Kurt Piehler: This begins an interview with Elizabeth Hughes Clark on November 18, 1998, at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, with Kurt Piehler and …
Laura Micheletti: … Laura Micheletti.
KP: You said, just before we started the interview, that you were adopted at twenty months. Do you know anything about your family?
Elizabeth Hughes Clark: Well, I was told from the very beginning, I've always known I was adopted, and I guess it had to be because it was in the newspapers because it was a fairly unusual thing. This would be 1926. I knew my father was a singer, I knew my mother was French, I knew my original name. As a teenager, I was very fascinated by it, because I would go into the Metropolitan and listen to all these people singing and wanted to know about it. I have recently had an opportunity--I've had two opportunities--one in 1952, when I became a citizen, which was a very devastating kind of experience for me, when the lawyer, the immigration lawyer I worked with, talked about the fact that there were no records because they had been bombed out in the Second World War. A friend of mine, who's a high bureaucrat in London, said she'd be perfectly willing to check, because she thought that this would be something I might want, and I turned it down.
We have two daughters, neither of whom are going to have children biologically, forty-six and forty-nine. They're both career women, although one is married also. I've done a lot of work and research in adoption and in responses to adoption, and I have some very strong feelings. My family is the Hughes Family; I may not be a blood relative. It's very interesting, if you've ever read the book The Gift Relationship done by [Richard] Titmuss at Columbia on blood giving. There's a very deep-seated cultural feeling about people who are not blood related. Have you ever heard the term that, "He's not a blood-related relative"?
KP: I have heard that term.
EC: Yes, and it just infuriates me. It was the way I learned about discrimination, and I never heard anything negative until I came to NJC [the New Jersey College for Women].
EC: Then, I was talking with a friend who said that she could handle almost anything, but, if she knew that someone was adopted, she really didn't want to know them.
KP: Did she know you were adopted?
EC: No, no, and that was a revelation, a wonderful revelation, to me, because, for the first time, I think I understood the depths of antagonism and discrimination to a whole range of people. Although I had been brought up in a family that intellectually was nondiscriminatory, I'm never sure that any of us are, so that my family handled it very well. There was one comment my father made once which made me realize--and I found out in research later, girls who are adopted, families get a little worried that they may function just like their mothers did and have somebody out of wedlock. I don't know if that's still true. There are so few studies and they're so narrow that you really can't generalize, but, at the time I was doing some other research, three studies showed that adopted children ended up having mental health problems more than biological children. Now, was that because the families were already keyed in to social service agencies? Look, I'm only going back to the '60s, but there probably is much more. I talked to Jerome Kagan [psychology professor] at Harvard at one point. He was doing very interesting studies on personality with siblings. I said, "Have you ever done siblings that one's adopted and one isn't adopted?" He said he'd never had an opportunity. There isn't a population.
KP: I know some studies have been done on identical twins.
EC: Yes, yes, and one has just recently come out that has been fascinating, yes.
Laura Micheletti: Was your brother adopted?
EC: Yes. [He] was American and was adopted at five weeks in this country. My suspicion is that my family arrived at the point--Father, by the time I was adopted, was in his mid-fifties--therefore, they might have not been accepted, but, also, he'd been a consultant to an adoption agency in New York. So, that was part of it. He was English and, interestingly enough, wanted to adopt a little boy in England also. He and Mother had agreed on this. My brother had been ill. He's six years older than I am, and so Mother and Alfred stayed at home at their summer place in Long Island and Father was on sabbatical in England. The English would let a girl out of the country, but they would not let a boy out of the country. If you recall, the First World War decimated the English males, and so they wouldn't allow children to be adopted, even by a former [citizen] and they always recognize your patriality. For instance, I'm a double citizen and, in that period of time, though, America didn't allow it, but they recognized him as an English citizen. Therefore, he was allowed to take a child but not a boy child. They were going to adopt two at that time. [Editor’s Note: Elizabeth Hughes Clark’s mother was Maude Williams Hughes.]
KP: How very interesting.
EC: Mother had been Father's graduate student.
KP: In talking about your parents, starting with your father, he is English, but he was not born in England. He was born in what is now, I guess, Afghanistan.
EC: No, it's Pakistan now.
KP: Okay, now Pakistan, but very close to the border.
KP: How did it happen that he was born in India? Was his father a civil servant?
EC: No. His father was an Anglican missionary. This is the sociological aspect, and this is what I've been working on. The family was a Shropshire family, which is northern England. Apparently, his father did not go to university. I'm not quite sure what happened. His father died when grandfather was only ten. There had been money in the family. Something obviously happened. Now, we're talking about, he was born in 1838, so, by 1848, his father is dead. His mother married again. They lived in Ludlow. He went to the Church Missionary [Society] College, which was a two-year college in Islington, which is now part of London, and then went overseas. My father kept all of his credentials, and you know that in England, when you become an Anglican minister, you have to be approved by the Parliament. So, these are all Parliamentary documents that I've given back to the British Library, because they don't belong here. It was interesting to me that, in those documents, he was allowed to be a foreign missionary. Don't forget, the class system was alive and well. This is 1864. So, that's what the set-up was.
In my studies, in my research, what is pointed out is that the Church was very much cornered by Oxford and Cambridge, the Oxbridge Group, and you had to be upper class. If you had a church in England, you had a living. Do you know what a living meant? Somebody paid for your salary. That's the only way you got a church if you didn't have money of your own.
So, he was in India from 1864 to 1884. My bet is he went because it was the only way he could break the social system. In one of the books of the First Bishop of Lahore, which oversaw the Peshawar area, Valpy French writes that the missionaries were just running around doing their own thing--he obviously didn't use this language. My grandfather was translating from the Persian, publishing books on Muhammadanism, on Persian poetry and, finally, his Dictionary of Islam. Well, of course, I don't know when he was in Peshawar doing whatever he was supposed to be doing. This was his way of getting credibility, I'm sure, and he was a thorough-going egomaniac, I gather, from what I know. One aunt told my cousin that she never objected to slammed doors, because it meant Father had left the house. My father was not the easiest person to live with, either. So, I have a clear picture of what T.P. [Thomas Patrick Hughes] was like. [laughter] So, that, you see, those English people who were civil servants or missionaries retained their Englishness to a fare-thee-well, I think.
KP: People say that the colonials are often more British than the British.
EC: Yes, although he was a brilliant writer, and he had to have mastered a tremendous amount of material. I have to give him credit for that. I'm not fond of missionaries. I don't approve of them particularly, so this has always been a burden to me because it's rather dreadful [laughter] but it seems he was fairly avant-garde. He had respect for the Afghans.
KP: In many ways, he seems to be more of an intellectual who happens to make a living as a missionary.
EC: Yes, I think you're [right], a very good point. Thank you, I'll remember that.
KP: Writing books is hard work.
EC: Let me tell you, The Dictionary of Islam is still used in theological seminaries today. I gave his author's copy to the British Library, and then I had to pay about two hundred dollars to get an original edition. This is sort of silly and I don't know who has--there still should be some copyright, except there were no copyrights, you see. This is 1885.
KP: Yes, the copyright would have expired now.
EC: Oh, sure, and it's been published up to twenty-five to thirty times since 1885. So, you have to give the old boy some credit. [laughter]
KP: You mentioned before we got started that your father was born in India and had an Indian caretaker.
KP: Amah or nanny.
KP: How long was he in India?
EC: Three years, and then he was brought to England. The whole family came to England. Apparently, then the parents went back, and the children were put with families. As far as I know, my father was with the Bishop of London. Now, what that meant? He's never spoken about it. When he was of age, he went to the Bluecoat School, which is Christ's Hospital School, which is a famous public school. His younger brother, one of his younger brothers, did. The other younger brother did not. He went to another kind of school, not as scholarly. I'm not sure why, but all of the children were farmed out. So, there was no family life to speak of, though in the correspondence I have, there are all these letters, "Dear Mama," and, "Dear Papa," and so forth.
I have a feeling Father--you didn't talk about things like this--my sense was that my father really disliked his father but never spoke about it because that wasn't appropriate. I suspect that he was in competition with his father. Don't forget, he came to this country, and then he went to Teachers College [at] Columbia. Then, he went to Alfred [University in Upstate New York] to finish his last year, because his sister had been threatened with TB [tuberculosis] and in those days off you go to the mountains. Then, he came back [to Columbia], got his master's in philosophy and did his Ph.D. in philosophy in New York but didn't live with his family.
KP: In many ways, the family was somewhat distant. You wrote to them.
EC: I think that kept going through my father's lifetime. We would visit my aunt in the summer, Aunt May, who lived in Andover, Massachusetts. We had an aunt in New York, an older sister of Father's, who was married to the editor of one of the big newspapers in New York, World Telegram, I guess. She wasn't very interesting. She didn't like me and I didn't like her, so that may have been a part of it. His youngest brother, who was the only one born in England, became a very wealthy businessman [and] was on the stock exchange. It is literally a classic English family. One goes into the academe, one does something else, one goes into business. The youngest one always goes into business.
KP: Part of what you are telling me is also a story of mobility, initiated by your grandfather.
EC: Tremendous. Do you realize that when he got married, a month before he went to India--to a family that had originated in Warwick and then went apparently, to Manchester; I'm still searching that one out--they left in September, they were on sea for five-and-a-half months? The Suez Canal wasn't built, so they went around the Cape [of Good Hope]. Then, they took a train, and then they took whatever you took to get to Peshawar, because the train didn't go to Peshawar. What kind of guts does that take?
KP: I am curious. How much correspondence do you have from India from your grandfather?
EC: I really don't have a great deal. What I do have is [a journal], and I've just gotten it from my cousin. All of these people, there were eight children, two died in India, one cracked up in medical school in England and was hospitalized with dementia praecox. Let me see, there were two girls. One adopted children; one had none. My father adopted. My Uncle Sidney had one, who lives in New York. Out of that family, you have one blood relative, blood descendant. What was the question you asked me now?
KP: How much of the correspondence with your grandfather do you have?
EC: What I have is a journal that he apparently began to keep that dictates a lot of the stuff he did. After he came to this country in 1885, he tells exactly where he lived, he tells what churches he had in this country and all of the articles he wrote on India, and I have all of that, except I've given some of it to the British Library.
KP: What prompted your grandfather to come to the United States from India?
EC: He couldn't get a living. I do have letters from cathedrals in England where he had friends where he was trying to get a job. Now, this is my surmise. As an historian, I have the letters documenting that. He came to this country and ended up having a church on 74th and Park, which was then a Jewish section. If you know New York, the big old club is on 60th Street, and north of that was all Jewish. Of course, he became a missionary to the Jews in this country. Do you know that aspect of the Episcopal Church was still functional in Philadelphia in 1956? I went past an office I couldn't believe. I'm sorry now I didn't explore it, because it's gone, but that was still a very real aspect of the Episcopal Church.
KP: Do you have any sense of your grandfather's success with this mission to the Jews?
EC: Well, I don't think any. There wasn't any, as Father used to say, he didn't bring--and this isn't true, because he brought a number of Arabs in and he built a church in Peshawar, he built a church in Thandiani, which was up in the mountains--Father said he never converted any, because in those days if you converted somebody who was very much a part of the tribe, they killed him, you see. So, to what end? There were Hindus and Arabs--and I have pictures of them, Imam (Shaw?) is one and a couple of others--who became ministers. Those are the only Afghans that I have pictures of who became Christian. It's pretty deadly.
EC: You know what the Taliban is doing now, so I'm not surprised.
LM: I was just wondering how your parents met.
EC: Well, Mother was his graduate student. She was a teacher, and she had left her [home]. She was brought up in central Pennsylvania, went to a normal school, and was doing courses with Father and then did some graduate courses at Lehigh University. She had left her town because her parents had become divorced. Her family were very ardent Methodists. She was one of the adult children. Her mother had left, and then her father said, "Well, I'll take you back if you confess your sins to the church." All of the adult children said, "Forget it, Mother. Don't do it." Although she stood up for that sort of thing, she was the oldest child in that family, I don't think she felt very comfortable in that small town and so she came and taught in eastern Pennsylvania and went to Lehigh. That was the nearest university that had educational courses.
Father, at that time, he was chair of the Department of Philosophy, Psych and Ed, and he had made it a point to make courses available to teachers. He believed very firmly in getting teachers trained as best they could. It was another ballgame. We're talking about 1907 to 1913, when they married. She was very bright.
I suppose a family story is that I turned to my brother when I was in my forties and he was in his fifties--we both grew up sort of as only children, in many respects--and I said, "What do you think it was like being the daughter of somebody who never got less than ninety-four?" and Alfred, without a flicker of an eyelash, turned to me and said, "What do you think it was like to be the son of a man who never got anything less than a hundred?" Father went up to Alfred [University], and in six weeks--the story didn't come from Daddy, it came from other people--the president of the college, who was teaching the course, handed it over to Daddy because he knew more than [him]. That's horrible.
KP: You come from a long line of academics, and you are also an academic.
EC: Yes. [laughter]
KP: There is a real family line.
EC: That's why I said to you that I'm an anomaly, because I came to NJC as a very different kind of person. I was thinking about my freshman year and said to myself, "Well, there was a daughter of a missionary and there were two faculty brats there and those were the people I felt comfortable with," obviously, because I don't think they'd been brought up quite in as ivory-tower a way as I had been. They'd been much more part of America's popular culture, but I at least knew who they were and they knew who I was, so that we sort of palled around.
KP: I definitely want to ask more about Douglass' student culture.
EC: You don't know.
KP: I think there is more we need to know.
EC: Go ahead.
KP: Before that, you said you grew up in a very academic family and your father, in many ways, is a Victorian.
EC: Oh, he is, was.
KP: The Victorian Age continued.
EC: Yes. He was born in 1872 and, even when I introduced my husband to him in his latter seventies before we were married, this was a man who wore a three-piece suit and high-button shoes and a watch thing and very small, oval English glasses. He was six feet; he had massive black eyebrows. He scared the hell out of a lot of people. [laughter]
KP: I imagine he probably was an intimidating lecturer for students.
EC: Well, this is the funny thing. I went to his classes only a couple of times. He lectured--at least now at the senior seminars and the "Aesthetics" class, those are the two I'd gone to--he had one of the most beautiful speaking voices I ever heard. It was solely from the diaphragm, and it was not one of these God-awful English accents. Anybody would have known he was a Bluecoat [School] boy, because that's how they spoke. It's a very lovely kind of clarity. He lectured. He had the book here, and he lectured with his head on his hand, really. It's more rumination. He was thinking through what he was saying. Well, the first time I went, I sat in the back of the class, a small class, and literally perspiration started to come out on my face--and I don't perspire easily--because there would be these long silences. The students were used to them, apparently, [laughter] so they just sat there.
KP: They knew.
EC: Yes. They just waited until Percy [spoke]. His name is Percy Hughes. Where do you get somebody like that? When Lehigh did a "Professors I Remember," of course, there were about ten people, and this was in the '80s, they could still remember him. He was the absent-minded professor. He never wore a hat, never wore gloves, would walk two or three miles. When we moved off the campus, because of the pollution, we were that far; Father just took his briefcase and he marched back and forth. He didn't drive. Mother would have the car, and so off he would go. This was a formidable character. That's the only thing you can say. [laughter] [Editor's Note: From 1907 until his retirement in 1942, Percy Hughes served as a professor in the Department of Philosophy, Psychology and Education at Lehigh University.]
KP: I have a feeling that, for example, you did not listen to much radio growing up. Would that be accurate?
EC: Would you like a story that I think is a wonderful story? We had moved off the campus, even though our lives, if I went to the swimming pool, it was on the Lehigh Campus, that sort of thing. Both of them, incidentally, were very involved in music and in community activities, so it wasn't quite as enclosed as I seem to make it. This was 1932--so I was seven years of age--and it was the election for FDR [Franklin D. Roosevelt]. Who was running against [him]?
KP: Herbert Hoover.
EC: Hoover, yes. Well, there was only one possible other Democrat [besides my father that lived on our street]. How my father had found out, I'll never know. My brother must've told him somehow. We were on a street, on a block, with two vice presidents of Bethlehem Steel, the president of another corporation, the chief engineer of Bethlehem and I can't remember what this person did, but, at any rate, these were not people that my father thought very highly of, nor would spend any time with. My brother, obviously, played with all of them. I was too little.
We went down to this house and I was allowed to listen to the results, which was quite unusual, because I was in bed by nine o'clock every night. Whether I was asleep or not is another question. As a matter of fact, that's the night that I figured out that I could fly like Peter Pan. I don't know why I thought that, but I figured it out on the steps and that's what I did. The very next day--we did not have a radio--the very next day, my father went down and bought a radio. He bought--my husband just giggles about it--a Philco, no squat, no squint, no stoop, which was a famous radio. In 1966, when I broke their house up, it was still there. [Editor's Note: Radio manufacturer Philco used the motto, "No Squat, No Stoop, No squint."]
KP: Until that night, it sounds like he had resisted radio.
EC: Oh, he didn't allow it. Then, the next part of that story is [that] the radio was put on only by him or I presume my mother if she wanted to, but I was there at dinner. Once you got to be about seven, you sat at dinner with your family. So, it was there for the New York Philharmonic. It was there for Lowell Thomas [American radio and television broadcaster]. It was there for the Met [Metropolitan] Opera and the king's message and Roosevelt's speeches. Then, it was just what people say--you sat around and listened. You didn't put the radio on as background. That didn't happen to him until he had totally retired, which was about '44.
KP: Your father had some real Democratic sympathies.
EC: Well, he was a Fabian socialist, I think. [Editor's Note: Fabian socialism is a form of socialism advocated by the Fabian Society, which was organized in England in 1884.]
KP: He was not for Hoover.
EC: Absolutely, no, and he was the only acknowledged Democrat on the Lehigh faculty at that time.
KP: Faculty were often very Republican then.
EC: Oh, yes, and he suffered for it. He was examined by trustees for being Communist in the '20s. There was a Red Scare in those times. He was not well liked. In 1918, he had put a resolution through the faculty to make Lehigh coed, and of course the trustees turned it down. He was a real rebel. I'm sure I became sort of a rebel in the same way. My mother was a marvelously shy, reserved, bright person who really wanted a daughter who was very lady like, and it didn't work. [laughter]
KP: We have asked a lot about your father. Maybe this is a good time to ask more about your mother.
EC: Well, she came from a Welsh family, and her father was quite well-to-do. I don't think he was very fond of women who went to college, but all of Mother's friends--and she remained friends with about five people--all went to college and she was very bitterly disappointed about college. She'd gone to what is now Bloomsburg University, and it was just a rehash of her high school. She thought it was dreadful, the first year. As a matter of fact, I took her back for her 55th reunion there, and there were three women who were still teaching and I would've been delighted to have any one of them as teachers for my kids. They were phenomenal people, one of the editors of Highlights [children's magazine]. These people were incredible, they really were.
