Becoming a Strong, Beautiful, Barnard Woman: a Life-long Award

Did you know that the Office of Career Development (OCD) gives out dozens of research grants every semester and summer, some of which include summer housing? Well they do! And let me tell you that the benefits of that program which many Barnard women take advantage of, are fantastic and not just financially.

However, that is not what this post is about. I bring it up only because I wanted to tell you a few stories and the first takes place in an elevator I was in on my way to my OCD- stipend internship last summer and I thought of that awesome BC perk, something that I wished I knew about when making my own decision to attend Barnard.

The real story is that during this elevator ride the young woman standing next to me grabbed my right wrist and asked, “Is that a Barnard ring?”When I answered affirmatively (I have been wearing mine day and night since I received it at the tail end of my junior year), she threw up her own right hand and showed me her matching ring. You would have thought we were best friends exchanging proposal stories with the amount of BC love we were exuding onto one another.

We became friends in the thirty seconds it took to get to the twentieth floor because we had the most important thing in common—we were both Barnard women.

Last summer I also worked out our annual alumnae reunion. One of the events I staffed was a luncheon for what I believe was the class of ’45 though that year might be off by five or ten (reunions are held each year, but for each class they are held every five years). At this luncheon, there were probably twenty alumnae in varying degrees of health. The plan for the event was for them to talk about their experiences in the workforce and my job was to run around with the microphone. The women began to stand up one-by-one, often with my arm for stability, and tell stories about the hate they faced post-graduation. Some of them were of the first female medical students concentrating in surgery. They were denied by hundreds of hospitals they applied to for their residency simply because they were women. One of those struggling medical students became the Chief of Surgery at one of New York City’s largest hospitals. Other alumnae talked about the near impossibility of gaining acceptance into law school and their subsequent careers as lawyers and judges while others talked about demotions and pay-freezes when they became pregnant or married and how they fought back against their chauvinistic bosses.

The prejudices and biases that they had experienced were not unknown to me but they were standing in front of me, holding on to my arm, asking me what my post-graduation plans were. These women weren’t stories in books, they were Barnard women. I stood there on the 17th floor of Sulzberger Hall with the entire city spread out beneath me and I had that typical Barnard attitude that I could do whatever I wanted (and I mean anything, anytime, anywhere) in virtue of the fact that I am a woman, specifically, a Barnard woman. I stood in the middle of a room amongst the women who have allowed me to own that confidence and feeling of entitlement. They are the women who created, not assumed, the “strong, beautiful Barnard woman” type that I have become so proud of; they are the women who created, not assumed, the word Feminism. My excitement to stand right where I stood was unbearable. It is a feeling I won’t trivialize by trying to put words to it. It is one that I just hope you can all feel or have felt someday.

So, how does all of this relate to you? I’m writing about these stories because you should know that the decision to come to Barnard is not just about the next four years. This is about becoming a Barnard woman, a life-long award, and something that is much greater than a paper diploma on graduation day or a gold ring on your finger. Do you want an instantaneous bond with some of the greatest female minds in this world and those who will proceed in their footsteps and walk even further? If you just answered yes to that question then seal the envelope and secure your spot as one of those women.