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Embrace the Future

weilla yuan's picture

Weilla Yuan

Esem Paper 8

Nov. 6th, 2014


Embrace the Future


Bryn Mawr College is famous for its architecture style. With buildings mainly built by Wissahickon Schist and Baltimore Gneiss, and the flourishing old trees, the campus provides students a comfortable and quiet learning and living atmosphere. Walking through the paths on campus, we will feel like that everything on this campus is motivating you to pursue our dreams and accomplish our goals. The main campus is surrounded by the wall of dorm buildings, when we are walking inside, we will feel safe and cozy. With the design like this, it is fairly easy to get to any academic building from our dorm, so that we do not have to rush in the morning. Every building at Bryn Mawr is designed carefully, all for assisting the young women here to find their future.

Unlike other colleges, Bryn Mawr has its own unique structure: the main academic buildings are surrounded by dorm buildings that is like a wall. If we treat the highest building on campus---Taylor Hall as the center, what we can see in a sequence in circles are: Taylor Hall, grass and trees, other academic buildings, dorm buildings, roads, other facilities building including the dinning halls. People have argued that the dorm rooms are like a natural wall for the main campus, giving the feeling that the main campus is not welcoming. Indeed, the initial reason for the architects to build campus like this is to protect the young women through their pursue of higher education (Horowitz, Alma Mater, 120), but the dorm buildings were actually built as to create a “vital, dignified yet festive” atmosphere(Horowitz, Alma Mater, 124).

What if we do not treat the dorm buildings as a wall, but arms of love? The dorm buildings are not the wall that restrains us, but the arms to give us courage and hope to carry on. Any time when we walk outside, we can see the buildings in front of us; they are saying: if you need help, I am here for you. Unlike other schools that have complicated campus structure, we know where to find what we need, because when we are on the campus, we can see every buildings and find them easily. The buildings are saying: you want to guide for your future? You know where I am.

The dorm buildings are not restraining us from the outside, but to create a loving community. Anytime when we walk outside of the door, we are facing each other. In this community surrounded by all the sources we need, we do not have to worry about anything but focusing on chasing our dream. Not only we can get help from the school, but also we can get help from each other. The community brings us close, provides us chances to talk to each other and learn from each other.

The dorm buildings are the last guardians before we eventually get into the cruel society. There are watching over us, but not protecting us from harm; they lead us to learn to protect ourselves, but not prevent us from any harm. The buildings are telling us: you are not vulnerable; you are strong like us. The buildings are standing there, calm and majestic. Do not afraid, they say, go and embrace your future bravely.

The dorm buildings that are surrounding us are not the wall that is preventing us from the outside, but the arms of the guardians to encourage us to learn and embrace our future. With the buildings, we are able to learn without worrying, and get help from everyone here. This is the reason for the dorm buildings for standing there in a circle, to help us accomplish our goals.



Work Cited:

Horowitz, Helen, 
 “A certain Style of ‘Quaker Lady’ Dress” and “Behold They Are Women!” Alma Mater: Design and Experience in the Women’s Colleges From their Nineteenth-Century Beginnings to the 1930s. Knopf, 1984. 105-133.



Anne Dalke's picture

your argument here is that the buildings on the Bryn Mawr campus are not providing “protection,” but rather guidance for the future. In developing that argument, you are correcting….whom? Not Helen Horowitz, who said that M. Carey Thomas eschewed the “protective” architecture of earlier women’s colleges. Perhaps some claims made during our last class discussion, which focused more on the “closed in,” or excluding nature of the campus design? You say that “people have argued…that the main campus is not welcoming.” But who are those “people”? Make clear who you see as the audience for your claims, who has set the terms of engagement for your own position.

You use the buildings as a metaphor for the selves we are: they “are telling us,” you say, “you are not vulnerable; you are strong like us.” In developing this metaphor, are you also countering the “Meta/phor” developed by Andrea Friedman, who focuses on the stress and strain that made the rocks that make up these buildings?