When the president got up to say that it was going to be a university, this was in the change period, my mother, who never whispered loudly, said, "Well, and how many PhDs do you think they have, and what do you think the library is worth?" [laughter] Of course, this went sailing up, because she was one of the older classes and we sat in front. I think she was able to be there more for my brother. She protected him a good deal from Father's Victorianism, but I came along a little later. He taught me how to play chess. I was pushed a good deal by him.
KP: He really wanted you to be an intellectual.
EC: Oh, God, yes.
KP: He did not have a stereotypical gender view.
EC: Oh, no, oh, God. Of course, the only way I could rebel, and it didn't dawn on me, I'm so stupid, that this was a faculty brat thing, I was talking to Bryn Mawr before I came to Rutgers to do my master's in sociology and I said, "I'm not really very proud of my college." I nearly flunked out freshman year with a "3.3." I don't know what you do. Do you go from one to four?
KP: We now go the other way, but we know exactly what you mean.
KP: "3.0" is not very good in that era.
EC: Yes. This Bryn Mawr professor said, "Well, that's the perfect way for a faculty brat to rebel," and that's what I did. The other piece of that though, in all honesty is, both my brother and I said we never really had to study until we got to college. The dinner table was a constant--it sounds odd, we just put up with it, because, after all, if your father's sitting here and your mother's sitting there and they're talking about diplomacy and Nazism and European politics and what's going on in the world of ideas and music, what are you going to do--and you had to talk. We were expected to contribute during dessert, and that did not mean that you and (Suzy Glatz?) had had a fight. [laughter] You had to think up something.
KP: There was an expectation that you read the newspaper.
EC: Yes. We read The Times and The Tribune. Daddy stopped the local paper during the [John] Dillinger years, because of course the local paper had all these wonderful headlines. [Editor's Note: John Dillinger was a bank robber and gangster who was killed by law enforcement in a shootout in 1934.]
KP: He wanted serious news.
EC: Well, no, he didn't want tabloid stuff in his house, and so we weren't allowed to have "Funnies" except for those in The Herald-Tribune. Fortunately, they had a few. [laughter]
KP: The Times still does not have any.
EC: Of course, we never listened to [the radio series] Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy. My husband laughs about it.
KP: What about movies?
EC: Well, I was finally allowed to go to movies on my own with a crowd, though we went to our summer home every weekend. We had a summer home on the North Shore of Long Island. You can imagine, this was going into New York and going out, the Verrazano-[Narrows] Bridge was not up, and then Mother and Daddy finally decide that's too far, because his family had all bought property out there and his parents were buried out on the North Shore. So, they bought property in northwestern New Jersey, which was about forty miles from Bethlehem. So, Friday, I never finished a Friday class. Mother comes along, picks me up, picks my brother up, and off we go for the weekend, you see.
KP: You spent the weekends in New Jersey.
EC: Well, it's gorgeous country. I'm sorry we couldn't hang on to it, but the taxes were horrendous. It's in Warren County, about three miles from Belvidere, up on a hill. We had a hundred acres, and we could see all the way through to the [Delaware] Water Gap. We had Wind Gap and Water Gap and then through to the Poconos. [The property was] totally private. We had a pond, which was about a hundred-by-125 feet. We swam and had a tennis court. I would take about three friends out for a month, and Al would have three friends. I would live in the barn, which had sort of an apartment in it, and he would live in a tent. We went home for meals. [laughter] [Editor’s Note: The summer home of the Hughes family was known as Glory Hill.]
KP: It sounds like your father did okay during the Great Depression.
EC: Very well, not very well, but …
KP: By the standards of the day.
EC: Oh, I'm sure that his salary, at that point, and he had a chair, Clara H. Stewardson Chair, so my bet is it was somewhere around eight thousand [dollars] a year.
KP: In the 1930s, that was an enormous salary.
EC: Now, they lived very, not impecuniously--how should I call it?--frugally, yes. We traveled, but we never went to Europe during that time. Father was vehemently anti-German once Hitler came to power. One of his brothers went back to England and lived and was there during the Second World War, but everybody else stayed here and that brother also had a crazy life. The only job I know of that he had was as secretary to the President of Mexico, and then he went back to England and I suspect my other uncle supported him and my father. So, you've got some sort of crazy--I guess, if I were to put it in short sentences--it was academic. It was more than a little separated from ordinary culture, simply because of the age of my father and his particular egocentricities and also somewhat of my mother, who was a very reserved, proper soul, and their interests, which were music and art and literature and learning. You read; you didn't listen to the radio. [laughter]
KP: You read and you went to performances, it sounds like.
KP: You did go swimming, you mentioned.
EC: Oh, well, yes. Well, I had three swimming suits and maybe one dress, if I had to go to Sunday school. I never liked Sunday school, but if I had to go, my parents sent both of us.
KP: Did they go to church?
EC: Never, never went to church. Father became a Unitarian in this country and then went back to being Episcopal because he became a consultant to the House of Bishops. He did a fair amount of writing on churches, one of which I think is a very good article in The Review of Religion talking about, "Can you have a secular religion, like Nazism?" He ended up by saying, "Or do they exist simply because people allow them to exist?" Literally, he was saying that. He did not go back to church until he retired, and then he became involved in church, I'm sure to stay busy, and they were Episcopalians.
In later years, after his death--Mother didn't know, this is the communication pattern--we ran into somebody who suddenly looked very familiar to us and had been married by the bishop, as I had, and so forth. We tracked it back. He'd been a student of Father's. We all wondered why Father left the Episcopal Church in this little town, which turned out to be great that he did. This man said, "Well, don't you know why?" and we said, "No." He said, "Well, he had flunked this man, the new minister, when he had been in pre-theological at Lehigh," and he made life so miserable for Father that he just quietly resigned and became a Presbyterian and Mother became a Presbyterian. They sang in the choir. He had a group of young PhDs who wanted him to do the adventure of ideas of Whitehead's book, and so he was perfectly happy. I don't think he saw organized religion as necessarily the important thing as to be in community. He and I used to argue that, because I wouldn't go to church unless I was being paid to sing and I did. That's why I went up to see the Dutch Reformed Church, because if you sang solo, you got ten dollars a week and if you just sang in the choir, you got six. That's how I got money when I was in college. [laughter] [Editor's Note: In 1941, Percy Hughes wrote "Is Whitehead’s Psychology Adequate?” about the English philosopher Alfred North Whitehead.]
KP: I have interviewed several people at Rutgers who were faculty brats like yourself. One of the things they have alluded to is that you spend a lot of time on college campus.
EC: Yes. Well, why not? You go to the library, you go to the swimming pool, you go to the gym.
KP: A lot of your friends are the faculty kids.
EC: Yes. It is in that sense. Incidentally, Rossi, Alice Rossi [sociologist and feminist author] has written a wonderful book--it's out-of-date now--about faculty children, particularly faculty children of New England faculty, that the girls are never raised to be anything but individuals and to function productively. You see most American girls aren't brought up that way, even today. It's clothes and going to the mall. All I can think of is if the mall had been around when Father was there, I doubt that I would've made it there, and movies, we went if he approved and it was hilarious. He had a flashlight. I can remember parking the car. Father would go very [fast]. He was a great walker. He used to walk fifty miles a day in England. Here, incidentally, he would walk first, then my brother, then myself, then my poor mother, who was a lady. We would enter the theater, and Daddy would not let the usher seat us. This was in the days of ushers. He seated us, and, if the picture wasn't something he approved, we all got up and left, which made quite [an impression]. The whole city knew who we were. It was a little embarrassing. [laughter]
KP: You have spent some time reflecting on your childhood. In some ways, it was against the cultural grain at the time.
KP: How aware were you of this growing up?
EC: I think I was aware of it in [that] I felt lonely. I'm not sure that I wouldn't have felt lonely anyway. I think I'm a very introverted kind of person, for all the fact that I can express myself, let's put it that way. Sure, I fought bitterly. Father and I had terrible fights. I ran away once at the farm. I was very smart; I just went to the edge of the property. [laughter] My mother came and collected me and felt badly about it.
One other time, I ran away because my brother and I had this terrible fight, and he was one of these--he was a very good-looking man and he was on the posters for the US Naval Air Corps. Being dark, I was very dark, dark eyed, and he was blue eyed and blond haired. Everybody thought he was the English child, and I was--I don't know what I was--but I certainly wasn't the English child. He was always very well behaved, and I wasn't. One time, he blew. He really blew. All I remember is [that] I was sitting, yelling at him about something. All of a sudden, I was on the ground, being pummeled. Mother collected him and got him off, and off I went. It was one of the interesting moments. I came back on my own, sort of and went to my apartment in the barn, away from the main house, old farmhouse, and my father came in and literally tried to explain sibling rivalry to me. It was fascinating. As I think back, I knew something very important was happening, but I couldn't figure out what it was, you see, because this man was a psychologist, but they are with their own children not the most [understanding]. Well, I was sent to a private school as well as a public school. I went two half days to the private school and four days to the public school. See, I reveled in the difference, I think is what I [did]--you've asked a very good question--and agonized over it. It was top or bottom.
KP: Yes. I would also assume you were in the private school with some of the sons and daughters of the Lehigh elite.
EC: And Bethlehem Steel.
KP: Bethlehem Steel.
EC: I grew up in a home that thought that Bethlehem Steel executives were lower class. They had money but that was all.
KP: They had no learning.
EC: No learning, although all of the presidents of the major steel companies had graduated from Lehigh, at the time, 1899, sort of turn of the century. Class was judged very differently, and, to this day, I have to be careful when I'm thinking in terms of class and I've been called on it. People have said that some of my reactions are the reactions of someone who had a very comfortable life.
-------------------------------------END OF TAPE ONE, SIDE ONE---------------------------------------
EC: I was in rebellion and thankful for all the importance that I got from this family. I'm sure that's been part of my personality. I looked at things at NJC that other people didn’t. [laughter] All of a sudden, I've thought of things that I hadn't thought of, yes.
KP: You mentioned your father was very anti-Nazi. A lot of people we have interviewed really had no sense of world affairs until December 7, 1941. You had growing up a good sense of what was going on in the world because of these dinner-table conversations.
EC: Well, I can remember, I'm not a praying person, but I really remember praying from '39 on that we'd get into the war. I knew a number of people, Americans, who'd gone over to be in the RAF [Royal Air Force]. I also knew English people, because of course, as you know, there was communication. Also, I think the other thing that happened in my life, mostly I dated Lehigh guys, even though I was much younger.
KP: In high school, you were dating college men.
EC: Yes, college kids, but it wasn't--was it a date or was it I was a cheap date--and it was, "Okay, this is Percy Hughes' daughter?" I never saw what was going on at Lehigh. The first time I ever got into a mess, walking into a room where a girl and a boy were in bed was at Rutgers, at the Deke [Delta Kappa Epsilon] House, and I can remember, "What do you mean this goes on?" [laughter] Lehigh was much worse probably. The first person I ever went out to have a date with was a Japanese, whose name I can still remember, (Takiako Shintako?).
KP: How old were you when you had your first date?
EC: Sort of fourteen, thirteen, fourteen.
KP: It is interesting that your father did not mind you dating.
EC: Oh, but it wasn't a date in his eyes, I'm sure. We would go to a wrestling match--you see, we were on campus--go to a wrestling match, go to a tennis match, go to a concert at the chapel, go to a football game. That wasn't a date, but I could call it a date, you see. I didn't ever tell him that, and I learned, I guess senior year in high school, I certainly learned to drink [laughter] and did it not often but I did what I wanted to.
What I recall about the house parties here, and I didn't go here very much, was something we called "Purple Jesus." Does anybody ever define that? It's Green River Gin, which was a dollar a bottle, and it was grape juice. Well, of course, it knocked you right on your ear. Also, you could date in Princeton and never see an ABC man. You know what I mean by an ABC man? Alcoholic Beverage [Commission]. We would go to the CT [Corner Tavern] here after a weekend, and usually at the end of a weekend, I was drinking ginger ale, smart that I was, they would come along. The ABC men would come in on the top floor, the main bar, and they would come past all the tables downstairs. Just everybody who had a drink that was legal or who wasn't drinking, you'd pick up your glass and they'd just go, "Whoosh," into these--they weren't copper, probably, but they had tin--so that if there was liquid, it didn't go all over the floor. Well, one time that happened, and I was drinking ginger ale. The ABC guy took it, asked me how old I was, and I said I was sixteen. Of course, he was delighted. He took it, and, of course, it wasn't anything. [laughter] Isn't that awful? I was so pleased. See, Mother and Daddy didn't drink, and I understand they stopped making wine--they loved wine--after I came into the family, because I insisted on sampling it. My brother, of course, being told not to, didn't. What are you going to do with a brother like that?
KP: I am curious, why did you choose NJC? Why not Radcliffe?
EC: Yes. Father and I had a real battle before I went to college, because I never studied. He had to tutor me through freshman Latin, because I didn't want to learn it. I had a daughter just like this, so I was not surprised, may be genetic. [laughter] We had a battle, and he would not send me to Smith. I was entered at Smith, and [he] said, "You are such a dreadful snob. I will not do that." Plus, [there was] the fact [that] the war [was] coming on. We had spent the summer in Montana convincing my brother to stay in college. Now, Al had a private pilot's license. We got back to the East Coast, and he followed and went into the Naval Air Corps. Father was furious, because he wouldn't finish his senior year. Well, as Al pointed out, he would have been drafted immediately come December 7th, so he'd done the right thing. It was also that Father wasn't terribly well. Mother hadn't been well for years, and Smith was a considerable distance away.
I went to college every year on the train, and it took four hours from Belvidere, New Jersey. You had to go into Trenton. You could barely [make it by train]. Mother and Father were not going to get extra gas. My brother would come home, use eight gallons, he had ten, and they would give back two gallons to the ration board. You queue up in England, and Daddy and Mother were very much that kind of person. They never used anything from the black market. So, I suspect it was that. I think they were really scared, and they should've been because, boy, I came to NJC and I just had a blast. [laughter]
KP: I cannot resist.
EC: Go ahead.
KP: I have mainly interviewed men from Rutgers. The stories come down two ways in terms of the relationship between NJC and Rutgers, particularly fraternities. Many, which I think is partly true, portray a very innocent age where all fraternity parties are chaperoned and some have denied that there was any drinking on campus.
EC: Oh, my God, but it depends. I would venture to say there may have been fraternities--I never met any--but there may have been.
KP: Then, you get the other story, where it is usually other people who do it, of a lot of partying.
EC: Oh, listen, I passed out at the Deke House, no question about it.
KP: There was actually quite a bit of drinking going on and they were trying to keep this hidden from Dean [Fraser] Metzger, the Dean of Men.
EC: I didn't even know who he was.
KP: Some will even admit there was some sleeping around, although it is obviously not the same level as today.
EC: Oh, there was.
KP: There are two different versions of Rutgers.
EC: Well, let me tell you. I'm not sure. This goes on the Internet. That's all right.
KP: We do not need a recount.
EC: Let me give you an example that I think will tell you where I'm coming from, and so you can make a decision as to where my story fits in. I really have enjoyed what you've made me do; this is a part of my life. I have never been able to stay in a group. It may be that the groups may never have allowed me to. [laughter] That's a possibility, don't forget. I've always sort of known four or five--and this is particularly true in my married life, but I now see that the pattern started early--I knew a group of very attractive, very sharp gals that dated all over the East Coast, as did I. Some of them slept with people and some of them didn't. In those days, UVA [University of Virginia] and Duke [University] were just absolute party schools. I can remember dating at Naval Academy, the drinking going on at the Naval Academy. I dated West Point. I just happened to date a guy that didn't drink, so I didn't get to know that particular group. Quite frequently, it was people who had a fair amount of money and who had a fair amount of apparent sophistication, because I came across, I'm sure, as being terribly sophisticated and was so green in other ways, not having known teenagers closely, except my own little group.
I can remember one chat I had with a French professor, a young French professor, and I'm sure he was trying to be sort of smart-alecky and sophisticated and, unfortunately, he chose me and I could play the same wavelength. I cannot remember whether this was freshman or sophomore year. I just hated to go to French. I had spoken French as a second language, and so it bored me. They finally took a couple of credits away because I was so bad. [laughter] At any rate, this young professor said to me, "How many women do you think are virgins on the NJC Campus?" which was really an untoward comment. I just gave an equally untoward comment back and said, "Oh, about a third." Well, he absolutely flipped. [laughter] Now, I would bet it was somewhere between--I think that probably people who did have real relationships and slept with people, I would think it has to have been about twenty-five percent, at least, but that's an educated guess and I'm talking about freshman year and sophomore year more than junior and senior year.
KP: One of the things that both Laura and I have done is go back and read the Targums for these interviews. Compared to today, there are very few rules. There is no in loco parentis any more.
KP: In your era, particularly for NJC but even for Rutgers, there were a lot of rules. Men were not allowed in dormitories.
EC: That was true at Princeton, too, you see. There were no cars at Princeton. If you went out with someone from Princeton and they had a car, what they did was hire one of the cars from a funeral director. You always hoped you were dating the guy that drove, because you sure didn't want to be on the slab in the back. [laughter] You'd go along a roadhouse in New Jersey and here would be a … [laughter]
KP: A bunch of hearses.
EC: There were no rules at Princeton Theological [Seminary]. That was one of the greatest experiences of my life in getting to realize what life is all about, because at Princeton, you were out at six o'clock.
EC: Oh, they kept [that up]. Now, I'm sure there were ways of getting around it occasionally, but I never observed it or I never participated in it. [I] got to Princeton Theological and was dating a guy there. We were playing bridge, and, all of a sudden, it became perfectly obvious to me that there were no rules. I could stay all night, and, boy, if that didn't put me through the ropes to get out of there. You see, all you need to do is say that I have all this opportunity and then I'll probably back up and be conservative, unless I'm really interested and I wasn't interested in this one. He was very good looking and he was a Presbyterian, as they all were in those days. Now, you don't know what they are. I'm probably low, as I think about it, it's probably twenty-five to thirty-three percent. When I was a house chairman, I'll never forget one time, you had to make sure that people were in, and, of course, there were special [permissions] all the time. This one gal, who was a sophomore, was dating a Norwegian sailor, wherever she'd met him, and they were going to New York. I knew they weren't coming home until two, and what you did is, you set your alarm clock for two or two-thirty. They would come in, change the alarm to what you wanted and put it inside your door. Well, the alarm clock went off, and, unfortunately, I woke up and I sat in that room and thought, "What the hell am I going to do? This gal isn't back." I really don't like rules. I was in a small house at Douglass, which is now called what?
EC: Corwin, yes. I knew I had to get dressed, and I had to get out and get over to the campus director's office, because, surely, I had to [report this]. I really worried that something had happened, because there were lots of Army people and Navy people and stuff. New York had a brownout, so you couldn't see lots of times. So, I took my time. It was about three or three-fifteen, I got down, and I finally decided I had to put on my coat and stuff and get out and get to the campus director's, and she [the sophomore] was sitting on the front porch steps. I thought I was going to kill her. I said, "Why the hell didn't you just turn off my alarm, put it in the room and sit in the living room and talk?" [It is] interesting what rules do to you, you see. I didn't care what she [did], "So, stay." I went back to bed, [laughter] but I'd lost two hours of sleep. You're right, there were [more rules].
