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Students Commemorate Legacy of F&M Women

  • http-blogs-fandm-edu-wp-content-blogs-dir-29-files-2012-04-coedbookstudents-jpg
  • Johanna Schein ’11, left, and Alysse Vaccaro ’11 work under the direction of Associate Professor Dennis Deslippe during one of two student projects celebrating 40 years of coeducation at Franklin & Marshall.

The women would travel to Lancaster by bus, some from Goucher College, others from Hood College. Men greeted their arrival, eager to see who might hop off. Not much later, the women would be gone.

It was the social scene at Franklin & Marshall during the 1960s.

You might say that the College has come light years in 40 years. Few people know this better than a group of current students who interviewed dozens of alumni during a pair of research projects celebrating coeducation over the past year. Their work has culminated in a film, Alma Mater's Daughters, and an oral history, An Institution Re-Founded: Coeducation at Franklin & Marshall, to be unveiled during Homecoming weekend.

Copies of both projects will be available for purchase at a launch party in the Frey Atrium of the Barshinger Life Sciences & Philosophy Building Oct. 24 from 2 to 4 p.m.

"Looking back on it, I'm proud of how far women have come and how far the College has come," says Katie Stryker '11, one of three students who worked on the film. "I was astonished when some women said that their fathers didn't want them to go to college. My parents are excited about my education, and so am I."

Alma Mater's Daughters was cast, produced, directed and edited by Ashley Lippolis '09, Heather van der Grinten '09 and Stryker, with videography by Dirk Eitzen, associate professor of film and media studies, and Andrea Campbell, adjunct film instructor. Eitzen and Kerry Sherin Wright, director of the Philadelphia Alumni Writers House, served as faculty advisers for the film.

Hackman Scholars Johanna Schein '11 and Alysse Vaccaro '11 produced An Institution Re-Founded by studying the varied experiences of male and female students during the transition to coeducation. They worked under the direction of Dennis Deslippe, associate professor of American studies and women's and gender studies.

The film is based on 26 interviews with Franklin & Marshall women, both past and present. Stryker says few topics were off limits during the interviews.

"We didn't mind being a little risqué," Stryker says. "We wanted to know about the social life during the first years of coeducation. What was the dating scene like, and the party scene? We wanted to incorporate everyone, including current students."

Following the interviews, the film crew molded the stories into a professional-quality film. "Ashley and Heather toiled away through the summer while I was away," Stryker says. "All the credit goes to them. I'm really proud of them."

Schein and Vaccaro interviewed about a dozen men and women for the oral history project. They also scoured the College archives, using interviews from the 1980s to bring the total number of individuals in their project to 44. Their work includes accounts from faculty members, staff and students.

The interviews left a distinct impression on Schein, particularly those that included stories of social life at the College prior to coeducation.

"The practice of busing women to campus was the biggest surprise I came across," Schein says. "It's shocking from today's perspective. Some people compared it to the slave trade. Women would get off the bus, and then get back on if they weren't invited to stay by the men. It's one thing not to be asked to a formal, but another to have to get back on a bus like that."

It didn't take long for women to leave their mark on campus, Schein says. First-year women ignored a curfew put in place just for them in the fall of 1969, and the rule was gone within a month.

"I loved the project," Schein says. "The stories are inspirational. The women were pioneers, and they paved the way for me."

Proceeds from the two student projects will go to the Alice Drum Women's Center and help cover the production cost of the oral-history book. Alma Mater's Daughters is $5, while An Institution Re-Founded is $10.