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Smithies gather to celebrate their history

Left to right, Sally Pillsbury ('46), Helen Kramer ('34) and Molly Woehrlin ('53)
MinnPost photo by Steve Date
Left to right, Sally Pillsbury (’46), Helen Kramer (’34) and Molly Woehrlin (’53).

The list of Smith College alumnae is impressive. Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Barbara Bush, Julia Child, Molly Ivins, Yolanda King, Sylvia Plath, Margaret Mitchell, Julie Nixon Eisenhower and Nancy Reagan are just a few of the notables.  

Minnesota also has its share of Smithies.  Sally Pillsbury, Marilyn Carlson Nelson, Molly Woehrlin, Helen Kramer and 12 other alums from the classes of 1934 through 1963 were honored last week at the Metropolitan Ballroom in Minneapolis.  Teams of Smith alums interviewed them for an oral history book called “Strong Women Building Strong Communities.” 

Smith College, located in Northampton, Mass., is one of the “Seven Sisters” elite private colleges. Smith prides itself on its history of attracting and producing strong women who make a difference at both the local and national level.

Smith College President Carol Christ addressed the crowd and spoke of this tradition and of how her years as president have provided her with “a privileged perspective on the history of women in the 20th and now the 21st century.” She said she was deeply moved by the book presentation and noted “this living history — to have these oral histories, is so important to us all in understanding our histories”.

The book project is the brainchild of Laurie Kramer, Betsey Whitbeck and several other alumnae.  They hope that it is just a beginning, that now others can begin to collect the stories of Smith graduates from the ’50s to the present. 

In this video, Helen Kramer (’34), Sally Pillsbury (’46) and Molly Woehrlin (’53) share their thoughts about Smith graduates, single-gender education, the changing roles of women in society and the oral history book project.

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