KP: I have been just struck. Jean Comeforo from NJC Class of 1945 told two wonderful stories, and I would be curious about your thoughts about the NJC Dean of Students Leah Boddie.
EC: Oh, God, yes.
KP: Jean will never forget some of the women at NJC married during the war. There was some real, I get the sense, pressure to marry if you were dating a serviceman.
EC: I never knew that.
KP: Some did marry. I do not know if there was pressure.
EC: No. If you lived on campus before my …
KP: You could not be married, I know.
EC: You could not be married and live on campus until the end of my sophomore, no, my junior year.
KP: She said that the number of married women increased, and apparently Dean Boddie told them they were not to talk about what went on.
EC: Oh, absolutely. That, I know. Listen, in the house where my house chairman--and I can't even remember which year this was--she got married, so it must've been my junior [year]. Someday, I've got to go look this book up, because this is really ridiculous, if I'm not mistaken, it was called Sane Sex Life by Dr. Long, a Dr. [H.W.] Long. Well, the language was unbelievable, [laughter] and so we're all down at the butt can [toilet] reading this, you see, with this gal who's going to get married. There, she went off and got married, never talked to us again about it. [laughter] I'm sure she wouldn't have anyway, you see, but we were just doing our thing. We were getting her prepared for marriage. [laughter]
I guess one of the funny stories you should hear is [that] my freshman year, there were a number of us who were debating whether we were going to stay virgins. This was the big issue, and we're sitting around the butt can in one of the big houses where the campus director lives. As a matter of fact, it was another faculty brat, and Jan--I can't remember her last name--who was a missionary's daughter, and myself. We are arguing this up and down. Oh, you can't imagine. I wish I had a …
KP: Is this an argument based on fitting in? Is it an argument over education, over morality?
EC: I think it was primarily morality, and did we really want to find out. We'd talked to people who had, and it was terrific, you see. This was an experience you needed to have, [laughter] but it was mostly morals, I think. Of course, this is 1941 or '42, and, if you have a mother who has imposed her moral values--and I surely had and these other gals did--if you get dressed in the proper clothes to go somewhere, you can imagine what this entailed. Well, we finally discovered that we were under the heating pipe that went right up to the director. [laughter] So, we changed our venue. It was awful. There was a lot of talking and a lot of concern.
I think we all talk about drugs now. There were lots of drugs around, not necessarily in college, but I sang with jazz bands. Look, those guys were high most of the time in New York, at the Cotton Club, elsewhere, so that part of it is [that] you don't talk about it. This business, "Do it, but don't tell," is--I don't know why everybody gets so upset by [the policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" of then President Bill] Clinton--this is classic.
KP: It has been curious, because I had a Deke member who basically denied that there was drinking on campus. I did not call his bluff and say, "I know about your house." People have told me about the house parties.
EC: Well, the Deke House, certainly. That was the only house I dated and the guy I dated was a senior, and there was certainly drinking. They came by their epithet probably, "The Drunken Dekes." Look, I didn't know anything happened at Lehigh until my husband and I went to chaperone the Psi U [Psi Upsilon] house the first year I was married. I never saw anything like it. It was open season [laughter], and that was 1947. So, that wasn't much later than when I was in college in '45. After '41, I only dated one other Rutgers person, and that was George Schmidt's son. He was a DU [Delta Upsilon]. We never dated at Rutgers, because he was in the Navy at that time. My knowledge of Rutgers is probably less than almost any other men's college. [Editor's Note: George P. Schmidt served as a professor of history at NJC. He retired in 1960.]
KP: You mentioned some of the places you dated.
EC: Yes, and they were people I knew. I could make it sound sophisticated and probably did in college, but they were all people that I'd grown up with or had met some other way.
KP: For example, you did not take a road trip, say, to the Naval Academy looking for dates.
EC: Oh, no, oh, Lord, I wouldn't have dreamed of that, you see. You went to the Point if you had a weekend, because in the first place it was very hard to get housing. They had to get you housing way in advance. I went twice to the Naval Academy. I went two or three times to West Point. During the summer between my freshman and sophomore year, I met a man from Harvard and was pinned and broke up by the end of my sophomore year. That seemed to be the smart thing to do. It was mostly Princeton and Princeton Theological and Colombia, which were easy to get to [by] busses or trains.
KP: You entered NJC in September of 1941. It was still peacetime for the United States, although you were very conscious of the war.
KP: I want to ask you about politics, but, first, one of the things we have noticed at both NJC and Rutgers is that it was a very ritualized world of college. Some of it was very unintellectual, although it does build community, particularly the freshman hazing, the dinks, the special outfits you had to wear, the rituals. What was your reaction to all of these rituals of a first-year student? Douglass is actually very good at maintaining some of these rituals. The Sacred Path is still a Douglass tradition.
EC: That may be because the alumnae insist on it, I don't know. I don't know whether that comes from the students or not, yes.
KP: You also have the Christmas Yule Log.
EC: Yes. Also, you can't walk on Sacred Path. Can you walk on Sacred Path?
LM: You can walk on it.
EC: Well, we couldn't. I broke a few rituals, but I never broke the Sacred Path, or I walked alongside it if I did. You had to wear skirts to Cooper Hall. As I said, I was on supervised rest. I was forever getting pneumonia or something, and it probably was a wonderful way of getting attention. It was another world. I didn't object. I remember, if I had to look at it with eyes from that age, which is very hard--I mean, God, at sixteen, what are you, you're an idiot--it allowed you to see people on campus who were you, you see, so that in a way, it wasn't community so much as, "Gee, there's somebody you could talk to who might feel as lost as you do or who wasn't part of the puzzle." I broke the rule about wearing [a skirt], and I got reported for it, of course. You were not supposed to wear ski pants. and, of course, ski pants weren't anything elegant. They were just heavy wool. Boy, they were warm, and, of course, we didn't have lots of great heating. I can remember that's when I started to learn to sleep with a heating pad. This was the way you stayed warm, outside of having three or four blankets on you. So, you'd get real smart. You'd leave a skirt that you didn't give a darn about and you'd leave it at Cooper, you see, and then take it off. You'd come in in your ski pants, pull them up. Well, of course, you looked like this, you see, [laughter], and so somebody who doesn't like you is bound to say, "Report yourself to Honor Board." I don't think I objected very much.
KP: You rebelled.
EC: No, I rebelled at things that seemed to cut my options. I didn't have to wear them off campus. The rules on the whole [were fair]. Coming home from the library, well, the library closed I think at nine, well, that was about as long as I wanted to stay in the library anyway. It wasn't a good library, and I knew that. I don't know if it's possible today--I loved the lack of proctoring, because I'd never been proctored, really, so that that fit me, my idea of freedom.
KP: One of the rules was that if you went into town, you had to wear a dress.
EC: Do you know I don't remember that? I don't think so, in '41. I think I came when you didn't have to wear gloves; you didn't have to wear a hat. I came right after that, I think. I don't recall. We'd go down to the spa or go over to Mary Lou's; Mary Lou's? I think it was Mary Lou's, where we got--she made the best cinnamon toast--and we played bridge all the time. In a way, what you have to think your way back to, Kurt, is [that] there weren't many pants to wear other than blue jeans. I've never even owned blue jeans. I don't like them; I don't like the fit. Obviously, my body doesn't work as well as somebody else's. I've always worn something like sweats. I don't recall anything. As long as we were on campus, we could wear what we wanted.
KP: Except to dinner.
EC: To dinner, and I fought that one and I'm perfectly happy to tell them. When I lived on Gibbons, there were open fields from Gibbons to the main campus, to college campus. I remember one time when I was coming down with strep and the security guard or whatever we called them followed me home, because I was apparently saying things like, "Just let me get home. Jesus Christ, let me get home" [laughter] because it was so cold and I had a temperature of about 102 [degrees]. They didn't believe I was ill. They put me in the infirmary on the third floor finally, and I hallucinated. I had a temperature of 104 the next morning, and they were in real trouble because I was in trouble. Of course, they immediately called my parents, and with a medical emergency, you can get some gas and they had to come down and get me. I was out for about six weeks. So, the ski pants I could argue and did. They didn't say anything. They tried to, I guess.
LM: You mentioned that when you came to NJC, you tended to become friends with people who had similar family backgrounds. Were class distinctions very prominent at NJC when you arrived? Was it a very noticeable thing?
EC: I guess we all knew the people who waited on tables were on scholarship and were getting money, but they were the top kids in college, so what are you going to get class conscious about? [laughter] There were four blacks in our class. I was not in a class where (Connie Andrews?) was, where the English professor apparently was so bad, just called on her constantly. Finally, the class had to rebel and say, "There are other people in this class you can call on." It was an effort to put Connie down and Connie, later, years later, told me that a math professor had flunked her and she had had to go to Columbia to do it in the summer. Actually, I think the racism, which is not exactly class, was more evident among the faculty.
EC: This isn't cricket. I had asked Connie to room with me senior year, because I was a house chairman and we'd have a suite and she just couldn't do it. She was an organist at her church, and it was also expensive for her. I don't know how the faculty got to hear about it, but two faculty people, that I really lost a great deal of respect for, called me in and told me how marvelous it was that I had offered this. Well, in the first place, she was, I think, an honors math person. She was a beautiful-looking woman. She was just a great gal and I guess, from the time I'd been in high school, I had become very aware of blacks, but if I had to really dig, I would say that I became aware of people who were powerless and I suspect, if you want to be clear about it, if you are the child of two very dominant parents, you feel powerless, and so that's really how I relate to people.
I remember there was one person who had a scholarship who had a fur coat, and a couple of us talked about that. This is the early [1940s], [laughter] "Well, what are you doing?" The rest of us are all in cloth coats or whatever. I'm sure people could have said that I was thoughtless and cutting when I didn't mean to be, and I'm sure I was. I think what those of us who would've been called a little bit Left were conscious of was someone who was attempting to be something they weren't. It goes back to Bethlehem Steel, and those people are really not models, role models--they just make money and it's conspicuous consumption. I think that was more, at least in my mind, what was going on. It would've been very hard to tell.
There is a good story about one of our classmates. She was taking three years of physical ed her senior year, because she just [laughter] couldn't get to class. One day, I was in the Spa having a Coke, and we looked up at the end of the store. There was this gal, gorgeous, hair all done, and she had a black coat and a black dress and was just absolutely stunning. Well, in order to get money, she used to sell her clothes to somebody. We all did it. When she had to go meet her parents in New York, of course she had to get them back and she had to be dressed up. We never saw her dressed up. She had pigtails, jeans, sweatshirt, and that's what you saw her [wear]. You saw Smitty on campus, that's what Smitty looked like. She'd get into the senior line when we were [seniors], if I would give up choir one time for Tuesday chapel and become a senior so [that] I could wear my black senior thing, she'd come marching up with her sneakers on, just coming out of phys ed. There was much more individuality in that sense that I was aware of. Don't forget, there were only six hundred people on campus.
KP: Both NJC and Rutgers, compared to today, were small.
EC: Oh, my God, yes. I did not recommend our girls come here. They were in the '60s, late '60s, early '70s. I think my feeling about NJC was you ought to have a throwaway intellect. Do you know what I mean by that? You could do speed reading; you can get through the reading. That was the one thing that just irritated me with the Rutgers men who were in our classes during the war, whether they were pre-theological or they were pre-med or whatever or 4-F--they just hated to do the homework. Of course, we all sat there, and if we got [assigned] three hundred pages [to read], you got through what you could. You didn't argue with your faculty. We also--and I'll bet Jean [Comeforo] said something--somebody reminded me that without even knowing it, we addressed the female faculty as "Miss." We did not address them as "Dr."
KP: No, she did not mention that.
EC: Damn, and do you know I did it too? I can't believe it. Don't forget, I had a double message given to me. I didn't discover it really until I got engaged and got married then, but as a woman then you function as a wife. Obviously, that has to have been in the messages I was getting in my family. I just never heard it. That just broke me up, because Dr. Judson was tremendous. Have you ever heard the story about her? [Editor's Note: From 1928 to 1967, Margaret Atwood Judson served as a faculty member and administrator at Douglass College. Dr. Judson held roles as a history professor, chair of history and political science and acting dean of Douglass College.]
KP: I have heard she was very scholarly.
EC: Oh, she was a great teacher. Oh, God, she could get me every time. I was coming back from the Deke House on a Monday and sitting and frowning about something. She stopped class and said something about, "What's the matter? Are you hungover?" [laughter] She didn't say it that way, but I thought I was going to die, I was so embarrassed.
No, the great story that she told, that I think is tremendous, she'd gotten out of [Mount] Holyoke [College] and was a brilliant scholar. Her father was a missionary, and that's probably why I sort of [gravitated toward her]. She used to invite us up to play bridge sometimes. She went to work with [Charles Howard] McIlwain, the great political theorist. That was who was going to be her dissertation chair, and she finally, after six months, got up the courage to go see him in his office. She opened the door, put her head in, and he looked up and said, "My God, a woman." [laughter] What do you think it did to her? [laughter] It took her another six months before she could [go see him again]. So, we've come a short way. [laughter] Dr. [Emily] Hickman I think was called Dr. Hickman. She was a character.
KP: I have heard that, and I have heard Dean Boddie was something of a character, too.
EC: Boddie and I had one bad scene, and that was that I'd joined IR, which was International Relations, with Hickman. She called me into her office and said what am I doing, doing that? "Is this open to everybody?" and so forth. Well, I didn't know, but I was very irritated that she had called me to account. It struck me as if it were very much like--the Quakers do this, too--if everybody isn't invited, this happened to me at Haverford then, you can't do something because otherwise you're exclusive, which, yes, you are in a way. However, that was the point.
The other thing that I think you should know, and maybe she isn't as well known, (Elizabeth Thomas?) was the Assistant Dean of Students, I think, southern, all of them. Boddie and Thomas were both southern. Dean Boddie was always talking about being a lady. So, I just wrote her off, but Elizabeth Thomas was a remarkable woman. I did not know her, and I did not hear this until years after I graduated. My mother told a story that I wish I had known when I'd been at school. My father came back with me to college and I did not know, but Margaret Judson had kept me in college. She had said that I was trying to become independent of my father and they should think kindly of me, and so [even though I had a grade point average of] "3.3," I came back. Father and Mother came to see Elizabeth Thomas to say, "Okay, we're bringing this thing back and we want you to put some nails in her coffin," being that I was on the Gibbons Campus and that any date I had was to be interviewed by the campus director. Elizabeth Thomas, to my great glory--Mother, when she told this story, did not realize how I was going to take it; I was so charmed--Elizabeth Thomas looked at my father and said, "Dr. Hughes, if Elizabeth comes to this college, she comes under our rules, not yours." That takes a lot of guts. I am sure it is the first time anybody had ever said anything like that to him, and he just shut up. Mother said, "That was dreadful." I just sat there and grinned. [laughter]
I think there were some formidable women. Corwin was not one, in my estimation, though she may have done a whale of an administrative job. She couldn't speak. She had no sense of presence, and I guess I really needed presence. Hickman had it. If I would go to J.W. Fay's class--have you ever heard of him? [Editor's Note: Margaret Trumbull Corwin served as the Dean of NJC from 1934 to 1955.]
EC: Well, he was an egomaniac in the music department. One of the ways you got through "Music [Appreciation]" was you memorized one hundred composers and their dates of birth in order, and he lectured the same way. I had Hickman over here [in] the farthest building on the campus, and I had to get all the way over to the music building. He insisted that we be alphabetical, so [that] he could remember who we were. Of course, I always came in late, because Hickman came late. She kept the class exactly whatever minutes it was, but that was ten minutes after it should've [let out]. So, I would be twenty minutes late for class. He finally put me in the back row. Even in the back row, he would pull out his pocket watch, "Miss Hickman's class, I presume, Miss Hughes?" [laughter] So, I could sense the problems in the faculty.
KP: That there was something of a male-female split.
EC: Oh, yes, although my sense was that John Earl Newton, who was chair of music, who was a truly great gentleman, I never heard anything like that from him. He had marvelous contacts in New York. We had wonderful people who came in. I had a voice coach from the Vienna Opera, and they would come in one or two days a week to take care of their students. So, we really had a marvelous background. When he died between my sophomore and junior year, my father--I nearly fainted--said, "If you want to leave NJC, I can well understand," freedom. So, then, of course, I stayed. [laughter]
It couldn't have been a better school for me, because for all the rules, it was like Bennington, you see; we were the only women's college who didn't have housemothers living with you. That was partly because we couldn't afford to have anything but little houses. You realize that? [Editor's Note: Bennington College in Vermont became coed in 1969.]
KP: No, I did not.
EC: See, we had our own keys, so we could come in the window on the first floor. Now, somebody didn't get their degree, my freshman year, until September. They couldn't process, because they'd been out all night, a couple of English majors who were wonderfully wild. [laughter]
KP: People have alluded that there were rules, and rules were bent.
EC: Yes. For instance, I went out a lot more than my parents knew, but Bill Norton would just sign for me.
KP: That took care of it.
EC: That was that. See, on the one hand, I had all kinds of help from my father's profession, and, on the other hand, it stunted me in terms of growing up and being disciplined.
KP: You mentioned that you almost failed out.
EC: Oh, yes.
KP: It is striking to me because you ended up becoming an academic, but you are not the first academic I know that rebelled in college.
EC: Yes. You've gotten away from your family for the first time, really. [When] I went traveling, I was always with them.
KP: You mentioned, like many first-year students, it is more difficult than high school.
KP: How much of it was that, and how much of it was your outlook?
EC: I just didn't study.
KP: You just did not study.
EC: Didn't crack books. [laughter] I never had had to. I remember with Judson senior year, here you are, you're taking an exam--at least we took exams that mattered at the end of a semester; you took an exam, but at the end you were taking a four-hour for the whole year--and so, I took this exam, three-hour exam, and I remember I got a "B." I was just absolutely livid, because I had really studied. I finally got an "A" in that course, but it took everything I had. She was very tough, and so was Hickman. I don't know if you've heard the story. I had Judson for "Western [Civilization]." See, the great thing that NJC did is [that] all the freshman courses were taught by full professors. You didn't have TAs [teaching assistants], and you didn't have the lowest man on the totem pole in the department. Of course, the departments weren't big anyway. So, she always rushed her "Western Civ" course through, so that they did all nineteen centuries before second semester because she did twentieth century. She was a consultant to Brookings [Institution].
-------------------------------------END OF TAPE ONE, SIDE TWO---------------------------------------
KP: This continues an interview with Elizabeth Hughes Clark on November 18, 1998, at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, with Kurt Piehler and Laura Micheletti. You were saying that Professor Hickman …
EC: Professor Hickman could be tough. So, she gave an exam that had two words in it, "Why Rome?" If you were creative and if you had gotten a sense of Hickman, you could very well answer it economically or politically or whatever you wanted to do with it and then carry it into the nineteenth century, but if you weren't that kind of student, [you would struggle]. Her father had been president of [the] University of Buffalo, before it became part of SUNY [State University of New York system]. I have to remember how far back I go. So, I guess what I'm really saying is [that] I knew the faculty better than most people.
