Alumnae Quarterly, Summer 2004

More About Lyon's Pride

I was both pleased and dismayed to see the letters that criticized the affiliation of Lyon's Pride. All three of the letter writers invoked previous leaders of the institution. I am a student of Mount Holyoke history, and through both my book and my Web site, I remind people about the women who have gone before us. I was touched that the letter writers remember and honor our history.

But while history is the foundation, it is not the whole building. Each generation remodels and modernizes the institution. Do these women really want to strip Mount Holyoke of its college charter and return it to being a female seminary, training women only to be missionaries and teachers, ignoring computer science and international studies, and having more dropouts than graduates? That's what Mount Holyoke was 150 years ago.

It's ironic that one of the writers invoked Mary Woolley. She was the president who urged us to develop a college curriculum and abolish compulsory unpaid domestic work, saying we weren't training women to do household chores. She had a vision that Mount Holyoke could be improved with change.

Mount Holyoke College is a stronger institution than Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. We are more financially solvent, we enroll and retain more students, and our academic standing is higher. We must expand our outreach to all our students and alumnae to continue to improve the college. We need input and support from everyone. Many people in Christian churches welcome homosexuals today, and some of those churches are the same ones that Mount Holyoke's leaders attended in the nineteenth century. Times change, our understanding of our faith and its teachings change, our institutions change, and we change.

May we all grow in knowledge and in grace.

Donna Albino '83
President, Lyon's Pride
East Bridgewater, Massachusetts

The Lyon's Pride organization has helped me connect with my Mount Holyoke sisters in ways I never could before. It has not limited my participation because I am a woman of color and it has spoken to a basic concern in today's society. As a proclaimed straight woman of color in society, I care as much about prejudice against homosexuals as I do about racism, sexism, and class-privilege concerns. I also accept that even though I am avowed to a certain preference, there are other ways of beings and parts of me that claim those ways.

Kara Merry-Barrett '91
Boston, Massachusetts

I arrived at Mount Holyoke College in 1993 and was offered the opportunity to grown into whomever I wanted to become. At MHC I also was taught to respect others who identified with other backgrounds. I found diversity and friendship. I found that MHC reflects all people, even those who hold interests with which one disagrees. MHC taught me to research and understand, not judge and discard. I found that different is not wrong and that those who found my values and moralities intolerable also deserved space at MHC to congregate and find others who share their interest. As a lesbian and alumna of MHC, I deserve the same respect.

The right to have an approved and respected place in MHC to find other individuals who share my same interests, including my gayness, is diversity in itself. Some alumnae may not approve of my lifestyle, but I ask they put that conviction aside and support Lyon's Pride. Support diversity. Support respect. Support MHC. Lyon's Pride has nothing to do with our members' personal lives, but deals with a common space to find common interests. Has MHC not given us the conduit in which to find ourselves? Isn't that why we all chose Mount Holyoke in the first place? I simply ask alumnae for the same respect for Lyon's Pride that we have shown to other organizations within MHC. Mary Lyon would be proud; Lyon's Pride represents the very idea of creating a safe place for women to find themselves, regardless of who may or may not agree with the results. To steer away from this ideal would be disrespectful to Mary Lyon's vision and all alumnae of Mount Holyoke College.

Andreana "Andi" Overton '97
Wheaton, Maryland

Noting the diverse and wide spectrum of alumnae ('38-'83) whose opinions were in Viewpoints (spring), may I offer another historic perspective?

Mary Lyon, back in the 1830s, was castigated up and down New England as an upstart female because she wanted to take daughters from sheltered homes to educate their minds and hearts. Such a radical idea was considered outlandish, unladylike, and some even thought unchristian, trying to make women equal to men. In fact, the fledgling female seminary Mary Lyon built brick by brick was no finishing school to make proper social mates for prospective husbands. Far from it.

My grandmother, Mary Ballantine Fairbanks, class of 1856, had to be a well-educated, strong partner for her husband to go to India to teach. Samuel B. Fairbanks was a botanist and ornithologist. His wife, too, needed to be trained in science and the humanities.

As for President Mary E. Woolley, I know from personal experience as a house president in the 1930s that though she personally did not favor women smoking, she saw to it for safety's sake that each dorm had a smoking room so that the hazard of fires breaking out in individual wastebaskets would be avoided. Furthermore, though herself a loyal and active member of the World YWCA, she listened and was eventually persuaded to allow the beginning discussions of a Fellowship of Faiths.

Change can be an important part of learning, even for ninety-year-olds!

Jean Hastings Lovejoy '35
Tucson, Arizona

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