Elly Elliot speech at BCRW 20th anniversary dinner, 1993

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20th Anniversary Dinner of the

Center for Research on Women

Barnard College, April 23, 1993 Eleanor Elliott

Good evening. I am Elly Elliott, and I welcome you all to this anniversary celebra-

tion of Bamard's Center for Research on Women.

I welcome you on behalf of Ellen F utter, our President, and Professor Leslie Cal-

man, director of the Women's Center.

I also welcome you on behalf of my fellow founders -- over 20 years ago -- of the

Center. There were seven of us. Four are here tonight:

Kate Stimpson, our keynote speaker,

Jane Gould, our first executive director who led us for 10 years, and Iola Haverstick, then a fellow Trustee, and also a bibliophile who promoted our Library

collections for the Center.

Another Barnard star, who was not initially involved, but who gave so copiously of

time and talent to the Center over many years, is Elizabeth J aneway, also here

tonight.

  And one other: a world renowned sociologist and trail blazer for women every-

where: our own Mirra Komarovsky, who graduated from Barnard 67 years ago and

began teaching feminist theory here in 1934. So Kate, Jane, Iola, Elizabeth and Miira, please stand so we can cheer you.

I was asked to tell you about the beginnings. Each of the founders would have her

own memories. Here are two or three of mine.

Of course it was a time of a new groundswell by women, a time, among other things, to fight academic inequality. Barnard was a place of women, by women, and for women. But in the great universities there were virtually no women faculty.

And no special accommodation of women's interests, except on the few single-sex

campuses, like Barnard.

I think of the summer of 1970. August 26th. The 50th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. I remember running into Kate Stimpson up here. I asked her if she was going to march in the parade down 5th Avenue. I remember her startled reply: "Are you going to march?" obviously alarmed that someone of my advanced years

would be up to it.

I was 44.

Kate told me that a number of Barnard faculty would be marching too, and to look for them by the Plaza fountain near the abortion placards. I said I'd bring signs we could wear around our necks -- to free hands for pocketbooks. I got big Barnard blue paper plates and hung them on ribbons. I painted "Academic Equality" on

them -- with red nail polish.

In the huge crowds I never found the Barnard troops. But I found a few feminists from Burlington Industries led by my friend Letitia Baldrige, a very new officer of

the company. They happily wore my signs for the march.

Off we went, heckled by men along the route. A couple of times, men I knew called

out, "Elly, what are you doing?"

Little did they know that what I was doing was in the family tradition. My mother, in London at the age of 12 had handed out The Suffiagette newspaper for the Pank- hursts in Trafalguar Square. (She also poured paint in mailboxes.) And my mother- in—law, a suffragette and 76 years old at the time of the parade, had called me that

morning to ask, "Do you think I should come in from the country and march?"

As we neared my husband Jock's office at 48th and 5th, Tish Baldrige said, "I guess he'll be out on the terrace watching." I said, "No such luck. This is the day of their

office outing on Long Island. All male, of course."

After the parade, by prearrangement, I met Iola Haverstick in a restaurant to discuss

our Center ideas.

As things got going, people would ask our little task force, "Why do you need a women's center when you are a women's college?" _V§_7_e felt: what better place than Barnard to highlight academic equality for faculty and students? And, as Jane Gould put it recently, we felt we needed to give reality to our convictions about women's abilities and rights. We felt: what better place than Bamard to highlight women's re-

markable history and accomplishments?

Barnard's President, then Martha Peterson, asked a good question: "O.K. to start your project, and I'll give you a bit of space, but what are you going to do for mo-

ney?" Fate soon provided the answer.

Helen Rogers Reid, one of Bamard's great women, had died. It turned out that she had lefl the College money in her Will. I asked her children how they thought she would have felt about starting the Women's Center with her bequest. They said,

"She'd l9_y_e_ it." We were off and running.

Now it's time for you to be off and nmning with your dinner. Bon appetit! With

dessert, Ellen Futter will be up here to continue our celebration.