KP: Because this was your world.
EC: Yes, that's right. Even if I didn't know them socially terribly well, I knew exactly where they were coming from. I'd spent my life avoiding some of the issues that they might present.
KP: Yes, it is interesting, because I have been navigating faculty life.
EC: Isn't it different, to some extent? I sense it's terribly different.
KP: One of the things my students and I feel, particularly as I read the Targum and Caellian of your day, we can see a real change over time, at least on the surface.
EC: Yes, oh, absolutely, and also there was the quality. I'm so glad that if I go home and say to my husband, who was a Syracuse graduate, "Well, sorry, Lenny, he was wearing a shirt and a tie." A lot of faculty show up in jeans. If I take Len on campus to eat in the faculty dining room or something, he just dies. Of course, in his day, it wasn't done either. He was the Class of '43.
KP: I have observed that Rutgers was, in some ways, a poor boy's Princeton, but if you had one jacket and tie, you wore that jacket and tie to the right occasions.
EC: Yes, that's right, that's right. I know there's that feeling about Princeton and I'm sure Princeton encouraged it, but this was when Clothier was president. Clothier comes from an old, old Philadelphia family. That President's House, I don't know, is that still used? [Editor’s Note: Robert Clothier served as the president of Rutgers University from 1932 to 1951. The President’s House is located at 1245 River Road on Busch Campus, which was called River Road Campus when Clothier acquired it for Rutgers in 1935.]
EC: Well, it was a remarkable place in the '40s. It was a very elegant home, and they entertained elegantly, in a nice way. There was not conspicuous consumption.
KP: Someone I spoke to remembers going to a party while in high school at the house, and it was a very charming affair.
EC: Yes, absolutely.
KP: You probably remember your freshman president's reception.
EC: Oh, yes.
KP: Where you get paired off with someone from Rutgers.
EC: That's right. Also, the concerts at Rutgers, you wore long skirts. I had a skirt, a black crepe skirt, silk crepe, that I had picked up downtown in New Brunswick for two [dollars and] ninety-eight [cents]. [laughter] So, you wore it with a nice blouse, and off you went with gloves; you were dressed appropriately for a concert. The Schmidts had known the Clothiers very well. I don't know what the genesis of that was, and so I was over there a fair amount during my senior year. He had a presence about him. I don't know that he had any brains or that he did a good job, but he wasn't an idiot and he had a presence and that was something I missed of Corwin at Douglass.
KP: Some have said of President Clothier that he almost looked like he came out of central casting to be a university president.
EC: Yes. The Clothiers and the Strawbridges had long, proper faces. You could just see them in afternoon tea or at the academy for a concert, yes, absolutely right. [laughter] [Editor’s Note: Robert Clothier’s uncle, Isaac H. Clothier, founded the Philadelphia department store Strawbridge and Clothier.]
KP: When my students look at the Targum, they notice college life really centered around fun, fraternities and football. That was a real ethos, not that there were not serious students. They also noticed that NJC students had a much more intellectual strain there. I get the sense that it was easier to find students at NJC who knew about the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s or about labor organizing or Nazism. Rutgers people have said quite literally, "We did not read the newspaper. We did not even have a clue what was going on in the world."
EC: Well, in the first place, as a history major, but I just did it as a matter of fact, we took the New York Times, and I still do. When it goes on strike, it's worse than having a nicotine fit. There are two things you ought to know. From my vantage point, and please put it in perspective, because I'm not sure where this comes from, there was on the campus what I would call a Jewish group and they were quite heavily involved in Caellian. I always had the feeling I probably couldn't make it. I've gotten to know a number of those women in the last maybe three decades, and I'm still in the process of figuring out what they were. Certainly, one group of them were people who had come over from Europe to avoid the various problems that the European so-called democracies had and were very poor, and really this was their entrée. They were the first people to go to college. They deeply approved of education, and their families did. They worked hard, and they could express themselves well. They, to my mind--and this could be a simplistic rendering--the people I felt most at home with in this country, other than faculty, I'm not sure I feel that way with faculty now, were Jewish families, because they were deeply involved in music and art and learning. These young people, with no background and with very little opportunity, except what they got themselves in education, were a presence and they were a presence at Caellian.
I have since discovered--and the vice president of my class and I have gotten to know each other very well--that there were also Jewish people from what I would call upper-middle class, perhaps maybe middle class. I don't know how they're perceived in their own group but certainly came from families with real sophistication, and they were friendly. See, I think that the group included people like this, and, in fact, one of them, either during college or just after college, moved to Charleston, South Carolina and joined that community of Jews who are so unique in many respects, along with, let's say, the New Orleans Jews, perhaps Savannah. I'm not as familiar as I should be. You'll be able to pick some of this up, but I think that's one piece of the puzzle at NJC. I think the other piece, and I'm now just trying to feel my way, I suppose that the women who came to a women's college had some pretty specific goals. I doubt that you came, although it was part of it, for the marriage market that a college offers.
KP: I gather that marriage was an issue, in that you have it in front of you for many women.
KP: However, I have observed that it was also a very serious world. The academic world was taken very seriously at Douglass.
EC: Well, let me go back a little bit to Lehigh; maybe this would help. I can remember my father and mother talking about the students at Lehigh, and there was a fair amount of money there. I remember Father and Mother both saying that really about thirty percent of the students shouldn't be there. So, I think that's what you're getting here at Rutgers, "Oh, they're there because it's the appropriate place to be. This is a place to warehouse the young adolescent and we've got the money to do it." As a matter of fact, the man I dated from the Deke House had flunked out of Dartmouth, and you’d get a lot of that. If you flunk out of Dartmouth, you're going to go to UVA or you're going to go to Duke or you're going to go to wherever you can get in, or [if one flunked out of] any of the Ivy League schools, so that, in particular, the fraternities would get that group of [men].
KP: That has been a clear pattern.
EC: That would not happen at NJC.
KP: There were no sororities.
EC: Well, now, you do, which really makes me ill. They're not on your campus, but your students can join them. That's why I wouldn't go to Goucher and I don't think my parents would've thought of Goucher, but also this has to say something for NJC. I have no idea what kind of evaluation my father made of the faculty, but he must have made some. I'm sure he thought the library was terrible.
I can remember my husband, for instance, when he took our children [to look at colleges], I said, "I'll just be a mess. They don't need to have me around when they're going to choose colleges." They went to two or three colleges, and Len came home--and he never does this--but he came, he said, "I really need to talk to you." I said, "Okay," and he came upstairs and closed the door to our suite and said, "You have a larger library than some of these places do. I'm not about to send our daughter to college there." [laughter] They had both sort of played their way through Abington Friends [School].
You had this group of people, and it may well be that it's not just Jewish. There may have been ethnic--do you have a sense of the ethnicity proportions?
KP: We do know that there were efforts at Douglass to have a Jewish quota. The Rutgers admissions, in terms of Jews, was much more open, both at Rutgers and NJC, than at, say, Princeton or elsewhere.
EC: Oh, absolutely. Columbia was the only one that had opened it up at all.
KP: That has been a clear pattern, the number of Jewish people that attended.
EC: Syracuse, too, even today.
KP: Yes, you are not the first person who said that.
EC: Yes, but there have to have been other--I can think of Italian families. The youngest person in our class was younger than I was--I was the next youngest--and she was fifteen when she came, was Italian. I'm thinking of Hungarian, I'm thinking of Swedish, and that makes me think that maybe there were ethnic aspects that I didn't pick up as much, because Bethlehem is highly ethnic. The whole south side of Bethlehem was. If you went up Fourth Street, you had two or three churches, and they would be sects from Hungary and so you could choose the Catholic church you wanted to go to. I don't know what's happened recently. Then, you had Czech and you had Slovak. A number of these people helped my parents, and you had to be careful whom you had in the house at the same time, because they didn't get along. [laughter] Seriously, they wouldn't work with you.
KP: How did you feel about having to go to chapel? That was an issue of some discussion in the Caellian.
EC: It may be the way I don't go to church now, particularly. If you're singing, you're part of a pageant. Therefore, on Tuesdays, that was great. The choir at NJC was phenomenal, and it isn't now. I'm sorry. [laughter] I've heard it several times. It really distresses me, but that's okay. They usually had very interesting people [come to speak as guest ministers]. I remember that [renowned educator] Eduard Lindeman came and spoke on the "Symptomatology of Grief," which, if anybody had listened to him, they really had a leg up on the work that's being done in death and dying today. [Scholar and speaker William Lyon] Billy Phelps was there. They had a number of very fine Jewish leaders. They tended to have [nondenominational speakers], except for the chaplain, who was pretty ghastly. He was Baptist. He really was terrible. I avoided his classes like the plague or anything he did. I just feel that, outside of that, it was very nondenominational and, because I sang in choir, it was a wonderful opportunity. [Editor's Note: Fraser Metzger, who served as the Dean of Men at Rutgers College from 1925 until 1944, also functioned as acting chaplain from 1931 to 1944 and as University Chaplain for a short time until he retired in 1945. Metzger was ordained in the Congregational Church. Bradford S. Abernathy, a Baptist minister, became University Chaplain in 1945.]
KP: Although it was Christian.
EC: Oh, yes, and I don't know that I was alert. I was anti-Catholic, very, and, for some reason or other, I had all Catholic roommates. How I managed this, I'll never know. [I] went once on the Propagation of the Faith Day, and one of the priests was talking and talking about how five-sixths of the world was pagan. I thought, "That's terrible, isn't it?" I suddenly realized he was talking about me. [laughter] I was a little slow. Because there were representatives from all the religions and no apparent [bias]--at least now other people may tell you that they felt left out--but I remember some very fine Jewish speakers, very good.
KP: Much of your college life is intertwined with the war. Do you remember where you were during Pearl Harbor?
EC: Yes. I remember that--I don't remember exactly--I was walking on the campus, and people came with radios. I didn't have a radio, don't forget. [laughter] I didn't come to college with all these things that some of these people did, even then. Yes, I remember that. I was relieved, absolutely relieved, and I was walking from Gibbons. Wasn't it a Friday?
KP: It was a Sunday.
EC: Was it a Sunday? Okay, then, I was probably going to--do you remember the time? Do you have it on there?
KP: I believe it was in the early afternoon when the news broke.
EC: Okay. So, I had come home. I was singing at the Baptist church and came home. I usually was going to the library at that time, so that that's what would account for my coming on to College Hall Campus. I guess my sense was simply that it was a great relief to me that the Americans had come into the war, and I didn't think they would come otherwise.
KP: I take it you were in favor of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's policies of all-out aid to England. How did your classmates feel about the issue of getting into the war, before Pearl Harbor? Had there been much discussion? Had there been much opposition or support?
EC: I suspect that much of what I'd felt and thought was not exactly the leading idea on campus, and I probably kept quiet about it, except with people I thought were in agreement. You aren't going to hit your head against the wall. My brother was in Naval Air Corps training at the time, down in Pensacola, so that I just took it as a given. I think it was just so much a part of me, and I have never been comfortable about the America First or the patriotism that is isolationism, so that I didn't do very well with those people. I probably ignored them and just stayed out of their way.
KP: What about your father? Was he active in any organization in support of England?
EC: Well, he was not a professional Englishman and, by that, he meant people who joined the English-Speaking Union. He joined it when he traveled. That was the only reason he joined it. [laughter] He just felt that that was inappropriate, that you became an American citizen and you may have feelings towards England, but you did not participate in that kind of upper-class sort of thing. I think that was his socialism coming out, along with Sidney and Beatrice Webb [English socialist economists and members of the Fabian Society], that sort of thing.
[My father] was on the ration board. He and Mother were plane spotters. They immediately did that sort of thing, and, whatever he was asked to do, he did, if they wanted him to make some tests. He did much more of that in the First World War than he did in the Second World War. I have some papers at home that I haven't looked at recently. I've been looking at my grandfather, and I'll have to get through that before I get to Father. He was given citations for whatever he did in the northwestern New Jersey area in terms of setting up how you did plane spotting and also anything to do with civil defense. It was very much governmentally-oriented. That was how he thought, I think.
KP: Your father really was not a big crusader publicly, in terms of trying to get support for the war before Pearl Harbor. He did not join any committees or organizations.
EC: No, he did not do that.
KP: Once we were in …
EC: Well, yes, and, of course, a number of his students went into the RAF [Royal Air Force], so that it was on a very personal basis that he would support people wanting to do certain things.
KP: If someone came to him and said, "I am thinking of joining the RAF," what would he say?
EC: Oh, he would support him to a great extent. He was very angry with any apparent Nazism on the campus. I'm sure you're aware that on the East Coast campuses, at the point of declaration of war, a number of German people were out. They managed to get out.
KP: NJC had the infamous case of Professor Friederich Hauptmann, who fled campus.
EC: Oh, sure. Well, Lehigh had the same, and the dean of liberal arts at Lehigh, I remember, Father came home one day and closed the study door, did something that made me think, "Oh, something interesting is going on and I should listen." He said, "Somebody came to visit So-and-So," I'll leave that name out, and said, "They gave the Nazi salute." Daddy was trying to figure out what he should do, and I don't know what he decided to do. I do know that after he died, one of his colleagues came to me and said, "If he had been a little bit more diplomatic…" I said, "I understand what you're talking about, but if he believed something was morally right, he just absolutely went down the road on it." I am much more of a relativist than he was.
KP: Your father really did not keep quiet.
EC: That's right, no, absolutely not, not on that issue, not at all. Politically, he was very vocal. Another fallout of this, something that would never have been done in my family, the first time my husband met--and he's very savvy, usually, but he wasn't savvy on this one--he had grown up in a very, very Republican family. In fact, he gave his family a book called Wit and Wisdom of Cal Coolidge, which is empty. He met my uncle, who, here he is, he's really very, very wealthy. They had an estate up in Darien, Connecticut. We were having lunch, and my husband asked my uncle what his political beliefs were. Nobody ever does that sort of thing in our family. I didn't know until my father died that my mother was a Republican. I think that's what she was, but, at any rate, Uncle Sidney just looked at him and said, "Well, there's no question, I'm a Democrat." I thought I was going to faint, because you have to have a six-foot-three man sitting there in a very posh estate home, mansion, and saying, "There's no question," and Lenny leaning forward and being blasted and then said, "Roosevelt sent fifty over-aged destroyers. It's very simple." Now, ethnically, this is what the Jewish population does or the Irish in Boston, but I was really quite surprised and I would never have asked.
KP: You were even a little surprised when he said, "Of course, I am a Democrat."
EC: Yes. I'd have left it open. These people are such characters that you don't assign them a role. [laughter]
KP: How did the war change both your attitude and also the attitudes that you could see at NJC during the war? Did you notice any impact that the war had on either your life or college life? In many ways, it was all intermixed.
EC: Yes. I think the questions you ask were the ones I had the most difficulty with. I don't remember the defense lectures. I know that a lot of students took defense courses and learned how to take down a car. For some reason or other, that passed me right by, and it may have been the fact that I've always had somewhat limited energies, stamina. I do fine, but then I can sort of fall by the wayside. My impression, as I really began to think about it on the way up here, is that the faculty worked very hard, particularly the history and poli sci [political science] faculty, worked very hard to make sure that we were involved in every way. I couldn't go down and work at J&J, because I was on supervised rest, and you only could work nine hours. It wasn't anything spectacular. I'm not quite sure why that was, whether that was something that came from my family or whether from the fact that I had been ill a couple of times in college or what, but I was very sorry I couldn't participate in that. A number of us went over to the officers' dances, and I very quickly was very turned off by that.
KP: The officers' dances at Camp Kilmer?
EC: At Kilmer.
KP: Why were you so turned off by it?
EC: Well, it was just more of the same, I mean, of Rutgers. At this point, what you're really getting hit with all the time is, "I'm going overseas and surely the least you can do for me is to sleep with me." Well, I had been that route in my freshman year and I'd worked it out, not well, but I certainly was not about to get pregnant and there wasn't much protection and that wasn't one of my priorities. Not many of these people were intellectuals either. You were not having great conversations. I think it must've been when we came back in January or maybe fall of sophomore year, they had officers making rounds--please find out if this is so, because this is my recollection--in jeeps, reconnoitering, to protect the college students. They finally had to stop it, because they were more of a mess than having ordinary Army guys there.
KP: Actually, you are not the first to mention the jeeps. It is an interesting gender detail. Most of the Rutgers men, when I ask them about Camp Kilmer, which was a huge presence, they really do not have many memories, except that there were some servicemen around. However, for women, it was a very clear impact. You had a lot of service people who were only at Camp Kilmer for a few days, and they knew they were going over to Europe.
EC: Well, the other thing was [that] I kept thinking that this is the stupidest way to run a war, because you had hundreds of thousands of them. I couldn't get in a train to go to New York without sitting in the aisle, because they were so filled with soldiers and not many of them were about to give you their seat. I don't blame them, but there you are. You had all of these soldiers all around. They didn't come on campus, but if you went down to the movies or you bought anything, you had to go by [soldiers]. Three days before they're going out, there isn't a soldier on the streets. Now, the East Coast is loaded with German spies. I didn't know how many German spies, but there were stories all over, seeing them along the New Jersey Coast and certainly on the Long Island Coast. Of course, that's the sort of thing that would've intrigued all of us. Then, you hear nothing but trains rolling all night long. Even if you're a sound sleeper, and I am, you woke up. Now, tell me that every time you have tons of soldiers and then none, somebody doesn't get a message, wherever you're going. There is one story, maybe Jean told you, of the virgin bride on campus.
KP: No, she did not tell me about the virgin bride.
EC: Well, I think it was a library student, and her fiancé landed at Kilmer. Somehow, she got word of that. I don't know how she did, because quite frequently they'd come into Kilmer and go out [right away].
KP: I have heard similar stories of marriages taking place.
EC: Yes. What this gal did was cry her way into the chaplain, got married, and then left the base. What else are you going to do on the base? They can't do anything with you. So, she had been out of college--this has to have been my sophomore year--she'd been out of college a year or maybe less. She went out of college, and she could've gone to Baltimore or she could've gone to Boston. I don't know why she decided to go to Boston, and her fiancé got sent back for officers' training and ends up at Devens, which is I think maybe thirty miles out of Boston. So, we all relaxed and said, "Well, she finally made it." [laughter]
KP: She was married but could not consummate the marriage.
EC: No, no. That's why we called her "the virgin bride." Though there was not a lot of emphasis on sex, sex was there and we're sexual objects and executors in a way. So, I think it was always underneath, but it wasn't talked about as much as it is now or it wasn't as open.
KP: It seems like there was a lot of whispering.
EC: Well, it wasn't whispering. I remember one gal that I knew quite well, and we used to sit and talk about this, who was not a faculty brat, but we just clicked, whether it was chemistry or something. So, we talked about this sort of [thing], the problems that we confronted, and literally I think came to the understanding that if you were really in a relationship with someone, it was okay if you could really figure out that you could get adequate contraception, which most of us didn't think we could. [laughter] So, it didn't leave us much options.
