Examining one of the many awards Shirley Adelson Siegel ’37 received during her career.
Photo by Dorothy Hong
In an 1888 essay in The Nation, Barnard founder Annie Nathan Meyer asked, “Ought we not… begin at once to organize an association for the collegiate instruction of women?”
Barnard women have been changemakers ever since.
That tradition of changemaking is a theme that runs throughout this issue. You will find a host of stories about how the College and its alumnae have helped transform the world, in ways large and small.
Those who participated in the 1968 protests at Columbia, for instance, are among Barnard’s many graduates who have helped shape the course of history. In commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of those protests, we’ve had the good fortune to learn the stories of many Barnard women who were students then—building occupiers, protestors, and so-called step-sitters, along with those who felt the protests ultimately diminished their College experiences. In fact, an incredible number of you shared your stories with us, in long emails and essays, in grainy black-and-white photos and bell-clear anecdotes. Even though we weren’t able to include all these remembrances in our article, it is informed and enriched by each one. Thank you!
I’m equally grateful to Barnard Professor Emerita of History Rosalind Rosenberg, author of important (and changemaking) books like the recent Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray, for writing this essay. (Read our Fall 2017 interview with Professor Rosenberg about Jane Crow and Pauli Murray.) As a historian of feminism and women’s roles in the twentieth century, Rosenberg brings both a deep knowledge and a big-picture perspective to this complex and controversial subject.
The Department of Theatre is involved in change as well—climate change. The recent New Plays production of Jeune Terre, a “play with songs” (but not, as the characters explain to the audience, a musical) explored a timely subject: how residents of a small Louisiana town try to cope with the dangerous problem of climate change–related sea-level rise that is literally putting their homes underwater. Importantly, this production was designed and produced using theatre department sustainability guidelines and practices that have helped the department and the College become leaders in reducing our carbon footprint.
Our profile of composer and mezzo-soprano Alicia Hall Moran ’95 highlights the change an artist can create by making connections between her own story and some of our culture’s most famous narratives. (You can check out Hall Moran’s work on her website, and, as you can with almost everything these days, on YouTube.)
From Minneapolis, we have the story of physician Marian Rubenfeld ’76, who changes the lives of her stroke patients. A stroke survivor herself, she understands firsthand her patients’ experiences with daily life and medical care. (Rubenfeld’s story and our new Big Science column—tip of the pen here to performance artist Laurie Anderson ’69 for the title—are part of a new Magazine effort to highlight the College community’s involvement in STEM: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.)
Even Barnard’s athletes are changemakers. As fencer Ester Schreiber ’20 says in our “Athletes & Scholars” photo essay, “I love being able to show younger children—and especially girls—that women can be strong and active and have all the agency that we are often deprived of in media and society.”
Finally, we are thrilled to shine a spotlight on the life and work of pioneering civil rights attorney Shirley Adelson Siegel ’37. As I write this editor’s letter, the determined and brilliant lawyer approaches her 100th birthday. Adelson Siegel spearheaded civil rights and other cases that have profoundly changed our nation. (You can hear her oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on oyez.org.)
There are myriad ways to make change in this world. Barnard women seem to be involved in them all. •
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