthelf '73
"In September of 1974, I arrived at my freshman dorm, Fayerweather. It was an all-female building. When I walked into the bathroom at the end of the hall, I was shocked. There was a line of urinals mounted on the wall. I'd never seen a urinal before. Each had what looked like a little plastic cage over the drain. I thought they were disgusting. Then I saw that the shower was just one huge stall, with multiple shower heads. I grabbed my groovy 'Flower Power' bathroom caddy and ran back to my room."
—Kate Stone Lombardi '78
"I was instrumental in starting the women's track and field team at Williams. I recall going to the spring '77 track meeting in Bronfman and being the only female present. Coach Farley was in charge. No one said anything (I had naively assumed there was female track because cross country had a team). Nonetheless, I showed up every practice, designed my own sprinter workouts, and weight training, and the guys just got used to seeing me. I volunteered as manager and went to the men's meets (something I had done at Clayton High School to get a women's track team started there.) The next year I got Sue Hudson (volleyball coach) and some of the cross country women to come out for spring track. By the time I graduated in 1980, we attained club status and could field relay teams and some track events. I am not sure coach Farley ever knew what to make of me but he let me be me and remembered me to my sister Paulette when she went out for track in spring 1983."
—Vanessa A. Blowe '80
"Being a woman at Williams from '78-'82 was quite an honor. I was surrounded by peers and friends who challenged me in ways that led to so much personal and intellectual growth. The women I knew at Williams were all strong, accomplished, talented and loving. They inspired me to undertake challenges and set an example for my children so that they would not see limits in the impact women could make on their world. I wish I could replace the "copopulation" t-shirts I grabbed in 1979 since they have long since fallen to shreds. My Williams years were formative and precious."
—Eileen B. Glassmire '82
"Chris Larsen Mason was on the 1980 Olympic Field hockey team and became our coach that fall. Her competitive spirit spurred ours (bronze in 1984!). Better to win than lose - but most of all we loved to play! Team first. Cole field was our heaven and there were several Little 3 wins! "
—Dorothy Briggs Brill '84
"Aside from one best girlfriend in high school, most of my closest friends before college were male. I just didn’t get the high school girl politics. I didn’t like the expectation that I was supposed to be less smart than the boys, or that I was supposed to give over authority to the boys or let them drive the car. Williams gave me the gift of meaningful relationships with other women. From the moment I arrived at my all-women Williams entry through to today, I prize all I have learned from strong, smart Williams women, people who know themselves and who helped me come to know myself. I think our society’s relationship to gender roles has evolved much in parallel to Williams’ evolution from all-male to co-educational, and I remain grateful for being part of a community where intellectual curiosity and hard work were valued above older markers of performative female identity."
—Suzy Akin '84
"While all first-year entries are coed now, about half of them were still single-sex in the '80s. As someone who grew up with brothers and lived in a coed entry my first year at Williams, I was initially distraught when the lottery gods assigned me to serve as a JA in an all-female entry. 'Most of my friends are guys,' I remember thinking. 'How am I going to survive a year of that much estrogen?' Well, it turned out to be a wonderful, empowering experience. Indeed, many of my most enduring Williams friendships are with my Sage F girls. Maybe the lottery gods were goddesses, after all."
—Wendy Webster Coakley '85
"My grandmother visited Williams as a young woman and declared her hope that, if she ever had a son, he would attend there. I love that I, her granddaughter, was able to fulfill that wish! I deeply appreciate the education I received at Williams, both in and out of the classroom. What made the place special was that it was full of brilliant people, but in my experience, we didn't compete against each other. No one ever asked me how I did on a test. I love hearing about the good work my classmates are doing now."
—Emily Bright '04
"Life was hard as a student-mother at Williams. My son and I grew up together. To the women of color faculty who saw me and my potential, who nurtured me into the strong woman of color, feminist, scholar-activist I am today – thank you. You were my lighthouses through the storm."
—Tatiana M.F. Cruz '11
”My experience at Williams was shaped by so many other women. As a member of Williams Women’s Crew, I was surrounded by strong, giving, intelligent, fun, confident women on a daily basis. I learned so much from the women I was surrounded by at Williams and am forever grateful for the impact they had who I am and what I think it means to be a Woman of Williams."
—Annie Haley '13
"Being a Woman of Williams is about empowerment. It's about speaking out, advocating for issues I care about, and persisting in the face of adversity. My Williams education and the strong Williams alumni network helped inform, inspire, and support the advocacy work that I'm doing now to combat harassment in the judiciary and secure workplace protections for judiciary employees."
—Aliza Shatzman '13
"No better way to wrap up a night of partying than strutting around snack bar in my bodycon dress and high heels with my friends and shoving '72 grill pizza in my face. I felt safe and seen. A nightcap of pure indulgence after a night, itself, of pure indulgence."
—Anna S. '19
"My undergraduate experience at Williams was empowered by three women: Lisa Gilbert (former professor of oceanography), Sandra Burton (director of dance), and Rev. Valerie Bailey Fischer (college chaplain). Last fall, I had the opportunity to visit each of these special women—two years after graduating. Now we converse more like old friends. While we reminisced and caught up on our present lives, these women inspire me once again to transpire the same magical, creative, and compassionate energy I’ve felt under their mentorship, in my current communities and beyond. I continue to work hard every day towards this goal!"
—Caroline Hung '19