KP: You anticipated one of my questions, because the stories have been intriguing about the impact of the war on sexual mores, particularly "victory girls" and the pressure on men going overseas.
EC: "Why don't you sleep with me?" yes.
KP: "I might get killed."
EC: "So, that's your problem, not mine." It's pretty dirty. [laughter]
KP: It sounds like this was not going to bowl you over, particularly because they were not very intellectual. Do you think for some women that this was really a convincing line?
EC: Oh, I'm quite sure it was. Offhand, I mentally am sort of going through the pictures of classmates. There weren't a lot of people who were sophisticated at NJC, socially. I'm sure they had social gifts of a type that didn't come into play, but if you'd been brought up on a men's college campus, how can you miss [this]? Even if you had a virgin brother, which I did, it's not hard to see what the opportunities are. I don't think I ever discussed sex with any Jewish gals. That may have been because I wasn't a close friend. I certainly didn't discuss it with the black gals that I knew. If it came, if people were dating and going to weekends, those were the people that might sit down and really try and level with, "What do you do with a situation like this? How do you handle this?" or, "What do you think about this?" but you aren't going to do it with the ordinary NJC gal that may be dating somebody she knew in high school that came to Rutgers or something. Do you hear what I'm saying?
EC: So that it had to have trappings of something that worked into your life. I'm sure then the students talked to each other. Have you interviewed any Jewish gals?
KP: A few but of an earlier class. We have interviewed the Blooms. [Editor’s Note: The oral history interviews of Adaline Bloom, NJC ’41, and Lewis Bloom, RC ’42 are a part of the Rutgers Oral History Archives.]
EC: Did you get anything from them that would verify or not verify some of the things I'm saying, in terms of if you had other patterns that fit your patterns, then you were likely to really talk in depth?
KP: In general, I have gotten that sense. I am struck because it is now a subject that is so open. In fact, there is a column in the Targum today that is basically on very explicit problems of sexuality, which just would not happen then.
EC: Compatibility, that sort of thing?
KP: I cannot think of a good example, but it is very direct.
EC: Yes. I'm conscious that I don't watch television, because it's so direct, so explicit. I'm really not interested. It will have to fit into a characterization, and I don't watch it. I literally don't watch television, because I've been pro-Clinton, much as I don't like the way he behaves, but also what am I going to do? I watch football and college wrestling. [laughter]
KP: You mentioned going to the dances and that the town and the train were full of GIs. Were there any other interactions with the Army?
EC: I had one very nasty experience, and I don't know what happened. I can't explain it to you. Four of us were at the theater, at the film, which was at that point right where Livingston starts.
KP: Yes, that theater is still there.
EC: Oh, is it still there? Okay. We came out, and we were being very sophisticated. It was windy, and we bent together to light cigarettes. I normally don't smoke, but maybe I might have smoked a pack a year, because you can't when you sing. Anyway, we straightened up, and there were four very ethnic-looking men surrounding us. Well, we decided that the way to handle this was to just start walking. So, what happened was there were two of us and a man on each side of us and two of us and a man on each side of them. We were getting farther and farther out of town, and it wasn't as built up as it is now. I did something terrible, which I've often thought, "I wish I knew whom I did this to," but I was getting panicky and wasn't behaving very well. The four of us should've turned around, beaten them up, or done something, but they were big guys. They were in suits. What's the kind of suit that has pinstripes, which I've never liked ever since? There was a big, looked to me like a Rutgers guy walking towards us from the campus, obviously had taken a date home or something. I stepped in front of the guy that was on my left and said to this poor guy, "These men are bothering us. Can you do anything?" [laughter] The four of us kept walking, and he had to deal with those guys. Nothing happened in terms of …
EC: Yes, nothing, because we sort of looked and ran, but it was a frightening experience. They weren't Army; they were thugs or they looked sort of like thugs. I don't think they were halfway nice people, but the interesting thing to me is that I remember. I don't remember being in any way accosted by military men being downtown. We did have to go in twos, I think. I got on the trains many times and you may be offered a seat or you may not, but you chatted and, as soon as you got into Penn Station, you went your way. Penn Station was just a mess. People were sleeping on the floors, and there was no light because Penn Station had a glass roof. So, the lights had to be very dim. You had to be very careful that you weren't walking on somebody as you were trying to get out of the station. Outside of those dances, which I didn't like that kind of thing, and I didn't particularly like some of the things that were done for freshmen who came into meet Rutgers men. You did them and you survived them, and that was that. Eventually, then, you just either dated people that your friends knew, or you dated people that you knew.
KP: Did you do any volunteer work during the war?
EC: I did. I volunteered, and it was right up here on College Avenue. I volunteered to help one afternoon a week at a child care center, and a perfectly marvelous thing happened. It was for working-class parents, and a couple of us from NJC were there and helping. There was one little boy that had the most marvelous language you’ve ever heard, and, in those days, for a four or five-year-old to have lots of swear words, this was a little unusual. It didn't bother--I don't think it bothered Kathleen and myself--but it had to be worked with. One day, the father came in and was talked to, and he didn't, couldn't understand why this child spoke this way. The little boy was a classic little boy who was going to be a very difficult child. He I'm sure was abused partially, and then so he was abusive to other kids in the nursery. His father had said he was bringing him a puppy, and, of course, he didn't and the kid was very upset. He was embarrassed; he'd been prideful about it. So, he was crying and bawling and everything, and the father and the child went out of the daycare center. Kathleen and I were on the front porch, meeting other parents, and this father let loose with some language I've never heard. [laughter] It was wonderful, and we all just sort of chortled sadly, because we knew exactly where the child had learned the language. My impression was that I would venture to say that child did not come back the next semester, but it was a classic, just classic, case.
KP: This childcare center, who ran it? Do you remember?
EC: My sense is that it was being done by somebody at either one of the major social agencies in New Brunswick or by maybe the Psych [Psychology] Department at Rutgers perhaps.
KP: Was it done as part of the war effort?
EC: Yes, this was my impression. In other words, we were being given an opportunity to do community work, and so you could go down and work at J&J and get paid or you could do some volunteer work in an agency. Kathleen was an education major, and I was just interested in providing some volunteer hours. That's probably the worst place I could've been, but I learned and I enjoyed. I think I'd be better with college students than four-year-olds. [laughter]
KP: Did you go to any of the Rutgers dances? The junior and senior dances were big events, and they had very big bands. I know the war sort of dimmed some of those events.
EC: Well, I'm trying to think. See, I went freshman and sophomore year or went because I was dating a Deke. A lot of these things are self-referent. I remember walking in when--I absolutely adored Gene Krupa [American jazz musician and drummer]; he was here--and Anita O'Day [jazz singer] was singing, and of course the gym was all decorated and everybody was wearing elegant clothes. I can remember lighting a cigarette, and it dawned on me that the reason I did that was I didn't know what to do with my hands. That was it. I put it down. I later sang with Gene Krupa at a 52nd Street kind of bar [Eddie’s Condon’s jazz club] that the bandleaders and people would [frequent].
KP: What did you sing?
KP: Do you remember what year?
EC: Oh, this was freshman and sophomore year. Anita O'Day was an absolutely--she was ugly as sin--but she was absolutely fabulous as a singer. He, of course, was on drugs very heavily.
KP: From your experience of knowing a lot of the jazz musicians were on drugs, you knew this.
EC: Oh, you had to know it, yes, because I don't know how they could've kept going otherwise. You can't, particularly if you listen to three or four hours of drums the way Krupa played them, and you can’t. Now, I was never aware of it in the sense that they looked different or acted differently. A friend of mine and I went up to the Cotton Club one time, because there was great jazz up in Harlem, and Harlem was very safe. We didn't worry about that, and, of course, the musicians were fantastic. I was sitting at the bar one time, I guess I was standing, because there was a black man behind me whom we knew and been talking to and was a musician. All of a sudden, something started to happen and, let me tell you, he picked me up and he got me out of there so fast.
---------------------------------------END OF TAPE TWO, SIDE ONE-------------------------------------
EC: [I didn’t have] my feet on the ground until about ten feet away, and, obviously, I'm not one of the curiosity crawl people. I'm not going to go look around see what's going on, I'm out of there, but I wasn't scared in the way that we get scared today in some neighborhoods. The only thing it reminded me of was [what] later happened to me, but I put the two together. My father had said, "You're letting music go. You ought to do something with it and go see the director of (Reutersville?)," which in Allentown was an institution for the mentally ill and he was taking me through the whole institution. He was in a schizophrenic ward--I think they probably, even in '45, called them dementia praecox I think--and took me into a room where a woman was and introduced me as my father's daughter, because Father had done some studies there. This woman questioned who I was, and Dr. (Hoffman?) said, "Oh, yes, this is Elizabeth, and I thought you would like to meet her.” That woman just went absolutely bananas, because of course Father hadn't been into see her for some time. He picked me up in exactly the same way and whipped me out the door, and all I could think of was what incredible reaction times both of those men had had, both of them knowing something that I hadn't even begun to think about. So, those are only two times, but how very different. One, a racial situation, which I just didn't pick up and I have no idea what occurred. I know more of what happened in that room than I do at the bar, because bars were very different places, although women weren't there very much. If you had a reason to be there, if you were accepted for something, and I think in music, the barriers were not as strong, so you became a part of the scene and you were protected in a way that I suspect maybe you wouldn't be, although I'm not sure.
KP: Well, I get the sense that there was a real prohibition against a woman going into a bar alone. Now, if a woman goes into a bar alone, it is not viewed, I think particularly in this part of the country, as odd, but in your day, good women did not, I've gotten the sense, go into bars unescorted by men.
EC: Well, I didn't go in unescorted. See, this is the thing. At the CT [Corner Tavern] or in Princeton or anywhere else, I was with a group or with one person, but to this day, interestingly enough, I love to sit at a bar and eat or just observe. My husband does not like to do that, and he'd be in the bar by himself. That's fine, but I don't think he's very comfortable. He is a classic 1940s, American male, fraternity, crew man.
LM: On campus, were most of the activities that were done in response to the war initiated by students, or were they mainly a response to faculty efforts?
EC: No, I think there were a number of things that probably students initiated, and I may not have participated. In the first place, we practiced for choir, what, twice a week. We sang then once or twice a week. We often went on weekends, we sang in New York. Oddly enough, we didn't sing with Rutgers Glee Club, which I think was very good and I don't know that there was any reason for that, except that I still feel that Douglass is sort the stepchild.
KP: I think that is less than it used to be.
EC: Oh, yes.
KP: I think now, actually, Douglass in some ways is the stronger of the colleges.
EC: Well, I think intellectually it was in my day, even though nobody knew it.
KP: Yes. There are no intellectual stepchildren in the same way that there used to be. The colleges do not have faculties anymore like they used to. My sense is that Rutgers College did look down on Douglass College.
EC: Oh, they talked about people coming from the Coop.
KP: Oh, yes, that is a term that was used.
EC: That's another reason I probably did not push myself in Rutgers. I didn't want to play that game. I didn't want to play a game where I was one down. I was going to choose my arenas as a woman. If you have to choose your arena in which to make some kind of a splash, why start out with a negative stereotype? I suspect that had a role to play.
LM: I was going to ask you, what did you plan on doing with your history major?
EC: Nothing very intelligent, I suppose. I was going to go to grad school probably, but I was going to work. Before I went to grad school, I felt I still needed to get away farther from my family. Interestingly enough, I didn't go to Oklahoma where I could have gone. I felt that was too far. I couldn't handle it. I'm sure I said it was my father and mother's health, but I think it was at twenty, I wasn't ready to do that.
KP: So, you had been accepted to graduate school at the University of Oklahoma.
EC: No, no, no, I had a job. It was a job as a group worker in social work. Mother had been a founder of the YWCA. I had looked at Red Cross and YWCA and a couple of others, and if I went to work with them and went to grad school, I would have to work with them for five years, and I just didn't want to put that kind of time in as a first job. Instead of going to Oklahoma, which I think would have been fun, except that I really, at [that] stage of the game, I saw the West as not very aesthetic. We spent two summers out there, and I loved it. My brother had gone to Montana, and I loved Idaho and Washington, but when you think of the West now, there are tremendous museums and orchestras, there just wasn't anything. At age twelve, I got a driver's license. You plunked down fifty cents, you got a driver's license. You didn't take any tests. You went ninety miles in one direction and ninety in another. It was unsettled, and of course, it had had years of the drought.
KP: The Dust Bowl.
EC: The Dust Bowl, so there really wasn't much. Money in Oklahoma was oil. Phillips Petroleum was there. So, I went to Rochester. Well, that was what, four, six hours away by train, maybe six or seven. That was a good start. I can get out there. Then, I was admitted, I'd decided I would go back to Lehigh and do IR, International Relations, because that's really where my interest was. I was planning to go, I had been accepted at [Rochester] to go to Poland, to the Russian-speaking part of Poland, because I had studied Russian in Rochester for two years, and then instead I think I made the wise choice. If I'd gone to Europe, I doubt that I would ever have come back, and so instead I got married.
KP: I am curious, did you try to join any of the services?
EC: Yes. I tried to join the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service], and why I didn't do that--I would have known I wasn't a citizen--I had been picked up by the FBI. Freshman year, I was up waiting on table and singing with an orchestra at Bretton Woods.
KP: Oh, yes, in New Hampshire.
EC: Mount Washington, yes. The FBI flatly told me I wasn't a citizen. I had gotten a lot of my father's patterns of life I think; I convinced them I was. So, they never reported me because I was too close to the border.
KP: That is why they were checking in on you.
EC: Because I was born in London. Obviously, I'm a foreigner.
KP: They just came up and introduced themselves as Federal Bureau of Investigation.
EC: We sat down in an office with all these books on immigration and stuff, and I convinced them. Well, Father had been told, Father had adopted me in England. Then, Mother and Daddy adopted me in America. We had correspondence, and if you read the adoption papers, you have all the rights and privileges of a blood, I can't remember the term, of a natural child and I looked at Father's citizenship papers, which he'd gotten in 1896, and it says he has all the rights and privileges of a natural citizen, as a naturalized citizen. Well, I'm one of these crazy people. I had been adopted by a naturalized citizen. Because of that and because I came in, the lawyer could not even uncork my records at Ellis Island because they were now under the Department of Justice. When I came in, immigration was under labor. By the time my father felt that I was not a citizen, which was when we moved to Syracuse in '49, he said, "You've got to take your papers with you and everything." He came home from the courthouse just gray. He said, "They're saying you're not a citizen." So, I had to go down and tell the immigration authority I wasn't a citizen. Well, that, of course, they didn't like that either, and I had voted. I didn't tell them that. I was an alien who should have been under the gun this whole time, and it was hell. Four years and thousands of dollars later ...
KP: Well, you picked a bad time, because it ...
EC: It was McCarthy.
KP: Yes, it was Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Red Scare of the 1950s.
EC: We were at a dinner party with German submarine captains who had gotten their citizenship before I could get mine. We felt we had to say that I had gone to Canada for a day with my family. We did not. Father had been queried rather closely. We didn't know if it was written or not. Well, you don't want to take the chance that all of this, and this was in 1942. So, we went to see a Mormon temple, would you believe? This is what we did. What happened is that I think the immigration office was so terrible because they told me I was a citizen. I said, "No, I'm told I'm not." So, then they got the word from Washington I wasn't, and I had to admit that I'd been to Canada. Four years later, when I went to get my citizenship, you had to go up a ramp. This was one of the worst days of my life. Lenny was out of town. No friends were around. I did go out and get smashed, I must admit, slightly. So, you go in front of the judge, and he never looks at you. The immigration officer is there next to him, and the immigration officer told him it had been instituted in '49, this is now '53, “What are we going to do?" The only question the judge asked was, "Why did it take so long?" The man said, "Because she went to Canada." The fact that I'd lived here since I was two ...
KP: Was not as relevant.
EC: I came down the ramp. I was admitted, came down the ramp, and a woman from the Catholic Women's Club put an American flag on my jacket. My lawyer who was there, went like this [Editor’s Note: gestures to leave it on] because I would have taken it and thrown it if I could have I was so angry by that time. This is what happens. Don't tell me ex post facto doesn't happen in bureaucracies.
KP: Did you have any background investigations around you when you were applying for citizenship?
EC: In '49?
KP: In '49.
EC: Yes. One of the things that happened was the lawyer and I went into the immigration service, and I answered questions. When they came to the end of a line, they stopped, so that none of my questions were answered as I answered them. I signed it with saying, insisting, the lawyer insisted that I add, "These are not my full answers.” They queried my parents. My father had just died, and they queried my parents about why we had gone to Canada.
KP: This had only been a day trip, too.
EC: Yes. I wasn't there for a month. In between, fortunately, I'd been very smart and just always said I was born in America so that I never got stopped. I lived in Rochester, and I went into Canada quite frequently from Rochester. It's very easy. Finally, what happened was my name again wasn't on the list that day, and they had to call Senator [Irving] Ives [from New York]. Fortunately, it was a good Republican firm, and Senator Ives had to call them and put my name on the list to be accepted finally at the end. So, I came away not very happy about citizenship, even though--and I guess I've never recouped my feeling--I never had it. I really have always felt half English. I know that I'm not English, because I can tell that when I'm in England, and I've spent a lot of time there. I'm not American in certain ways, because my experiences up until age twenty were really so different from so many people that I really feel very much like--what was it--Kurt Lewin [social psychologist], who says "you're a marginal person." Here's the big society, here's your society and it only overlaps this much, the circles, and so you aren't a full member of the community. That may be partly why I just never completely joined one little group and stayed there. When Len and I have been in cities, what have we done? We've done Town and Gown. I've always known faculty, and so I bring the faculty together with people, friends, social friends, who, as a matter of fact, may help both sides.
When you ask me what the students did, I think there was a strong sense of patriotism. Mine wasn't as strong. I was strong for America being in the war, but I was really much more concerned about the English. We had relatives living there, and they were being bombed. They were eight miles outside of Plymouth, which was pretty heavily bombed, and as my uncle said, only a bomb now and then. As a matter of fact, they were off course. My brother was in the Pacific. He wasn't in the European War, though a number of young men from Lehigh were and were in on D-Day and I knew the European War better than I really knew the Pacific War. It's interesting, because both my brother and my husband have come to understand the differences in those two wars. [General Douglas] MacArthur got so little money and support, and there was a great emphasis on the European War. Somehow, I kind of balanced that out. Does that help? Not much, does it?
LM: A little, yes.
KP: When you were going to college, what was your conception of the relative importance of marriage and career? Did you assume that you would have a very distinguished career? Did you assume in college that it was possible to have both a career and family, because you have had both a marriage and a career and children?
EC: No. I think that that's why I say very honestly that I'm sure I was getting double messages. Sure, I had to be productive, but I think it was very clear in my family not that I should get married, but that if I got married it was going to be a traditional marriage. As a matter of fact, I carried that out fairly well until we moved to Philadelphia, and then I decided, “This has got to go. I can't cope with this.” That's when I went back to graduate school.
