Letters to the Editor

Illustration of a Black mother in a hospital bed cradling two newborn babies

Illustration by Eleni Kalorkoti

Illustration by Eleni Kalorkoti

Brilliance and Bravery

I am never prouder to be a Wellesley alum than when I learn about the brilliance and bravery of those among us who face and conquer racism (“Delivering Care & Justice,” winter 2023). Thanks to all who researched, wrote, illustrated, and edited this article, who shared their experiences, and who work in the field of improving maternal medical care for women of color.

Alison Heiserman Akant ’77, New York City

A Crucial Question

In response to “Delivering Care & Justice,” winter 2023: I created and run a medical show called The Resident, which has been on for six seasons on Fox. One of our finest episodes was inspired by a real case highlighting Black maternal mortality issues in childbirth. It is season two, episode 20, titled “If Not Now, When?” It can be watched on Hulu or many other streamers. I also co-wrote it. The question posed by the title remains the same. All of us involved in this episode consider it one of the most important things we’ve done. The surviving husband in the case also provided videos of his wife who died. He was an incredible contributor, and he broke our hearts.

Amy Jones ’75, Los Angeles

Where Are the Republicans?

I’m very disappointed that not one Republican voice was included (“On the Ballot,” winter 2023). The Wellesley College I attended would never have considered being one-sided.

Shelly Bogotty ’86, Glencoe, Ill.

Piece of Cake

Re: Wellesley Fudge Cake (“Oh, Fudge!” winter 2023), I worked at Grey Advertising from 1981 to 1984 on General Foods products—including Baker’s Chocolate. We ran a special print campaign for Baker’s with recipes of their most famous, favorite recipes for chocolate cakes. I am crestfallen that we did not include the Wellesley Fudge Cake. Had I only known!

Betty Pfaelzer Rauch ’65, New York City

What’s in a Name?

Reading “From the Editor” by Lisa Scanlon Mogolov ’99 in the fall 2022 issue of Wellesley, I realized that her Stone-Davis was not my Davis. Only 46 of Wellesley’s 148-and-counting years of history separate us, yet so much is forgotten. I am determined not to let these two hyphenated names become a new non-person entity. There was a Wellesley woman, Olive Davis, class of 1886, and a wealthy husband and wife, Daniel and Valerie Stone, from Malden, Mass.

Frederick Olmsted’s idea for Wellesley was that buildings should enhance the terrain, and originally the Stone and Davis academic-Gothic dormitories that I knew did just that, winding around the crest of a gentle rise above the lake, with separate entry driveways at each end, joined only at hip for a common kitchen. Davis students never met Stone dwellers; they had separate lives.

In our sophomore year, 1950–51, through our ground-floor casement windows in Davis, we could see the bloom of the all-white spring garden at our front door: white lilacs, white tulips, white azalea, a white-flowering tree, white roses. My grandmother took a picture with her Kodak box camera, and we used it for the cover of our 20th reunion book.

But at our 30th reunion in 1983, I was shocked to check in and see all that intimate charm was gone. In 1964–65, one giant maw had been excavated at what was basement level to create a shared and very public main entrance to a new Stone-Davis complex. A glass-walled circular dining hall was dug out. The upper floor rooms still had that spectacular daily view of Lake Waban. But the separate winding hillside approaches had been replanted. Our Davis dorm had lost its selfhood.

Fast forward to 2023. I delved into what history I could find. Lucky for me, so much is in Wellesley College 1875–1975: A Century of Women, published by the College. I draw from two chapters—“The Great Fire,” by Katharine Balderston, and “The Buildings,” by Jean Glasscock.

The history of the two people named Stone and Davis begins when Wellesley began, in the 1870s. They never could have known each other, and Stone’s comes first. Valerie Stone, the widow of industrialist Daniel Stone of Malden, Mass., inherited from her husband in 1878 a large estate, which he suggested should be distributed at her discretion “among charitable institutions.”

On the advice of a friend, the Rev. Dr. William Willcox, a Wellesley trustee, Mrs. Stone made Wellesley a gift of $100,000 for a dormitory for “teacher specials,” older students who were already teachers and wanted to improve their training. That’s almost $3 million in 2023 dollars. Stone Hall opened in 1880, on the hill where we know it, the first building given by anybody but the Durants.

That grand Stone Hall stood 47 years until it burned in 1927, and with so much fire and water damage it was decided to build a “new” Stone Hall and its mirror image, Olive Davis Hall, on the hill above Lake Waban that old Stone Hall had occupied. A cornerstone of the “old” Stone Hall was used and the western, Stone side of the new dormitory building opened in 1928 and perpetuated that original name.

Olive Davis, class of 1886, whose misleadingly matronly portrait hung in our dining room, was vaguely said to be a “beloved dorm mother,” and that was all we knew back in the 1950s. Olive Davis was so much more. Davis became the College’s indispensable director of residence in 1902. She was head of house at College Hall the night of the great fire in 1914, and the go-to person on the scene. Davis “swooped about like a Valkyrie, her long plait of gray hair flying out behind,” Balderston wrote. Years before, Davis had drawn up sensible fire-drill rules so that all students evacuated the building safely on that terrible night. She had the job of finding housing for the students in the village after the fire, and assigning their rooms as the new dorms were built. She made Wellesley her residuary legatee, and that and a gift of $350,000 from John D. Rockefeller Jr. defrayed the cost of the new Davis Hall, as the College decided to name the easterly half of the new structure.

Perhaps this tribute will return the individuality to these two names that we all know. At least, let us keep the hyphen, so we can remember that there were two separate people being thanked, in the naming of this one dorm.

Lorine Anderson Parks ’53, Downey, Calif.

Editor Lisa Scanlon Mogolov ’99 confirms that when she was a student, Stone and Davis didn’t really have individual identities. In fact, she had to do some digging to figure out which one she lived in!

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