A Curriculum Lacking

A Curriculum Lacking

Memorandum from Alumnae to President Elizabeth Kennan

August 1, 1978

Letter from Joseph Ellis, Dean of Faculty
November 8, 1981

The selection of Elizabeth Kennan, class of 1960, as Mount Holyoke College president in 1978 marked the start of rapid change. The arrival of a female president on the heels of President David Truman seemed to almost demand action, especially action to address the fractured and, at times, livid debates occurring over women’s issues on campus. Even prior to her formal inauguration, President-elect Kennan was confronted with isolated, but strong calls for a revitalization of the curriculum to reflect a perspective apart from “American, middle-class, white males”. This task was previously shunted off to students organizations, such as the Women’s Center, or individuals forced to adapt select coursework to design their own Women’s Studies majors.

It was under these conditions of division, drive, and general dissatisfaction that Kennan sought to glean advice from trusted sources such as former Mount Holyoke alumnae. However, suggestions regarding Women’s Studies marked the major as “a novelty,” unnecessary given Mount Holyoke’s history of being women-focused, and generally offered few solutions in addressing Mount Holyoke College’s position on feminism.