Where I think we might most focus our discussion is on the evidence you gather (or not?) to support your claim that these buildings not only represent our strong character, but give us good guidance toward a future in the world. You develop a very clear (and very hopeful!) narrative here, one of a “safe and cozy” campus, filled with buildings saying “if you need help, I am here for you. you want to guide for your future? You know where I am…. the buildings in front of us; they are saying: create a loving community.” But what data do you have to support your ventriloquizing? How do you know what the buildings say? On what evidence do you base the words you put in their “mouths”?

Here is a counter narrative, a talk given 10 years ago by Florence Goff and Karen Tidmarsh. Examining Our History: Inclusion/Exclusion at Bryn Mawr. A student in another of my classes wrote a paper about this history, focusing on M. Carey Thomas’s role in (resistance to?) diversifying the campus. She said, in part:

M. Carey Thomas was Bryn Mawr’s third president and one of the most influential voices in the founding and early development of the college (Horowitz, 1984 and Horowitz, 1994). Since youth, she felt strongly that women should have equal access to education. At 14 years old, she wrote in her journal:

“How unjust-how a narrow-minded-how utterly uncomprehensible [sic] to deny that women ought to be educated and worse than all to deny that they have equal powers of mind. If I ever live and grow up my one aim and consentrated [sic] purpose shall be and is to show that a woman can learn can reason can compete with men…” (1871).

And indeed she did grow up to work towards that purpose. In 1877, she entered Cornell and “thrived” (Horowitz, 1984). After graduation, she struggled to obtain a graduate degree, but succeeded and then gained a professorship and deanship at Bryn Mawr College under the James Rhoads’ presidency. She took on the task of informing Bryn Mawr’s practices based on study of several other women’s colleges. In 1894, Thomas took on the presidency (1984). At the turn of the century, Thomas published on the topic of women’s education, arguing staunchly that education and post-college opportunities should be equal for men and women. She wrote: “we cannot think that men students of law or medicine or architecture, for example, should be college-bred, while women students of law, medicine, or architecture should not” (1901).

In spite of this progressive stance, Thomas was also incredibly racist and classist. This wasn’t a learned attitude from her family, but instead a self-developed belief. In discussing how Thomas differed from her mother, biographer Helen Horowitz writes,

“Although daughter was impelled by some of the same enthusiasm, energy, and sense of the world’s wrongs that drew her mother to reform, in critical ways she diverged. As she dedicated her career to offering [educational opportunities] to women […] Carey Thomas did not mean all women.” (1994)

And in fact, Horowitz writes that as a young adult, Thomas was ashamed that her mother opened their family home to “inferiors” (1994). In the 1910s as Thomas travelled increasingly, she also calcified her racist views – looking down on people of color whom she encountered around the world. In 1915, she visited Japan and met with women who had graduated from Bryn Mawr. In spite of her reportedly respectful attitude during the trip, she wrote home that the Japanese people were, “orientals and savages and that in spite of their wonderfully intelligent government they can never compete with us. They are radically unintelligent, I feel sure,” (in Horowitz, 1994). That she could say this in spite of the knowledge that these women were Bryn Mawr graduates highlights how deeply ingrained her sense of racial superiority was. In 1916, she gave her first public address sharing these views. In her address she says, “The pure Negroes of Africa, the Indians, the Eskimo, the South Seas Islanders, the Turks [… had] never yet in the history of the world manifested any continuous mental activity nor even any continuous power of organized government” (in Horowitz, 1994). Ironically, this was nearly the same thing men had said about women in their argument against the equal education of men and women, and yet Thomas was able to hold in the same hand her racist and feminist views.

Reflect on this material, and come to conference ready to tell me, again, what the buildings here say, of our history and future. Have they always offered succor? To all kinds of women? Do they now? (See also Callous or Callow, and Lessons of a Flag Flap.)