KP: I sometimes have tried to explain to students the change, the cultural outlook of the 1940s, 1950s. I remember growing up as a young boy and as a teenager in the 1970s. I asked my students, "How many of you expect your wives to stay home when you get married?" They almost all looked at me like, "What are you talking about?"
EC: Well, don't you think that's an economic factor?
KP: Not strictly, because I think there was a conception among college students of your day, who were from working class backgrounds, that, of course, wives stay home unless there was absolute desperation.
EC: Well, I'm embarrassed to tell you [a story]. Our older daughter graduated in '71, and that was a very bad year for people to get out who were in education. She had done an internship at the John Tracy Clinic in California [and] had really had a great experience. That's the year they wouldn't take anybody for a Master's level. They took Ph.D. level. So, she was just wiped out of a number of things she wanted to do. I can recall six months after her graduation her turning to me and saying, "I want you to stop that, Mother." Would you believe what I was saying? What do you think I was saying? I can't believe it. "When you get married." From my background and my own personality to say that in '71 is just outrageous. That tells you that there was a very deep-seated traditionalism that I hadn't even been aware of. I wasn't literally saying, "You have to get married." That isn't what I meant. I was carrying this custom, this cultural pattern. [Editor’s Note: Founded by Louise Treadwell Tracy, the John Tracy Clinic is a non-profit clinic in Los Angeles, California for young children with hearing loss.]
That brings up another point. I do not think the young people today--and I'm now talking graduate level and undergraduate perhaps and maybe until they're twenty-five or thirty--do they have any idea the exhaustion that goes with the options that they have. I wouldn't change it for the world, but there is an exhaustion. There's nothing that you can't do, literally. If you are an energetic, bright person, you can shoot for going to the moon. What do you think that does to you? When I was growing up, the fun of it was I was rebelling a lot. I wasn't like a lot of people. This was a way for me to become a [person]. I'm directing this more towards women. I don't see a lot of difference. I'm very glad if you think that they want their wives to work because they value their careers. The hell they do; I think they value the money. They now know, their parents are saying to them, "Look, it takes two to keep …”
KP: No, they have expressed that. It is a tremendous cultural change. I have done interviews of a lot of men and women of your generation, and, of course, the housewives do not work.
EC: When I went to graduate school here--now, my husband was an executive in a steel company--I had men come up at cocktail parties and say, "What are you trying to do? Are you competing with your husband?" Now, Len never thought that I needed that defense. I would have liked it, but I heard it a lot. Of course, the one word that was addressed to me was that I was castrating.
KP: I remember growing up, as a teenager, I remember when my old scoutmaster was sort of joshing this other guy because his wife was working and who wore the pants in his family, which to me was really a very alien concept, because my mother for a number of years had been a single mother who had worked. To me, this was the normal pattern, but I can remember culturally, even in the 1970s, there was a lot of pressure.
EC: Oh, and I got it from Princeton. We were in a townhouse. What nobody knew was Lenny doesn't really like to own property. His family had had a small estate, and it had been a pain in the neck. They'd never enjoyed it. My family had property, and it was drafty and it was big.
KP: But you enjoyed it immensely.
EC: Yes. We lived there. Well, so, I was always blamed. People would, women, mothers of children in school with Darcy and Liz, would say, "Oh, well, of course, the reason you do blah, blah, blah is because you want to." It's a jaw-dropping time. Lenny was very much in command. I didn't particularly like that, and I'm surprised we stayed married. We were talking about it this morning, because both of us operate internally. Okay, we have something to do, this is very simple, it's making a bed. We both have very different approaches to making a bed. In fifty-one years, we haven't learned that. We finally learned to be able to laugh about that. The way we handled it was, he was very busy, I was very busy, and I took care of the girls and we had sitters and help and that sort of thing. I think the way we survived was we just stayed out of each other's way, and in all honesty he has a great sense of self. He doesn't need to impress anybody, and therefore do your thing. He also doesn't realize the cost that it brings in an ordinary suburban society. I really hate the suburbs. I got so that when we first moved there from Syracuse--we lived in the university section at Syracuse--now we live in a suburb that's not only white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, it's white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant-Presbyterian. Who needs it?
KP: I am curious, you mentioned your husband quite a bit. How did you meet?
EC: I was dating a friend of his.
KP: This was when you were …
EC: In Rochester. He always told people, he has a marvelous sense of humor, he always told people he was my first case and that isn't true at all. I was working with teenagers.
KP: What was he?
EC: At that time, he had come back from service in '46. He had ended up being [an] information officer on a naval base. You sign all the discharge papers, and you know, big deal. He came out a lieutenant senior grade. He had been in, they are the little ships, the small ships that carry the men into the attacks. So, he was in on the invasion of the Philippines, and as he said ...
KP: Well, he was on an LST, one of those.
EC: Smaller than that, small boats.
KP: There are whole grades of ...
EC: Yes, very small boats. These were thirty-six and forty-eight foot. All of these guys had a wonderful sense of humor. They were in terrible places in the atolls, northernmost atolls in the Pacific and then took the guys into the Philippine invasion, and, of course, McArthur is telling everybody the islands are ours. They are giving those guys submachine guns, which none of them had ever shot, and they're turning their boats over because the Japanese were going to come over and push them off the land. As he said, "Our job was to take the Army in and shove them off." That's not very nice.
KP: You have had a long and, in many ways, a very successful marriage.
EC: I think so.
KP: But you became ...
EC: I just shifted gears. I think I'm a chameleon. No, I had had a lot of traditional training, but I immediately became very active in the community. Syracuse is a wonderful city. I was on several boards, and I could do things that gave me a sense of accomplishment and was active in the music up there.
KP: I have also been struck that when I was growing up, things like the PTA were so well organized because you had all these over-educated women.
EC: I think that may well be. I just never wanted to. I was home room mother for each child once. That was enough.
KP: Yes, but I noticed there were a lot of volunteer activities. A lot of the things in the community worked well because there was this pool of women. It seems like you were part of that.
EC: Yes, and I was on the University Hospital board. In fact, I actually knew more about hospitals; that's why I went into the field of administration. That's a fascinating area of American life, in the period from '60 to maybe '85, because now that HMOs [health maintenance organization] have come in, the hospitals have to function. Rosemary Stevens [historian of medicine] has done some wonderful books on that.
KP: You found that they were not very functional when you were involved. You found the hospitals were not very functional.
EC: Well, they were social institutions, and they were there for research and teaching and they talked the game of patient care.
KP: But that really was a sideshow for them.
EC: That was absolutely a sideshow, sure. They were educating the medical school, the next generation of physicians. [In the] '60s, when I went into administration, I was the first woman to be hired at this hospital, and there was one at the University of Pennsylvania hospital. So, that was when I got into the real world. That is when I began to understand what it was to be sexually leveled. Grad school, what I did was, most of my courses were in New Jersey at Douglass, and a couple of the men who were in the Master’s program, particularly men from men's colleges, betrayed a very arrogant approach to women that I don't think would go over now. I began to be aware of what some of my anger came from, and I think even as a child, the anger was, although I was being pushed and although I was encouraged, somehow I must have gotten a sense that they didn't really expect that I would do anything.
KP: I will occasionally counsel and sort of say, "Well, you do plan on getting married when you do your doctorate, other issues might arise," but to me, gender does not play a role in the sense that I would not say to a woman, "You cannot go because you need to get married."
EC: Nobody said that to me, incidentally, but I'm not saying that it wasn't in the background somewhere. You asked me what was I going to do with a history major. In the first place, I was really brought up to do a liberal arts degree, and one of the few times that I had enough sense not to pay any attention to my father was [when] I was having a hell of a time with math. I just didn't want to learn. Even today with a computer, I'm not really computer literate, but I have two of them. I was flunking math. What did I do? I had to take the exam in September. So, I got a tutor and took the exam junior year. I was going to process senior year, which is what NJC did, and I wasn't going to sing. This would be the second time in my choir career I wasn't going to sing. I was going to go in as a senior. Dr. Nelson came along, who was a marvelous chair of math, and he's here and I'm here. He said, "Miss Hughes, I received a note from you the other day." I said, "I didn't send you a note, Dr. Nelson. That was an exam." He looked at me and said, "You thought it was an exam." Then, he said, "Well, I guess you don't need third-degree equations." [He] had given me a “C.” [Editor’s Note: Cyril Nelson (1893-1984) came to NJC in 1927 as the second permanent member of the Math Department after Albert Meder, who was hired in 1926. Nelson became the chair of math in 1944 until his retirement in 1959.]
Well, the horrible thing was that summer I was at home, and this young man came with his exam for philosophy. I said that I would put it on my father's desk. He was so nervous that I brought him in the house, took him back to Daddy, and said, "You put it there." For once, I was being empathetic. Off he went, and I heard Father say to Mother, "That young man thinks he knows philosophy. I guess engineers don't need to." He gave him a “C.” So, I had gotten wiped out by Dr. Nelson and rightly so, because I must admit [that] I wrote the exam out because the arithmetical aspects of it just blew past me, but I had some good theory. I don't know whether it was anything he recognized. I got away with that one. Let's go back to the history.
LM: Did you plan on teaching?
EC: No, under no circumstances, and partly that my father and mother both said, "If you're going to teach, you've got to do your education work on a graduate level. You can't take it on an undergraduate level. It's just not well taught." I didn't want to teach in any way, shape or form. What I did feel I would do was that I would do social work of some sort, and that was a strong emphasis in the family and among friends who had been settlement house workers. Settlement house work, they were still taking Bachelor’s degree people, and so what I took on in Rochester was that I worked with the Council of Social Agencies and also the YWCA. I can remember--this was when Billy Graham was just getting going--I can remember being so angry because he would bring three or four thousand kids down into the center of the city to the Convention Center or something get them all revved up and have them sign cards for Youth for Christ and then let them go, and we were all sitting around, waiting for what were these kids going to do with all this energy generated and all this sort of community developed. Nothing ever did explode in Rochester, but it did in several places. [Editor’s Note: Evangelist Billy Graham (1918-2018) began his ministry in 1947 with what he called “crusades” and toured the nation and world. At the same time, Graham’s student ministry attracted thousands of attendees.]
What we were doing was working with teenage kids, mostly young girls, and we worked very closely with the settlement houses. We also worked with the JY and that's where I learned about kosher food and the lives they led. [Editor’s Note: JY refers to Jewish Youth and specifically the Jewish Community Center of Rochester, New York, which was founded in 1907 and used to be known as the JY/JCC.] I really began to grow up, finally, to learn about ethnic groups beyond southern Europeans and beyond the glories of different diets, but to understand where these people were coming from. I must admit [that] one of the great areas that I have tried to open up--I haven't been successful--at NJC-Douglass is to open up the Holocaust, because we didn't know anything about it. I know it isn't that we didn't; I think that the Jewish people knew very little.
KP: When you say you did not know about it ...
EC: Well, we got out in June of '45, but you have no idea. If you're talking about what wasn't known, it never was written about. Individual families could tell you stories, but they wouldn't tell me stories like that. The vice president of my class, who is Jewish, and one of the other Jewish students, I've tried for three years to get the Class of '45 to have--Ruth Mandel is sitting over there--have her speak to the class at our fifty-fifth [reunion], which is the year 2000. Nobody's really interested, including the Jewish gals.
KP: Because around this era ...
EC: I knew nothing about it, and I can't believe that.
KP: Persecution of the Jews was reported in the Times, but it was sort of on page eight or nine. You had to look for it. You remember really not having a sense of ...
EC: Nobody spoke about it.
EC: None of the faculty. I never heard it at home. I have always felt that my family were very subtly anti-Semitic. When you read the English histories, look what Disraeli went through, and it's very prevalent in the mid-Victorian era. They fought me on anti-Catholicism, the family, when I really went after that. I just couldn't bear the Catholic Church, because nobody even visited, you didn't go to each other's churches. For instance, in my brother's class in high school, there was a Jewish man and a Catholic gal that went together all their lives and never married, from the class of, he was in the class of '37. [Editor’s Note: The parents of British statesman Benjamin Disraeli were Italian and Jewish.]
KP: They had been sweethearts.
EC: Right, yes. Right next to the Lehigh Campus is a JY. I remember my brother talking about sweat shops, that the only people he mentioned who were in sweat shops were Jews, and I'm talking about he was in high school and talking about it to me and I was getting out of elementary school at that point. I didn't, in all honesty, I never went to school with anybody who was Jewish until I was in high school, and then they weren't practicing Jews. The young man I dated at West Point was a Jew, and that must have been very tough and his class, the class of, would have been '44, I think they were advanced, could go through earlier. One thing I do remember is I was talking with the one black student who was there, who later became a brigadier general, and Otto said nobody talks to him. I got furious and said, "What do you mean? Don't you talk to him? There's nothing wrong. There's nothing wrong." Look at the power of the southern approach at West Point.
KP: You have written in your pre-interview survey that you had served on a commission on discrimination. Which state was that?
EC: I haven't even talked about it. It was New York State, and I was appointed by Governor [Nelson] Rockefeller at a very early age.
KP: How old were you?
EC: Well, let me see, we moved to Syracuse in '49, so what was I? I was born in '25, so I'm twenty-four.
KP: You were appointed at twenty-four.
KP: So, you were appointed in the 1950s when Rockefeller was a relatively young governor and a new governor.
KP: How did that come about?
EC: Well, wherever I've gone, this is one of the things that makes my life a little difficult, there were always prominent people who were interested in Len and myself. We knew them for whatever reasons, both socially and academically. I had done some consulting work for the YW up there when I moved. At that time, [diplomat, political scientist and Nobel Prize winner] Ralph Bunche was President of the American Political Science Association. The vice president was the godmother of Liz, our younger child. I think it was '52 to '56. The way the state worked was that they had a group in Albany, but they divided it out, so every county had its commission and you were responsible for the region that was there and to see what was being done in terms of racial discrimination or racial integration. You realize that the FEPC laws went in in '45. [Editor’s Note: The FEPC was the Fair Employment Practice Committee (FEPC), convened in 1941 to implement President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 8802 banning discriminatory employment practices in certain industries engaged in war-related work. The New York State Temporary Commission Against Discrimination led to the passage in New York of the Ives-Quinn Act of 1945, the first state law to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color or national origin.]
KP: Yes. New York was a real …
EC: Was the first. Until that time, people don't realize this, blacks could not go in and try on clothes. They could buy them, but they couldn't return them, except in their own stores. Now, did you read, by any chance, it's either The New York Times Magazine section this past week or the week before?
KP: I looked at some of it.
EC: Well, look at it. I'm trying to think of which one it was in, the “Average American Family” or the “Status,” because one of the things they discuss is that the infrastructure of the blacks absolutely was destroyed by the '60s, that in the fight for civil rights they lost any of their own infrastructure. A black gal that I worked with in Rochester had made her debut in St. Louis at one of the great cotillions for the black people; I mean, all of that stuff went out the minute you really talked about integration and I hadn't realized how decimating that was.
KP: But you were a real integrationist in the 1950s.
EC: Oh, yes, and I was in college, and I was after college. At the YWCA, I co-wrote a (Corrick?) speech drama out at (Northwestern?) on race relations and integration, which was published somewhere and I don't even have a copy. Again, that's the group of people that I identified with, empathetically, I suppose. I don't mean by this that I'm not prejudiced or that I'm not discriminatory; you can't grow up in this society and not be ageist, sexist and racist, but to the best of my ability, I have tried not to be. I failed badly in Syracuse. I could not get my husband to sell our house to a black when we left.
KP: He really would not sell it to a black buyer.
EC: Because he knew the neighborhood, and he had lived there as a student.
---------------------------------------END OF TAPE TWO, SIDE TWO------------------------------------
KP: This continues an interview with Elizabeth Hughes Clark on November 18, 1998 with Kurt Piehler and …
LM: … Laura Micheletti.
KP: … At Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. It is interesting. You were really active in civil rights.
EC: Yes. He's a Republican, although he was a Rockefeller Republican.
KP: There was a big difference between a Rockefeller Republican and ...
EC: We certainly have canceled each other's votes out. I've had two or three very odd experiences with voting, one in Syracuse, which I've never been more than thirteenth. There just aren't Democrats where we’ve lived--this is a fact of life--nor are there Democrats among our social group often, among my group or the faculty, yes, but not elsewhere. So, I went in to try and vote. This is the first time I'm voting. I was voting illegally. One of our friends was head of the Eisenhower for President or something, whatever it was. I went into the booth. I couldn't do anything because the time I'd voted before it had been write-in, so I didn't know what I'd done. So, I came out, and there were two elderly ladies--they were probably forty. [laughter] I said, "Can anybody help me vote Democrat?" [laughter] I hadn't closed the curtains all the way. So, of course, she closed the curtains all the way, and I voted. As I walked out of the garage, this one lady said to the other, "And she looked so nice, too." Wow.
As Len said, when I told his father, when we met for the first time at dinner, he asked me about my father and, “Blah, blah, blah.” Finally, he said, "I gather from what you say that your father is a Democrat." I said, "Yes, and so am I." Len's mother said, "Really!” Lenny disappeared under his napkin. Isn't that funny? As he said, it's worse than a social disease.
We came from two very disparate backgrounds. He came from a business background. His grandfather's father had been a marvelous creator, engineer, patent, and has eighteen patents at the Patent Office, but I came from another cup of tea. Putting those two together has been interesting. Incidentally, in all fairness, my father, when he met Len, said finally, "I understand you're a Republican." You're faced with a rather formidable soul with an English accent to boot. Len finally said yes he was, and my father looked at him and chuckled and said, "Well, then you and I have something in common." He said, "You were born a Republican. I was born an Englishman, and we've both been trying to live it down ever since," which I've always thought was lovely. This was when he was much more quiet and mellowed. He was then in his late '70s.
LM: How did your husband feel about all the work you were doing?
EC: Well, now, you're asking me to go back to an earlier time, again, and I've been thinking my way back to college. There's no question he wasn't very happy, in some respects. If it ever interfered with him, he was not very happy, so that in the early years, when I was going to grad school and doing my research, so the early '60s, it was a bloody battle. As a friend of mine says, "Marriage is a bloody battle every step of the way." I think it is in some respects if you're fighting to accommodate and to get to know the other person. I think really, at that point, he also had been away a great deal when our children were quite small. He had been a sales manager and covered New York State and covered New York State when there were no turnpikes, nothing but two-lane highways. He could be in--I can't remember whatever little town on the border--and it would be thirty below, and he would be home on the weekends. So, we had that to--I had to be very independent during the week and then dependent during the weekends.
