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The Commencement Speech from the James Siblings

 What follows is a fictional commencement speech given to a graduating class of Bryn Mawr women by the most notable members of the James family. Though Alice never stepped foot on this campus, I have put myself in her frame of mind and have come with what I feel she would have bestowed upon the women who were able to do what she had not been allowed. As for Henry, he did give a commencement speech here at Bryn Mawr, but I must say it was not what I had in mind after reading The Portrait of a Lady, so I have written him a new speech which I think speaks more to the women he was addressing than his own speech. William also spoke to the student body in his lifetime.

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A Guide to William James

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The Many Portraits of Isabel Archer


The Ever-changing Portrait of Isabel Archer





Never a calm in the waters of her mind

Floating freely throughout time, without consideration

Inner beauty, outer tenacity

The future, an open adventure

No stings to break, no tethers wanted

Unadulterated freedom on the horizon

Straining to escape grounded boundaries

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Stuck in Era of Hysteria

             For all that Alice James knew she was crazy. At least that’s what her doctors, and the society at the time, told her. In the Victorian era, hysteria was a common diagnosis for women who had chronic pain that had many variables. As can be seen through her diary, Alice spent most of the second half of her life in bed, a common treatment for women with hysteria. At her time, hysteria was a disorder that only women had, as it was considered a womb disorder, with the common symptom of causing trouble; almost any disease could fit the symptoms of hysteria, there being no definite list of symptoms. It’s no wonder that Alice James had such a diagnosis.

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