Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

An Hour on Campus

I don’t know how you do it, but each issue is better than the last! Thank you so much for this incredible magazine (winter ’17). I am always so moved and inspired by these stories and these women. Thank you for bringing the campus to me for an hour every quarter. I still miss it so.

Alison Buchbinder ’05, Brooklyn, N.Y.

College Election Events

I am writing to address the letter to the editor in the winter ’17 issue from Elly Hamilton Sienkiewicz ’64, regarding coverage of Wellesley’s election events.

Her letter implies that she felt the parties hosted by the College were partisan. I attended the alum party in the fieldhouse, and did not find anything put forth to be partisan in any way; what representation there was of the candidates, including cardboard cutouts, showed equal representation for all. While the crowd certainly swayed heavily towards supporters of Hillary, I did not feel that the College was making any such statement.

Secondly, school-sanctioned celebration of alumnae achievements is nothing new, including everything from coverage in the magazine to the Alumnae Achievement Awards. It would be hard to deny that Hillary Clinton is a highly accomplished person, and while someone might not personally agree with her politics, being the first woman so close to becoming president of our country is an achievement we can all appreciate, both as Wellesley sisters and as American women.

It should also be noted that many of the events of this election cycle and new presidency reach outside the realm of political disagreement, and present a personal and existential threat to many members of our Wellesley community. Donald Trump made himself a known quantity throughout the campaign not by outlining policy proposals, but rather with an outpouring of misogynistic, racist, and homophobic rhetoric. Wellesley College’s very existence stands in opposition to such hatred and intolerance. I believe I speak for the vast majority of alums when I say that I greatly appreciate Wellesley’s continued commitment to providing a safe, supportive, and empowering environment for all of us.

Amelia Cutler ’09, Natick, Mass.

From Our President

I was enchanted by the most recent magazine (winter ’17). Our wonderful new president’s page (“Facts Matter”) was the best ever—in all my years as an alumna—and the “replacement” articles were outstanding. Congratulations!

Kathanne Harter Webster ’51, Dedham, Mass.

Wellesley in Politics

Shortly after the election, I met with a member of Wellesley’s Office for Resources, who was assuming I would be very discouraged or upset by the results. While I appreciated how a win by Hillary Rodham Clinton ’69 would be a great asset to Wellesley, in terms of prestige and ultimately fund-raising, I didn’t vote for her as I did not think she was the right candidate for many reasons. Nor did I believe I had to vote for her because she is a woman and it is my duty to support her. I asked how many other Wellesley women are in politics, to which the answer was, “Not sure, really. Hillary and, of course, Madeleine Albright ’59 was secretary of state, too.”

Really, are there no other Wellesley women in politics?

So, I was very pleased to read the article “Women Who Run” in the winter ’17 issue. I think Wellesley should encourage students and alumnae to become more involved in politics, as Republicans, Democrats, and independents, and support them through programs like Wellesley in Washington and others. It is time for Wellesley, the Democratic party, and all of us, really, to find and support other women candidates across all political parties and move forward.

Kathryn Ploss Salmanowitz ’76, Menlo Park, Calif.

Other Politicians?

I was shattered by Hillary’s defeat, and eager to read the story “Women Who Run.” But there must be more than two Wellesley women who have run for office, and I would love to hear their stories. To be able to share knowledge about how to run and win would be a great help to those of us who wish to continue to be involved, and, more importantly, be effective.

I am class of ’68, that “cusp” class that arrived at the end of the Victorian era and in loco parentis, only to be challenged first by the civil rights battles and then the quandary of Vietnam. Upon graduation, I worked for a bit and then married and moved to Vermont, where I taught school. My first child was born on election day 1972, the same day that I was elected justice of the peace in Washington County, where Montpelier is. I voted in the hospital; a friend brought the ballot to me and then returned it to the town. I was reelected nine times, and also was later elected to two school boards, and as town moderator.

I don’t believe I am alone as a politician, now retired, and was especially happy to discover Nancy Shaver ’68 and her role as mayor of St. Augustine, Fla., and to know about Wilma Chen Chan ’71 and Jennifer Migliore ’14. But there must be more of us out there—politicians who have operated on a lower scale than Hillary, but who have done it on their own, and who have contributed to the well-being of their towns and communities, counties, and states. I think we have much knowledge and experience to share at this, another “cusp” moment in American history.

Sally Giddings Smith ’68, East Boothbay, Maine

A Woman Who Ran

Thank you for running the article “Women Who Run” in the winter 2017 issue. During the 2016 campaign, I, too, ran for office. I ran for trustee for the Los Gatos Union School District. I had been appointed in 2015 when a board member departed, and I filled in for that role for 18 months. The thrill of a lifetime was being on the same ballot as Hillary Rodham Clinton ’69! It felt that my life’s circumstances and her life decisions had coalesced together into that one point in time, when we were both running for office. When I received the ballot in the mail, I was shaking with excitement.

On election day, I wore my white “suffragette” suit, head held high, walked in, voted for Hillary and myself, with utmost pride. Although I did not succeed in my election either, it was a tremendous learning opportunity.

Mani Ardalan Farhadi ’84, Los Gatos, Calif.

Analyze and Investigate

Read your articles from the winter ’17 issue on line. Very interesting especially about women, the election, the glass ceiling, going into politics, etc. Having been involved in local politics and nonprofit organizations, and raised a large family, I would add that today a very important question for not only women, but everyone considering public office is, “What do I bring to this office?”

