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Motion Pictures and Tape Recordings (Group 37)
[146] Cassette Tapes, 1981, 13 ½ hours of tape, 5 in.

Historical Note

During the spring of 1981, history Professor Carol Lasser (b. 1952), English professor Katherine Linehan (b. 1944), and Oberlin College Research Associate Marlene Deahl Merrill (b. 1933), interviewed five distinguished Oberlin alumnae as part of the oral-history project titled “Visiting Women Graduates.” The interviewees were asked to discuss coeducation and the quality of life for women at Oberlin College during their years as undergraduates as well as the impact an Oberlin education had on them.

Scope and Content

The tapes consist of interviews with the following Oberlin alumnae covering the specified subjects

Mary Dent Crisp

Mary Dent Crisp ’46 (b. 1923) majored in botany at Oberlin. She recorded her interview April 3, 1981, during a campus visit. Crisp, the former co-chair of the Republican National Committee, is a self-employed consultant and a senior advisor to the Washington-based lobby group Business Executives for National Security. She headed John Anderson’s 1980 presidential campaign. In her interview, Crisp discusses the academic and social atmosphere at Oberlin when she was a student during World War II; the V-12 unit for officer training stationed at Oberlin; and the social consciousness at Oberlin. Included in the latter are comments on racial issues at the College, the organization of the interracial Cosmopolitan Barber Shop, her marriage and working life, raising children, feminism, her divorce, her political activity in the Republican Party starting in Arizona in 1961, the Republican campaign to ratify the ERA in the 1970s, her work on the Republican National Committee, and her political philosophy.

Mary E. Johnston

Mary E. Johnston ’13 (1890-1982) recorded her interview at the Center for Low-Income Retirees in Cleveland on April 4, 1981. A lack of money forced Johnston to leave Oberlin College in her junior year. During the following 25 years, she taught school and worked toward her degree during the summers. In 1937, she received the A.B. degree from Oberlin College, and in 1952 she received the M.A. degree in library science from Kent State University. In her interview, Johnston discusses her family background, her childhood in Sandusky, Ohio, life as a student in the Oberlin public schools and at the College, her experience as a black woman student, such Oberlin people as Julia Finney Monroe and Dean Florence Fitch, Oberlin ideals and their influence on her life, attitudes toward suffrage when she was a student, and her work for the American Missionary Association as a teacher at St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Rowena Woodham Jelliffe

Rowena Wood ham Jelliffe ’14 (b. 1892) was active as a speaker and organizer for the women’s suffrage movement during her college years. After graduating from Oberlin College, she married Russell Jelliffe (d. 1980); in 1915 they both earned master’s degrees in social work at the University of Chicago. They went on to organize the first interracial community cultural center in Cleveland, which gave birth to the Karamu Theater project and Karamu House. Jelliffe was awarded the honorary doctorate of letters degree by Oberlin in 1944 and the H.H.D. degree by Western Reserve University in 1951.

Jelliffe recorded her interviews during a three-day visit to Oberlin April 23-25, 1981. The three interviews are titled “A Student Suffragist at Oberlin, 1910-1914,” “Student Life at Oberlin: In Quest of Coeducation, 1910-1914,” and “Life after Oberlin: A Pioneer in Social Reform Looks Back.” Topics discussed in her interviews include the suffrage movement at Oberlin College and her activities therein, 1910-1914; Oberlin’s Equal Suffrage League; coeducation at Oberlin; her experiences as a woman student; stories about her mother, who was a mail carrier; her own pioneering efforts in social work; and Oberlin students’ contact with Cleveland. Oberlin women discussed include Clara Snell (Mrs. Albert) Wolfe (1874 1970, A.B. 1909), and mathematics Professor Mary Emily Sinclair (1878-1955, A.B. 1900).

Helen Strassburger Boatwright

Helen Strassburger Boatwright (b. 1916) grew up in Sheboygan, Wisconsin during the Depression. She studied voice at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, receiving the bachelor degree in music in 1939 and the master’s degree in music in 1943. She went on to become a professional oratorio singer. Her interviews, recorded May 9, 1981, during a visit to her home in Fayetteville, New York, focus on her music studies at Oberlin and her career. She also discusses her childhood in Sheboygan; her voice teacher at Oberlin, Professor Marion Sims (1892-1980); social life on campus; relations between College and Conservatory students; her marriage to violinist Howard Boatwright; Frances G. Nash (1871-1961), dean of Conservatory women; music education Professor Hilda Magdsick (1897-1977); and black student activist and feminist Anna Brown (A.B. 1937).

Nancy Cooper

Nancy Cooper (b. 1930) received the B.A. degree in 1951 and the M.A. degree in 1954 from Oberlin College. Employed by the College in various departmental capacities between 1954 and 1973, she was director of the Parent’s Fund from 1974 to 1978. From 1978 to 1983 she was an assistant to President Emil C. Danenberg and Acting President James L. Powell. Other positions have included associate dean of residential life (1983-1987) and assistant dean of students/residential life (1987-1990). As of as of July 1990, she is assistant dean of students/counselor/coordinator. In these interviews, recorded on campus May 11, 1981, Cooper discusses coeducation at Oberlin during her student years in the late 1940s and early 1950s; the beginning of Pyle Inn Co-op, the first student co-op c. 1950; student jobs; campus buildings; race relations at Oberlin; Dean of Women Mary Dolliver (1899-1984); the development of her career; her former husband Walter Aschaffenburg (A.B. 1951), professor of music theory and composition from 1952 to 1987; her numerous jobs and activities in the College since the mid-1960s; and women’s issues in the College in the 1970s and 1980s.

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