Then, of course, when he came in as an assistant to the vice president, then he's home every night. It was very interesting because he was exhausted. He wasn't used to having to function in a bureaucratic setting, even if it was a relatively unbureaucratic, and then I had to deal with him. I think after I got my Master', he stopped, and I began to wield a more equal amount of emphasis on what we did and how we did it and where we did it. I think most people feel today, most of the people who know us socially, probably feel that I'm still dominant, and they just don't understand. I mean, he's very quietly dominant, and I'm noisy dominant. [laughter] I caused a good deal of trouble, but never did he complain that people said anything to him and I'm not sure they ever did. Now, whether they felt sorry for him or whether they--you see, the steel industry is, I don't know what it is now, but it was WASP and it was hierarchic and it was paternalistic and it was all of the worst of a traditional setting. Incidentally, he has his own business, and one of the reasons I taught as long as I did was so that I would stay active, because he really is very involved in what [he does]. He loves doing what he's doing, which is essentially, being a manufacturer's rep for one corporation and all over, he has about a hundred-mile territory. His great talent was that he knew how to organize marketing and sales promotion and knew how to organize salesmen, so that for a national and an international corporation, I guess there were maybe two or three people that were that sharp. He doesn't say it, but I do. He's amazing, but difficult [laughter] and great fun.
KP: I am curious, there is a dear woman who was a graduate student with me, who I think is now in her early sixties, and we have gotten to know each other fairly well. She has often talked to me about how it is work to be a corporate wife.
EC: Oh, yes.
KP: My wife has her own career. She works for the Bronx Zoo as a fundraiser, and, occasionally, she was stuck into the role of being a helpful spouse. I was often in her role.
EC: Yes, it's fun, the Bronx Zoo, yes.
KP: I got to go to Legislators Night with her and the trip to Yellowstone with her.
EC: Oh, that would be just wonderful.
KP: She has sometimes chaffed at being in a spouse's role, and it is hard work. I was wondering if you could reflect on that, because you have both had your own career. I get the sense in the 1950s, there was a real culture around entertaining.
EC: I don't think I did it very well, and Len kept me pretty far away. What I did do well was that he melded together a group of people, maybe twenty or thirty in the nation, in this corporation to be salesmen, and they landed at our house most of the time when they were in twice a year for sales meetings. I think that I handled well, but I never handled corporate people very well. I don't like them, don't respect them, and I did some terrible things. Len was at first with Fanny Farmer Candies. He left them within a year, and he said, "Candy is dandy, but steel is real." This is how he functions. His boss in Harrisburg--and we lived there a year--really got on me about something, and I got really sort of ticked. He called me a Communist, and so I just laid him out. The Supreme Court had just handed down a decision on that as being libel and that he could be sued. [Editor’s Note: Founded in Rochester, New York in 1919 by Frank O’Connor, Fanny Farmer was a candy store chain that eventually grew to over 400 stores before being bought out in the 1980s.]
KP: This is your husband's boss.
EC: Yes, who was an absolute jackass. That makes no difference.
KP: Yes, I agree.
EC: Absolutely. I was way out of line, but nothing ever came of it. I just think Len was so good that they [learned to deal with me, [laughter] but he learned to keep me away. As a matter of fact, my sense is he doesn't like it. He was very--it was so interesting; there's some wonderful sociology. Before he became sales manager and marketing manager, everybody played golf because the previous one had played golf. Len plays tennis, so everybody now plays tennis. I mean, it's just wonderful to see what happens in a corporation. He just enjoys business, but he doesn't need--fortunately, particularly his work now--doesn't need a boss or a boss' wife or anything. If people are in town, we do entertaining and a considerable amount, but other than that, whatever entertaining he does, he does himself. He's very heavily involved with pharmaceutical industry and food industry, so that's a very different cup of tea, equally powerful.
KP: Well, I have gotten the sense that some of the worlds have changed a bit from the 1950s and 1960s.
EC: Oh, we entertained. Well, we, as young couples, we drank fairly heavily. We had martini parties.
KP: My wife often called the 1940s and 1950s the classic martini culture. Drinking was a real custom.
EC: Oh, yes. What's going on today is, what, wine? I think that the students today, although, look, you're all smoking. I don't know; I think you're doing some heavy drinking. I don't think we did binge drinking. We drank a lot, but we didn't get absolutely smashed. I did once or twice, and I did the first year we were married. I got into real trouble, because you get married and you're on a budget now. Well, then you go out on a party, and you haven't been drinking at all and you have absolutely no tolerance for it. A couple of times after that, then you settle down and behave yourself. Despite that, in our late twenties, early thirties, certainly we did a lot of cocktail parties and fairly heavy drinking but fairly substantial hors d'oeuvres, too, so that probably we weren't getting drunk.
KP: There was Rutgers President Mason Gross. When he was here in the 1960s, people have told me that he would walk up College Avenue at noon, do politicking at the Rutgers Club and have four martinis.
EC: Oh, sure.
KP: If a president were to do that now, people would ...
EC: Would be very unhappy.
KP: The lowliest first-year student would know, "Our president has a drinking problem. It seems he's drinking."
EC: That's interesting. Yes, you're right.
KP: Back then Mason Gross was beloved, and no one really said anything. We have only had one or two comments that he drank a little bit, too.
EC: Yes, but also New York is a classic for that. My cousin, who lives there, has always lived on the East Sixties. I think only when he's ill, when he's been ill, does he give up on martinis. He has one at lunch. Yes, I had one terrible experience with martinis. The university clubs in the city and so forth, there certainly was an expectation that you could drink and hold it. You should be able to have a couple of good, stiff drinks and not get too tipsy.
KP: Right. I often have studied academics at scholarly conferences when the alcohol was free. It is amazing how much they can drink. I have once or twice been guilty of that.
EC: Well, a friend of mine, who was in the psychoanalytic [field], was a woman, and at one of their association meetings, people that she thought were perfectly normal and they were, but you're a woman alone and you're in a room, a hotel room, and you don't know who's going to knock on the door. My way of handling that in the early '60s was I just had the party in my room. Then, you're protected, because as the next to the last people are going out, you make sure everybody goes. It's very simple. There's a real strategy to getting people out of the room. So, you have hors d'oeuvres and stuff, and then that keeps you from being--at least in those days--it kept you from being bothered.
KP: I get the sense that sexual harassment was a real problem for women. You are very conscious about your ...
EC: Well, let me tell you how conscious you had to be, and this is the sort of thing that I, if you could give me an answer to this comment, I've never discovered one. The day I was being introduced to all the men department heads in '66, and I was brought up to shake hands with people. One man looked at me when I shook hands and said, "Dartmouth '60, I presume?" What would you have done with that? I didn't do anything. That was the sort of thing you got all the time. That's what I call sexually leveling somebody. A, I was shaking hands, which isn't expected of a woman, you see, and, two, I was being too forthright. I don't have any answer. That's the sort of thing that I had never experienced, and part of it was I was protected.
KP: I would be curious if you could talk a little bit about your career and what you would consider your big successes and any disappointments.
EC: Well, okay, I did some credits towards a Ph.D. and I didn't do it. Academe had not impressed me a great deal.
KP: But you have known it very well.
EC: Yes, and so I knew it was going to be a hard grind, and I wasn't going to get out of it what I wanted. I think, in retrospect, I probably should have done it if I really wanted to push that career. You talk about a career, and I guess I would have to say that I did pretty much what was available to me. I don't know that you could say it was a planned career, and, in that sense, I am betraying a very traditional base. What I have gotten the most satisfaction out of [is that] I became a department head and built the department and also made alliances with some very--and listen to this--very prominent physicians who were internationally known, and in the process what I learned was you can get a lot done if you find allies and they give you the strength if you're in a position of one down, which I obviously was as a woman and in a hospital setting. So, the most important thing I did is to develop some research techniques and some data on abused children and their families.
I think I also, tragically enough, contributed to the concept that the poor will be observed more than the well-to-do. There was a case of a child of a doctor, a year-old, that the pediatrician and I couldn't keep from being buried under twenty-four hours that should have been assigned as abused, obviously. I also lost a number of court cases where a minister was involved. Juries couldn't in these days convict ministers of sexual abuse, in particular. It doesn't happen, and doctors don't do things like that and lawyers don't do things like that. In some respects, I was at such an early stage that I hope they've gone way beyond me. The most important thing that came out of that was that I was the district attorney's coordinator for the Task Force on Child Abuse and Law Enforcement, and it was a multi-disciplinary team. It was very hard work, and you were working with judges and lawyers and social welfare workers and doctors and nurses and hospital administrators. In Philadelphia, Ed Rendell, who's now mayor, wrote to thirty-nine hospitals and said, "The next dead child that comes in, your personnel will be subject to the laws of this state,” which are that if you've caused this kind of damage, you can be convicted and put in jail for a certain length of time. Of course, that meant that the hospitals suddenly got the message that they should be doing something about this.
I think probably the greatest insight I had was as I worked to educate emergency room personnel and doctors--and you literally have to do a protocol every six months; there are too many protocols--what I learned, that I never wrote up, which I should have, is that it isn't that the people who were assigning abuse in the early days were vindictive and did not understand “but there but for the grace of God go I” [referring to someone who is in a bad situation]. Raising children is a very difficult thing to do, and if you're under the gun and you don't have hot water and the washing machine breaks and you don't have any husband and name anything else. In the process of getting ready to write this up, I talked to a number of psychiatrists in Philadelphia and asked them about this question of why personnel aren't able to make judgments that have some relevance to reality? In each case, the psychiatrists turned to me and told me how they had abused their own children. It was so frightening. So, it taught me that we needed to work very hard in order to educate people to understanding and dealing with the behavior but not becoming vengeful about the people who did the behavior if you, in fact, knew, because you never knew whether the person who brought the child in was the abuser or whether there was somebody else in the periphery of the family. So, that was one thing.
The other thing I think I did fairly well was in death and dying. A physician who was chief of medicine, we got some very good money from the government to set up two nursing stations where patients who were dying would be housed, and therefore those nurses and those doctors would have been taught what some of the subtleties of dying are. You remember the painful scene that [Elisabeth] Kubler-Ross describes [in her book On Death and Dying] in the Chicago hospital of a patient with the phone next to her ear, and when Kubler-Ross asked her if she had time to talk, asked her why there wasn't anybody on the other end of the phone, she said, "I listen to that phone because it's the only sound I get all day in this room." So, we weren't paying attention to the dying patients. The physicians were seeing it as a lost cause. The nurses didn't want to go in.
On the other hand, in the wards, we were inundating--wards were places where clinic patients went, where people who couldn't afford to be in the hospital were being taken care of by some governmental care, financial care. In the wards, I sat outside rooms. I did this for about a week, and in the space of three hours, there could be over seventy-five people in and out of those rooms, but never did anyone say, "Is it all right if I come in and do thus and so? Is it all right if we take your temperature or if we wheel you down for X-ray?" No, they were just objects to be moved hither, thither, and yon. So, again, what we're talking about is powerless people. When you're sick and in the hospital, there's no personality. Your clothes are taken away, you're given a bracelet, and you're dumped in a bed, and that's what happens to you.
The sociology of health care became a very interesting subject for me and also the sociology of childhood, and I'm very sorry, but sociologists have done very little with it. There's only one book that I could find that was text. Mostly anthropologists have done a better job. So, if I were going to do a Ph.D., I’d do a Ph.D. in anthropology. I wouldn't have done it in sociology, although I did it, (Breta Meyer?) was chair at that time, and he was really a very fine guy. He and I had a wonderful colloquy that I ought to report, though he might not like it. He's dead, so it's okay. I said to him one day in the middle of my thesis, I said, "I thought surgeons and CEOs were the most powerful people." He looked at me and said, "I don't know why you didn't say thesis chairmen first."
KP: There is some truth to that.
EC: Yes, it is and that you go through that and you suddenly realize that you just don't control your career. You don't; I'm not talking about this as a unique situation.
KP: The thesis advisor is very important.
EC: You see why it comes up with me, I'm sure, is underlying a lot of what I've done is powerlessness. Oddly enough, recently, probably the most exciting thing I've done has been that I've been president of a nonprofit board for a historic site in Philadelphia. It's a small society. It's the Highlands. It's where Anthony Morris built his home, and it has been a disaster in the sense that no infrastructure. There are committees, women's committees in Philadelphia are the worst I've ever met. You better turn the tape off.
LM: I just had a question. You mentioned in your questionnaire that your daughter had wanted to go to West Point.
EC: Yes, and she really did. In fact, at age eight, she was a great swimmer and was Junior Olympics--and God knows what kind of a mother I was because I'm not sure what I was--but at any rate, one of her surrogate brothers was at West Point and was a champion backstroker, as she was. So, she was up at West Point from age eight through age twelve. There was a gal who was on the Olympic team who we knew very well, went to Chatham College, committed suicide. There was something about the intensity of that experience of swimming that turned her off. She would have gone to West Point, I'm sure. She would be a FBI agent today. In some respects, she's to the right of Genghis Khan, I think. She's in high security work in Washington. She's a consultant. She will never be in a corporate life. She makes tons of money. What she does essentially is she knows computers and she knows high security and she writes ten, twenty, thirty million dollar contracts for corporations that don't know how to do it and she does.
She left swimming at age twelve, and it took her a long time to get her act together. She later went to, as you saw, this is Liz, she went to, well, it's not there any longer, Bennett Junior College. She went up and interviewed. Everybody told her she'd never get into college. She got into every place she interviewed. She is quite a character. Then, she finished up at Newcomb, and then did her MBA at Tulane. The other [daughter Darcy] has come up in criminal justice and is one of the top people in overseeing all the contract negotiations for all the prisons in Massachusetts. She's sort of social welfare, and Liz is, she’s a very tough lady.
KP: They very much have careers.
EC: Oh, yes, oh, yes.
KP: You mentioned that neither one have had children.
EC: Darcy married someone who is divorced, and if Liz marries, this current one works out, it'll be a divorced person. You do know there's a very small study that was done--and I never can remember whether it's Bryn Mawr or Radcliffe--of graduates from the classes of '70 to '78, and the study was done in '78 and five hundred women. In '78, how many of them were married?
KP: I am not sure. I think I have heard of the study, but it has been so long ago.
EC: How many do you think were married [out of] five hundred students? They've been out anywhere from '70 to '78.
LM: Two hundred?
EC: Okay, fifty-three. How many children do you think those fifty-three [have]? Three. My children graduated in '71 and '74, and they are, I think, classic women's college graduates. Darcy went to Lake Erie, which was then a woman's college in the Western Reserve, and Liz went to Bennett and Newcomb, both women's colleges, and I just think that's classic. You can't generalize from that. You could look at Eastern women's colleges, but that's probably all you could generalize from or to.
As I look at all this family stuff, I've had a very funny experience with my brother. I hope he's not on the Internet. I know he isn't, but some of his kids may be. [laughter] He called me and said, "Gee, isn't a shame that you aren't doing this on your own family?" Now, this is a brother who never has mentioned being adopted. When I was just sort of a little teenage nerd and would say, "What do you know?" or ask silly questions, he'd never, and I know a good deal about his family. I asked, and so I was told, you see. It was such an interesting thing for him to come through with that. The only family I know is the Hughes family, so therefore, “What do you mean?” It's an interesting point. I know Kurt Lewin wrote about it, that adoption--did he write adoption or was it that he was writing about Jewish children that weren't brought up Jewish and then went to college--and particularly if you went to someplace like Syracuse, he didn't use that, you can join three sororities. You aren't going to be able to choose from, say, sixteen or so. So, in a way, as an adopted person, are you marginal? One may be. I think it's a very useful sociologic concept.
KP: I am curious, you mentioned that you really did not want to know about your birth parents. A lot of adopted people have said they wanted to know. I am curious about your thoughts on that, because you have obviously given it a lot of thought.
EC: Well, I've done a fair amount of--it ends up being sort of therapy--I've done a fair amount of consulting with kids who want to find their parents, and my first reaction after listening to them is to remind them that they may not be welcome, that someone has made a decision they felt was the best decision they could make at the time, and let it go. Now, more and more, what you see in the newspaper, and I can't tell because I don't have the data in front of me, they said, "Oh, this has been wonderful." What percentage hasn't been wonderful, that the newspapers don't pick up? I don't know what the percentages are of adopted children, because the majority of children are adopted by the family, extended. It used to be eighty-six. It's probably less now, but there isn't a lot of open adoptions. So, the feeling about adoption is still quite unsettled. The Canadians have done some work on it, but I haven't looked at the data enough to know. You have children. Are you happy about the way you've raised your children or what you've done with them? No, I'm not. As Lenny and I say now, we say, "Why couldn't we have spent more time thinking about them?" We were too immature and we were determined to have our own lives, and we were being sort of spoiled. We were both younger children. Maybe that's something else. I don't say they shouldn't, but I just try and get them to look at the thing from all the vantage points. Anyway, I'm a sociologist, and I'm probably a sociologist because of this, I've been socialized to be a Hughes, even though--and my daughter tells me that my cousin's wife made quite a gaffe with Darcy because she said, "You realize your mother is not really a member of the family," which only made Darcy furious. Well, I wasn't surprised. I've lived with that, because Len's mother didn't approve of adoption. I've heard from many people, "Well, of course it's very difficult to tell whether adopted children are going to turn out right." Well, it's just as difficult to tell whether your own will. It's luck of the draw. It's [that] things worked for everybody.
KP: It is interesting. One of my nephews is adopted, on my wife's side of the family, and I had a good friend, who is an Episcopal priest who adopted a young girl from China. I am curious since you have been involved both in civil rights, but also you are very interested in adoption, both personally but also from a sociological perspective, what are your thoughts on cross-cultural adoptions, both cross race and cross cultures?
EC: I guess it would be very much what I think about marriage, cross race. The Genghis Khan [daughter] was involved with a very fine black person, which I thought was going to drive all of us nuts. [laughter] I think it's very difficult to marry and do it well. It's extremely difficult, it is the greatest discipline in the world, to have children and raise them. Now, you're going to add a little more to the difficulty; you're going to raise another cultural child. I just think you have to be terribly aware and terribly helpful. I think that the climate has changed. When Mother and Daddy adopted children, I think it was very brave, very courageous, very difficult. If I got stuff on this, you can imagine what they might have gotten, and I have no idea what his sense of masculinity and her sense of femininity. She had a stillborn and miscarriages. I don't know what all of that does. Look at the women who are spending thousands of dollars trying to get pregnant. I can't imagine doing that, and I really can't imagine adopting. I don't think I would have been good at it, because I think it takes an extrasensory capability not to make some remark unintentionally that would be hurtful. I think my brother would. He and I over the years have had very different approaches to adoption. I've been very open, and I've worked with it. He hasn't, but he's always accepted it and I mean that in a deep-seated acceptance. I just think you're adding another dimension that is complicating, as long as you know that, and particularly in black-white relations, I just think we are so incredibly racist.
KP: When I started this oral history project, I did not have training in oral history, and I asked one of the directors of the Columbia Oral History program for some specific and general advice. He encouraged me to try to get people to talk about race. I have noticed that has often been very difficult for people to talk about race in the interviews.
EC: I think it is terrible. For instance, as an example, the Poor Laws of England were passed in 1601. If you want to look at those laws and look at what our Congressmen talk about and what many of us talk about, about welfare and work, it's the same damn thing. Now, that's four centuries ago, and we haven't lost that. Do you think we're going to lose this terrible feeling about difference?
