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Morris and Thomas

Hgraves's picture

Going into Morris woods was an experience for me. As some of the people in my class know, I am not an outdoors girl. I've lived in the city for my entire life and when I went off to boring school, in what was considered a rural part of Pa, I was still never outside that much so it didn't seem like that big of a deal to me. But, this was something new. I went on a rather nice day, so initially I was in a good mood. Morris woods heightened a sense of curiosity and apprehension within me at the same time.

Apprehension was the first and most prevalent thought I had throughout my experience. I thought I saw things moving and all heard different types of things out in Morris woods. In A Certain Style of ‘Quaker Lady’ Dress by Helen Horowitz, one important person that stuck out in my head was M. Carey Thomas. Her "progressive" like characteristics really changed this school into what it was supposed to be. She was a go-getter who was never afraid to push the boundaries. One could assume that apprehension wasn't even in her vocabulary. And she built this school so that she could cultivate women similar to her; who weren't afraid to get out there. Juxtaposing the type of women she was and wanted to have here and the type of person I am today, with being apprehensive, if M. Carey Thomas was here today she would look at me as if I was out of my mind. But not just because I'm an African American woman of a lower socio-economic status, someone she did not envision attending BMC, but because I was apprehensive. Apprehension hinders people a lot in either their success within a situation or getting what they actually want, and she was one who was not familiar to either one of those options. With having very little knowledge at being a president of a school, she became president and she came in and completely altered a vision of a school that had been set in place before she had gotten there.

The next emotion that u had mentioned, curiosity, was also a big part of my Morris woods experience. No matter how apprehensive I might have  been, curiosity still made me want more. I would tell myself I would go further because I saw something move, yet I kept going further in. There was a point that I stopped at, the big tree that had been cut in half so that people could continue down the pathway, but I was very proud of myself, and if M. Carey Thomas was here, I believe she would be too. Curiosity is was sparks wanting to further the knowledge you already have. Most scientists who made break through discoveries succeeded because they were curious. And her goal was to get these Mawrters at the same level as men or maybe even better. My curiosity led me deeper and deeper into the woods although my apprehension stopped me. But, M. Carey Thomas would be proud about my experience because although I did stop, my curiosity did around other questions in my head. And who knows, maybe one day I will venture out there one day to get my questions answered.

M. Carey Thomas was also big on not keeping the campus so closed in and making the campus not too home-like and comfortable for the Mawrters. I believe her mentality, and I somewhat agree with it although I wouldn't like to agree with her, is that when you get comfortable you begin to slack off and become lazy. You aren't as "on your toes" when you are relaxed as one who is not comfortable. So creating an environment as such would ensure that the students wouldn't slack off and keep up on what they were supposed to do. Also, the fact that I extended my learning experience to somewhere off of campus would have been something she would have liked because she didn't want the campus to be built so that it was so secluded. Learning off campus would have been a new and innovative thing to her, and she seemed like she was into things like that.

All in all, M. Carey Thomas would be pleased with my overall experience. Although I was apprehensive, and she didn't seem like a fan of apprehension, I went out there and aloud my curiosity to put me in an uncomfortable situation where I could possibly learn something new. She was a fan of not making this facility too home like or comfortable because when you do get into a comfortable stage where you begin to relax, and if I had relaxed in Morris woods and wasn't looking around at everything to make sure I would t have been attacked at an animal at any moment, I don't think I would have noticed a few things. So my uncomfortable demeanor and constantly "being on my toes" would have been one thing she would have been proud of.  Also, the fact that I went off the campus to learn would have been another plus. She was very into keeping the campus open and not keeping the women confined to their one place, which is weird because most people complain they are too closed in. And the last thing that would have made her happy was that I allowed my curiosity to take me further into the woods than I was initially going to go. I pushed my boundaries a little bit, which I guess is something she would do.  

But, to jump back into reality and allow color to be a factor, M. Carey Thomas would have not have even wanted me to have this experience because of the color of my skin and socio-economic class. This institution was not built for me, but since she wanted women to push the boundaries and be just as good and maybe even better than white men, here I am, following in her footsteps.


Anne Dalke's picture


I’m liking it that you developed more fully here the contrast implicit in your first post, between curiosity and apprehension; this makes your walk in the woods not only an actual walk, but also a useful metaphoric description of what it means to be educated: curious enough to be drawn in, and apprehensive enough to be alert. Nice!

Where you seem to me curiously less curious, though, is in the way you skirt around “allowing color to be a factor.” You say that M. Carey Thomas “was a go-getter who was never afraid to push the boundaries,” but there were actually quite a few boundaries—of race and class, for starters—that she was quite set on maintaining (see my notes to Weilla’s paper for many more details on this…)

By far most striking to me is the observation you make in the final paragraph:  that M. Carey Thomas might have questioned your right to be here—not because you are apprehensive of the woods, but because you are “someone she did not envision attending BMC”: “an African American woman of a lower socio-economic status.” And of course I heartily applaud the fact that you can nonetheless see yourself so clearly “following in her footsteps.”  I hope you’ll familiarize yourself with some of the history of Bryn Mawr, in order to see how that has (if much too slowly and fitfully) come to be the case.