Today, according to most of the articles I have read from/about Wellesley, the College centers on more progressive issues and policies. What bothers and concerns me is Wellesley is not offering women a well-balanced comparative worldview of what makes up the political spectrum.

Hillary Clinton ’69 lost the election—why?? Politics has evolved into mudslinging, personal attacks, inaccurate news reporting, and not enough proper analysis of the candidates and what she/he brings to the table. Clinton was not the person to break the glass ceiling, but there are more qualified, well-rounded women in the offing. Wellesley should be analyzing what the electorate is/should be looking for instead of positioning the College as a “progressive” entity.

I also remember classes with Professor Linda Miller, who always made her students dig deep to examine, investigate, and draw conclusions from many well-rounded sources. You and other colleges are missing the point of this past election. Two main issues: economics vs. progressivism, and the costs of both to its citizens. Look forward to seeing more well-rounded discussions among Wellesley’s students, professors, and alums.

Gene Fisher Doherty CE/DS ’84, New Castle, N.H.

A Visiting Potentate

The “Keeping Wellesley Modern” piece in the winter ’17 edition reminded me of the time several of us were perched on the elevated ledge of the Sculpture Court, beneath the windows, when Teresa Frisch, then dean of sudents, was to escort Madame Chiang Kai-shek (Mayling Soong Chiang ’17) through the then-new Jewett Arts Center in 1959. Miss Frisch, who was inspecting the premises prior to Madame’s arrival, looked at us disapprovingly and ordered us to get down, saying that it was rude to be higher than “a visiting potentate.” It was the first time I’d ever heard the word “potentate” used, and I’ve never forgotten it!

Peggy Jackson Sweeney ’60, University Park, Fla.

The Messages We Convey

Thanks for the excellent job you are doing with this publication. We need to keep vigilant and make sure our voices are heard for the words and messages they convey, and not the gender behind them.

Laura Ness ’76, Los Gatos, Calif.

High Pitches

In “Raising Our Voices” (winter ’17), Jennifer Vanasco ’94 raises many interesting points, but the issue of the human voice is complex and the preference for keeping women’s voices in the lower range cannot be reduced to sexism. There are good reasons to keep feminine voices on the low side.

The author brings up some movie stars. The great stars of the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s did not have high voices generally speaking. From Tallulah Bankhead to Lauren Bacall to Bette Davis, “sultry” was the sexy of that time. The higher pitch is associated with excitability and screaming. Of course, great actresses have a big range of pitch, but using the higher pitch is not associated with pleasantness or sexiness. The great actresses of our time are not high-pitched except when they are using it for dramatic effect. I am thinking of Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, and Helen Mirren, among others.

In my opinion, the high-pitched, rapid-fire delivery of many women on TV today is an extension of the “Valley Girl” speech that started in California and began to infect our society 40 years ago. It is downright annoying and gives the impression that the speaker is uneducated. This latter impression may, of course, be desired in our age of anti-elitism.

There is a more serious problem with high pitch combined with rapid delivery. Those who are hard of hearing, like me—and I do wear hearing aids—have a hard time with the pitch and the rapidity. As the baby boomers age, there will be a demand for more intelligible speech. Throughout the history of the theater, speech coaches have been important. They are never more needed than now.

Sallie Kantor Witting ’62, Cherry Hill, N.J.

Sounding Off About Voices

Before we contribute to the turmoil about voice-discrimination-as-sex-discrimination today (“Raising Our Voices,” winter ’17), perhaps we could analyze women’s voices in the past.

I think that the high voices forever ending, like, sentences, like, with a question mark are an unfortunate, relatively recent, “Valley Girl” phenomenon. Anecdotally, I recall that none of my female professors at Wellesley and teachers in high school and grade school (1950s and 1960s) had such high voices. Nor did they have a terminal growl (authority-engendering? say what?) and/or irrelevant question marks.

When I am nervous or self-conscious, my voice rises, but when relaxed, my voice goes down (I aspire to be Sylvia Poggioli). There’s nothing castrating about Sylvia’s voice—where does that idea come from? Further, I don’t think that the girls in my high school or college had voices as high as those that I hear today.

When I was teaching medical students in the late ’80s and ’90s, I noticed the “like” and question mark at the end of declarative sentences. I asked whether the students thought a patient would have confidence in a voice that said, “Like, I think that you have, like, cancer?” Ditto for an adolescent voice. There does seem to be something adolescent about women’s voices (teens to 40s) now. And I do wish that would stop. It doesn’t engender confidence because it sounds immature or tense.

If you desire to be in a line of work where an authoritative voice is required, get over your objections and consult a voice coach.

Susan Rittenhouse ’66, Burlington, Vt.

Here’s to Molly Bang

Thank you for the attention you gave to children’s literature (“Tell Me a Story,” fall ’16) and for letting us know that Molly Bang ’65 is a Wellesley alum.

Her board book, Ten, Nine, Eight was a staple in our children’s childhood. It has long been stored away in a box, but I can still recite it by heart. Its backwards counting (there but not dominating), with a going-to-bed theme, everyday objects in a little girl’s room, African-American characters, a father as nurturer, lovely rhyme, and warm illustrations all make it a fabulous tale. We gave the little girl an Arabic name, and our children would kiss her goodnight on the final page, adding the line, “Goodnight, Selwa, sweet dreams.”

We don’t give enough credit to the important role of children’s literature in our relationships with our children and in their education and lives. Kudos to Molly Bang and Wellesley magazine.

Helene Alpert Furani ’88, Haifa, Israel