Spring 2009

Spring 2009

The Barnard Club of Houston, formed five years ago, has kept the Barnard connection alive for alumnae, parents, and prospective students as it provides exciting events for this region. Recent activities have included a reception with Jennifer Fondiller ’88, dean of admissions, and Nanette DiLauro, director of financial aid, and a seminar on personal finance with Manisha Thakor, author of On My Own Two Feet. The latter event also served as the first meeting of a new book club. With slightly under 150 alumnae in the greater Houston area, this club is a wonderful example to other areas in the country where the number of alumnae is relatively small. If you are interested in getting together with Barnard alumnae in your area, or would like to talk about your club, please contact Susannah Goldstein, manager of regional alumnae programs at 212.854.0572 or sgoldstein@barnard.edu.

Obama by Baret Boisson

Barack Obama from the Great American series, by Baret Boisson

Since Debora Spar was officially inaugurated as president of Barnard College in October, she has brought her vision for Barnard to alumnae near and far, and returned to Morningside Heights with news of the vitality of our regional communities.

President Spar Hong KongRecent receptions in Washington, D.C., Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco were standing-room-only gatherings with alumnae having the opportunity to get acquainted with the new president. Hosted by Elizabeth Wylie Galvin ’74, Lois Champy ’67, Linda Levinson ’62, and Toby Levy ’72, respectively, these receptions were lively events where the president took questions from alumnae on a broad range of topics: Barnard’s place in Morningside Heights and the president’s goal of an international community radiating from the College, the progress of the Nexus construction, art on campus, women in leadership roles, attracting an even stronger coterie of talented and diverse faculty members, and ensuring that our students have access to financial aid.

President Spar KoreaPresident Spar took a historic tour of Asia this spring as Barnard proudly hosted the Kang Tongbi Commemorative Symposium: Women Changing China, in Beijing. The symposium on women’s leadership in China was named in honor of the first Chinese woman to attend Barnard more than 100 years ago. Moderated by President Spar, the symposium featured esteemed panelists Wu Qing, Yan Geling, Yang Lan, and Ruby Yang, and attracted more than 200 attendees, including alumnae, diplomats, parents, prospective students, university professors and officers, and many members of the media.

President Spar SeoulPrior to her stop in Beijing, President Spar went to Hong Kong where she visited with alumnae at a reception hosted by Eizelle Taino ’95. After the symposium, Spar became the first Barnard president to visit Korea. While in Seoul, she met the first Korean students to attend Barnard, Choon-Nan Lee Yoon ’51 and Ok-Yul Kim ’55 at a reception hosted by Young Ja Kim Hur ’72.


Erin E. Fredrick ’01, who joined the staff of Barnard’s Alumnae Affairs in 2005, was named its director in February 2009. Fredrick initially served as manager of Reunion and Leadership Council, two major events on the annual College calendar. She moved up to become associate director, then interim co-director. Before officially joining the AA staff, Fredrick had been an active member of the Alumnae Association as a Barnard Fund volunteer, class correspondent, and a regional club co-president. While a student, she was chosen by her peers to receive the Frank Gilbert Bryson Award for her contribution to Barnard life.

A southern California nErin Fredrick '01ative, Fredrick has a broad range of experience in the nonprofit sector. After graduation, she became project coordinator for the Sonoma County Economic Development Board; in 2002, she joined Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s Maryland gubernatorial campaign as deputy field director for Montgomery County. From 2002 until she joined Barnard, Fredrick was a program and communications associate of The Communications Network in Washington, D. C.

“Thrilled and honored” to serve as AA director, Fredrick, who views Alumnae Association membership as a privilege, says Barnard helped her to find her voice, giving her the skills to write, research, and think critically, to teach, and to “articulate my convictions.”

Kang TongbiFrom the Barnard College Archives: In the October 18, 1908 edition of The New York Times, a short article on page 20 headlined this news: “Chinese Noblewoman Here: Miss Kang Tong Pih Joins the Senior Class at Barnard.” A touching mix of “society” news and unintentional humor, with just a hint of astonishment at the young woman’s worldliness, the article reported that Barnard dormitory authorities were happy to see her “not only because she is a favorite at Brook’s (sic) Hall, but also because she had engaged the most expensive suite there, and until [the day before] no one knew where she was.”

Exactly one month later, the New York Evening Mail reported the death of the Chinese emperor, and Miss Kang, now referred to as a princess, tells the Mail’s reporter that friends in the Chinese court telegraphed her about the emperor’s horrific poisoning at the hands of an unnamed high minister. The reporter also quotes Kang as saying that her father, once an advisor to the emperor and a reform leader in China, “is in hiding in England.” She also predicts China will be racked by civil war, but just who was this young woman to speak so authoritatively about current events of the day?

Kang Tongbi (aka Kang Tung Pih) was the second daughter of the late nineteenth-and early twentieth-century Chinese political reformer Kang Youwei. The exact date of her birth is in dispute, but according to Kang Youwei’s personal journals, she was born in 1880 in southern China. Because of her father’s position, she grew up in Beijing in the midst of the emperor’s court. Her father was also a scholar and vehemently opposed to the traditional practice of foot-binding, refusing to  bind his daughters’ feet. This decision no doubt helped to mold Kang Tongbi’s independent, activist character—a radical departure from the accepted social deportment expected of women of her stature and her time.

Kang Youwei’s influence in the Chinese government lasted only about 100 days before he was exiled by the Empress Dowager Cixi. Even in exile, he traveled around the world to lobby for social reform in China while Kang Tongbi was sent to relatives in Hong Kong. Besides the Mandarin of the imperial court and the Cantonese of her birthplace that she already spoke, Kang Tongbi also studied English, French, Italian, and Hindi.

She arrived in the United States in August 1903, to study and to generate overseas support for her father’s Reform Party. Kang founded a women’s branch of the Chinese Empire Reform Society in Tacoma, Washington, then made her way to British Columbia, San Francisco, Chicago, and finally New York City. Although very young, she was comfortable  making public speeches (in both Cantonese and English) before large crowds of both Chinese and non-Chinese spectators.

On October 20, 1903, the New York Ladies’ Branch of the Chinese Empire Reform Society was born at a public meeting. The New-York Tribune reported Kang’s words: “I want them to read papers,” she said earnestly. “I want them to know things. I want them to help to make things go right and to have grand education ...Why should not we women stand together and help each other?” After briefly attending Radcliffe College, then Trinity College in Connecticut, she entered Barnard in February 1907, as a member of the Class of 1909, the very first Asian student to study at the College.

Devoted to women’s rights and reform, she intended to broaden the scope of her activism once she left Barnard. She was quoted in the New York Evening Mail, “When I finish here, I am going back to China to wake up my countrywomen. I am deeply interested in suffrage, and hope to arouse the women of China to a realization of their rights.”

After the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911, Kang Tongbi returned to China where she continued to agitate for feminist causes. She was an editor and contributor for Nüxuebao (Women’s Education), one of the first women’s journals in China. Like her father, she took a stand against the practice of foot-binding, establishing and co-leading a Tianzuhui (Natural Feet Society) with other Chinese feminists. Kang Tongbi is also remembered for her Biography of Kang Youwei, published in 1958. She stayed in mainland China after the Communist takeover in 1949. While she seems to have been left alone by the new regime for a while, she was jailed during the Cultural Revolution and died on August 17, 1969.