One of the things that I worried about and didn't do well--and my kids used to get me on it--is how do you teach the validity of difference and at the same time give a sense of identity? So, when I would say, when they were in junior high, "Now these kids that you say you like, describe them to me." “Well, come on, Mother. You're such a snob." What I was trying to get at, without saying, was were they all in black leather jackets and did they have DAs and did they go to a bandstand, which I didn't let the kids listen to, all this, all this garbage. They could pick it up; I never fooled them.
I think race is probably the worst problem we face, and I don't think it's American. The English are struggling with it, because as a British Empire person, you have an English citizenship and they're flooding into London. I'll never forget going into Heathrow [Airport] and nothing but Sikhs with turbans taking care of your luggage. This is in England. Is that an appropriate response if you're not racist or ethnic aware? Is there anything else you'd like to ask me about race? Ask me a direct question so I can come back and tell you where I stand.
KP: Well, I guess one of the things I am also struck with is that you were involved with civil rights when it really was not terribly popular in the 1950s.
EC: Yes, but I don't know that I was on the firing lines. I've never been on the firing lines for women either.
KP: Yes, you were not in Selma, Alabama, but it was sort of civil rights, particularly integration and civil rights. Now, it is pretty much as American as apple pie.
EC: No, it isn't.
KP: Well, I think theoretically it is.
EC: No. I think that that article on the loss of infrastructure to the black communities, and I think if you--how many country clubs do you belong to? How many places do these people talk like? I mean, it's an automatic to say So-and-So, I mean, whether it's anti-Catholicism or whether it's anti certain ethnic groups.
KP: No, I would not say in terms of practice that it is, but I think in terms of having Martin Luther King Day as a holiday.
EC: Oh, but where do think the backlash is coming? Now, quotas are just bad. All we've done is allow other people to take that language and throw it at us. It's like pro-life.
KP: I think what is interesting is the rhetoric that is used. It is a civil rights rhetoric, that the quotas are discriminatory.
EC: Against the whites.
KP: Yes, but it is taking civil rights rhetoric and admittedly misapplying it. I am curious, as someone for integration, how did you react to the black colonies in the 1960s?
EC: Not well. The radical chic of Bernstein. Well, again, what I have to do is tar myself with the same feather. I'm not in a position to be battered by integration, never was. So, I'm suspect. Stokely Carmichael just died. I think he lost the battle. A lot of blacks in city government, I think that they're doing what every other ethnic group did. Whether it's the Irish or the Italians or Puerto Ricans or the blacks, whoever is up next is going to rip the system off. We did it. We taught them how to do it. The English taught us. [Editor’s Note: Civil rights leader Stokely Carmichael led the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the 1960s, during which time he increasingly became drawn to the Black Power Movement. Ms. Clark is referring to Tom Wolfe’s 1970 essay entitled “Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny’s,” which explores celebrities adopting activist causes and specifically Leonard Bernstein’s hosting a fundraising event for the Black Panther Party in his New York City penthouse.]
EC: It’s an Episcopal Church. It’s very wealthy. I don’t go very much. That doesn’t mean anything. I know it’s racist. There may be one black, and what everybody says to me, and it’s usually in the room I’m speaking, “Well, but we do have blacks here.” What can I say, beyond saying half the people I talk to make very racist remarks when they're not talking. I can't keep talking like that. I'm destroying the black who's there, and I'm not teaching anybody anything. So, I feel caught. At this point, having been in a suburban college, I don't have the credibility that I had when I was in West Philadelphia and walked that community and knew how the police operated and knew how really fine middle-class blacks were being destroyed. Have I given up? Probably, you say. I think that if I were Eleanor Roosevelt, I'd still be working on it.
KP: I have been struck in terms of race, I think my awareness came from living in Newark for several years and I commute, and the thing that I found very distressing was in fact how segregated the suburbs were.
EC: Oh, they are.
KP: I see them coming from the city, coming out, and also, as you had said, how many decent people there were. I was very impressed in Newark how, literally, there were these decent people, and I became very disturbed at how suburbanized we are viewing the city.
EC: Oh, yes, and the suburbs wouldn't be there if the city weren't there. Well, let me tell you, there are things now--and let's see if I can pull it out of my background in the '60s when I was doing demographic data--there are communities around Philadelphia [that] were older, black communities that had been developed as people had estates out in the suburbs and, of course, they had to have places where black people could live. So, they created little communities. There was one in Cheltenham Township. There was Crestmont in Abington Township. There was Penllyn in Lower Gwynedd.
I learned something that I didn't know. Here, I thought I really knew. This tells you how little I knew. It was raining one day. I had to get to my own home, which was here, and the black community in Oreland was here. I thought, "Boy, this road is cut off,” because I know of the water problems, “so I'll go through the black community and I'll get over to this road over here." I'm talking about the '60s. I'm fairly intelligent. How old was I in the '60s? I was forty. [I said to myself], “I'll go here and I'll get home this way.” In all of those communities, you cannot go into that neighborhood, you couldn't in the '60s, and get out a different way. You could only enter on one road and you had to come out to that road. What does that tell you? Look at the level of institutional racism to keep the boundaries. Because on other boundaries, you can look at Philadelphia and see when blacks jumped this street, this street, this street. Not in these communities, and it was accepted because these were much older, much more conservative. They had organized their communities a little bit differently [and] had no political power.
Now, I noticed, and I do this periodically, I drive in and out of these communities to see if anything has changed. It is changed now in one, and I think it's changed in two. Does that tell you something? We don't begin to have an understanding of the institutional racism, which tells me we will not have the sense to understand the level of institutional sexism. This is why I don't think there's been a lot that's changed.
KP: What was your attitude towards the women's movement that flowered in the late 1960s and early 1970s?
EC: I was very interested in it and felt that it was doing a good job. I think what has distressed me somewhat is that I think some of it has gotten solely into lesbianism, which has added a dimension that we need to attack certainly, but it's loaded it again and it's bad enough to be a woman without adding that sexual dimension that is so difficult. I don't know it well. I have a tremendous library of it. I don't think [Alice] Rossi is a real women's libber. She's interested me. I think she was, and I think she's sort of going back. I support them whenever I can. I support Emily's List, that sort of thing. [Editor’s Note: Emily’s List is a political action committee that supports Democratic, pro-choice women in achieving election to political office.]
KP: It sounds like you were more on the periphery. You had your career going and you liked the support.
EC: Well, my staff a couple of times said to me, "Listen, you're not helping us because you're not fighting for income." That's where I fell down, because, of course, I didn't need it as much, or I thought I didn't. My husband would have been delighted if I'd cared more about money, and money is something that I'm totally uncomfortable with. I think it would be very hard for me to have lots and lots.
KP: He does not have that same fear. [laughter]
EC: No. [laughter] I really do think we haven't solved any of these problems. Do you remember the study done by the Anti-Defamation League? They did a study just prior to the Second World War, and the anti-Semitism was horrendous. They did one ten, twenty years later, and anti-Semitism was real down. Guess why. Nobody talked about it now. They knew it was not appropriate to answer questions in certain ways. So, the good, old WASP isn't going to put himself in a spot.
KP: Yes, I would agree with you in terms of all sexism, anti-Semitism and racism. On the other hand, I did have a student, who is not Jewish, who could not believe that school children in Oklahoma, in Tulsa, would have to go to school on Yom Kippur, when students in New Jersey would have no school.
EC: That's right. As we were married in Syracuse, a Jewish friend's family lived in Watertown. Where did they come to synagogue? Syracuse. There wasn't a synagogue in Watertown. That's a hefty distance. If I'm not mistaken, it's about sixty, isn't it, sixty miles?
KP: You mentioned that there is still a lot of institutional sexism. I would be curious about your thoughts on where you see the barriers women face and also your views on women's colleges and the future of Douglass College.
EC: I don't think Douglass is a woman's college. Lenny and I go bananas when we go to the Student Center. He just says, "Where are they? There are all these men.” I'm a Pollyanna [optimist] in some respects, because I think that short-term experiences are horrendous, but long term they can be fabulous because you learn from them. If I think that we are talking the same language since 1601, where do you think I stand on women's liberation? Did they do anything after 1921? Look at the women who fought for things centuries before. Josephine Butler was the first woman to testify before a House of Lords. She founded an international organization of prostitutes, civil rights, because the prostitutes were the ones who always got picked up. The men never did. In 1978, that was her 100th anniversary. Phil Donahue, is that it, who married Marlo Thomas? [Editor’s Note: Josephine Butler (1828-1906) was a British feminist and social reformer.]
KP: Phil Donahue.
EC: Okay. [Phil Donahue] was interviewing a black woman in Chicago who had been arrested and given a sterile vaginal exam because she'd gone through a yellow light. They were looking for drugs. I've forgotten the interim example of something that had happened in 1910 with Jane Addams. Oh, I know, it was something that had occurred at the settlement house. So, we've gone from 1978 to 1910 to 1878. Have we changed? No. I meant to write that up for The New Yorker. I was working in the library. I was looking at the Social Science Review of the University of Chicago, and I had it laid out right in front of me. Here's Jane Addams working her tail off to make sure that immigrants and blacks are given opportunities to be treated equally under the law. In 1978, the Chicago police force doesn't even blink an eye. What is my feeling? I think that [there is] incredibly deep-seated antagonism to women. Let's go back to the white goddess of Robert, it's not Bridges--he was the poet laureate. Do you know the man I'm thinking of? He did a lot on mythology. [Editor’s Note: Jane Addams (1860-1935) was a feminist and social worker who founded the settlement house Hull House in Chicago. In 1910, Addams received the first honorary degree ever awarded to a woman by Yale University. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.]
KP: Robert Graves?
EC: Thank you. [laughter] I came up with a philosopher-poet. Graves wrote a wonderful thing on the white goddess, and he described it so well. Whether it ever happened, that the Argonaut was knocked out on a beach. They began to realize they were on the beach of an island where the women were dominant, and so they had to play this out. They got to a junior goddess who said, "Well, now how do you sew your seeds?" He said, "Oh, well, of course, the woman lies on her back and the male takes his pleasure of the woman and the seeds come up and this is how we run the society." So, let's go to the senior goddess. Obviously, he used better language than that. That's Grecian history. I think the fear of women--I think I can't go into all the Freudian--you know it as well as I probably. The resentment of women, the need for the white male to always have the deck stacked in his favor is too great, and I don't think you're going to see [real progress]. I think the women's movement peaked by '75, and I think it's been going downhill ever since. Is that pessimism? It sounds awful, and I think the same thing about the blacks. You can go back to the Old Testament. Time after time after time, we have labeled these people as inferior, as evil, a very simple kind of discrimination.
In medieval paintings, in Renaissance paintings, the devil is always left-handed. Why is a left-handed person sinister. [Editor’s Note: In Latin, dexter means “right” and sinister means “left.”] I'm left-handed. You begin to look at some of these things and see how people feel. Well, how did people feel about children being left-handed? I can remember my father coming into school with me and saying to the teacher, "You will not change Elizabeth's handwriting. She is left-handed." I still teach today students who were changed, particularly in Catholic schools. Look at how fearful we are. What is the key to breaking behavioral patterns?
KP: In some way, if I had a good answer, I would tell you.
EC: See, I don't know. I can't tell you how to fix the hospital system and the health care system. Twenty years in the whole game and then studying it I haven't a clue, because every single professional has ripped off the federal government in that system, every single professional. So, in a way, for a long time I was carrying a terrible torch, saying, "Professionals have abdicated their responsibilities." I really think they have, but they may always have done that. It's just there were fewer of them, fewer rotten apples. It went by the board, when Father was a professional, they weren't all wonderful people. Obviously, they weren't, but there are so many more of us. I don't know what else to say, because I'm not going to end up saying, "The old days were great," because they weren't.
KP: No, I think you have definitely given us a very balanced, wonderfully-balanced, answer. You joined the International Relations Club, and you actually had gotten a job offer from the United Nations Relief Agency for it sounds like one of the most absolutely fascinating jobs. What was your sense of the postwar, particularly in 1944 and 1945? What did you think the postwar world would be like? You had had an interest in international relations, both before the war and during the war.
EC: I was much more optimistic about the postwar. I don't have any scholarly reason to say what I'm going to say; this is just gut-level thinking. One of the things I had to do was to cover up some of my activities. I'd been active on the [National] Council of American-Soviet Friendship and so had a lot of other people who weren't Communists, but it was struck by the Congressional committee as being, what?
KP: A subversive.
EC: A subversive organization. So, my God, not being a citizen, I couldn't admit to that. We cleaned out my resume fairly well.
KP: You were active in this after college.
EC: In college and after college, yes, in New York, and there were a lot of, well, Eleanor Roosevelt, Clothier was in it.
KP: You really thought of the Soviets as our allies.
EC: Yes. Now, I have never felt that the Soviet spy thing was worth anything; I really don't. I think it's the way people made careers for themselves, including [Joseph] McCarthy and [Richard] Nixon and the rest of them. I don't like the fact that there were people who joined the Communist Party, but I've never felt that it was that much of an issue and particularly if you look at why on earth didn't the blacks join it in depth. They never did. We built up a bugaboo in order to make ourselves feel good. I think Europeans as a whole felt this way and, I'm sorry, I think [Winston] Churchill did, too, but I didn't experience “Uncle Joe” [Joseph Stalin]. I was very hopeful. I think I was more hopeful then. I can remember sitting down with Ralph Bunche. He had just come back from Israel, and I thought that was going to blow up. I've been waiting for Israel to blow up. In fact, I got called into a committee in (Northwestern?) for being anti-Semitic because I wasn't pro-Israeli. I wasn't pro-Zionism in 1946. So, I've gotten it from both sides. Fortunately, I said, "Look, I know something about the Arab world and I know that ..."
KP: You thought with Israel, there were going to be problems.
EC: I think it has.
EC: I think it has. I think [Benjamin] Netanyahu is one of the worst, but I don't think that means that necessarily I'm anti-Semitic. I think I am, in the sense that I am prejudiced as we all are. I think when I talked with him, the thing that shocked me--and I'm not sure he would say it today--was he said, "Listen, it is so much better than it ever was." He had been talking about Africa and he'd been talking about Israel and Palestine and he'd been talking about India and Pakistan. He was the most incredibly optimistic guy, and so for a long time I kind of went along with him. Now, I find myself concerned that the ethnic rivalries just seem to be absolutely burgeoning. I don't know whether this word is even used now, but in the '40s we talked about integral nationalism as being a terrible form of nationalism. It was really. What word would we use today?
KP: I am not sure, but I think ethnically-based.
EC: It wasn't Nazism, but it was close to it. It was being so nationalistic.
EC: Yes, or as Lenny would say, "Beware the super-patriot, super anything." I'm not very optimistic now. I can go back in my own personal experience and realize that we couldn't have people from a Hungarian and a Czech in the house at the same time, ever. It was really explosive. So, I know that feeling and personally have experienced it, and it was scary at that point. Put a thousand people together and you've got what you have in what used to be Yugoslavia. In some respects, maybe integral nationalism would have been better, but I think we have to go through this. I was optimistic, and I think I didn't know a hell of a lot either. [laughter]]
KP: You mentioned Ralph Bunche. Unfortunately, he is not well known by the average American today, but he was a very prominent international diplomat. How did you get to know him?
EC: Well, the vice president for him in the American Political Science Association, I've written on this man, Roscoe Martin, lived in Syracuse, and we got to know them and his wife was a godmother to our younger child. He [Bunche] was president at that time, and he would come marching through. It really was a very exciting thing. I think it's the first time I was with someone who wasn't a conductor or who wasn't a great singer who just struck awe in people. He came into the airport to speak at the New York State Political Science Association, and I was invited to go along. I was out there, and it was just fascinating. Syracuse had a little airport at that time. This must have ’49-‘50, something like that. At any rate, he came in, and also coming in on another plane was the ambassador from India. So, you have the ambassador from India and his wife in a sari and this retinue of UN [United Nations] people, and then you have Ralph Bunche, who later becomes the second in command at the UN. We're standing there talking with him and having this wonderful time and people are ringing us around, I mean, just standing there like this is the Beatles. It's much more like what happens with celebrity musicians today, young rock stars.
The Indian ambassador had to wait for a car or something to get him to Cornell. He was going to Cornell to speak. Ralph was speaking at Syracuse. We sat down in the bar at a big booth, and I remember there were two or three chairs out here and then two or three people and two or three people. I will never forget, the bartender, who was a young man--and maybe he was a graduate student; I don't believe he was--came over and took our orders. He went back to the bar, and then Ralph decided he would have some water as well. We wanted water all around. So, I was sitting at the end, and I was the youngest and I'd better behave. I went up and gave the order to the bartender, and he said to me, "Is that Ralph Bunche sitting with you?" I said, "Yes, it is." He came over with water for Ralph Bunche--he didn't give anybody else anything yet--came over with water for Ralph Bunche and said, "It is a great privilege to serve you." Here was a black, the most intense blue eyes I ever saw, who smoked a blue streak, incidentally, was a diabetic, shouldn't have been doing any of these things, and here was a redneck [who] came over with absolute awe. Well, I'll tell you, nothing else had to happen that night. I don't remember what he said. I remember when I asked him about, I was terribly upset about Israel and Palestine, "What was going to happen?" He wasn't offhand, I mean, he really answered.
KP: He had good reasons.
EC: Yes. “Boom, boom, boom, boom.” All I could think was, "Gee, you're optimistic. If you're this optimistic and you've been around in Africa," and I was just deep in depression on it. He's there. I'm not on the firing line, and it was a marvelous experience. There's another experience I ought to tell you that I had at college. Eleanor Roosevelt came to speak.
KP: We have read about it.
EC: Yes. Well, I was the introductory member of the receiving line, and they had a number of us on, because the receiving line went on for like two hours. I think we each took a half an hour or whatever, but you got very tired and you were uptight. She was marvelous, and she had her knitting. She just traveled alone. Now, the Secret Service did check the chapel below, and so nobody could go down but the chapel ushers, not even choir members could go down. I remember being annoyed at that, but that was all right. We were at dinner at Woodlawn, and Woodlawn is another wonderful story. I put my brother and his wife up there for four dollars overnight, to stay overnight and have breakfast. It broke me, but today when you think of it. [laughter] At any rate, we were standing in the living room receiving, and my roommate came down the line. I usually said, "And your name, please?" Well, of course, I said that to her. I could not remember her name under any circumstances, and she said, "You know my name." The dean, Dean Corwin is next to me. "Would you please tell me your name?" I said it about the fourth time before she heard me, and, of course, the line is stopped. Dean Corwin is getting nervous, and I am going through the floor. She finally told me her name.
Well, at any rate, we went to dinner, and a GI came in from [Camp] Kilmer, who had heard that Eleanor Roosevelt was there. We were in the dining room. He came right in, and he wanted to speak to her. She got up and went into the library with him, and I think the same thought went through all of our minds, "What if he has a gun?" There was no security. See, you don't have any idea what presidents used to wander around doing and their wives and children. They were never under security control.
KP: There were Secret Service agents, but not the same level as today.
EC: And not trailing you.
KP: Now, if someone tried to do that, they would be arrested.
EC: Oh, absolutely. Well, he just wanted to sit down and talk with her, and she took notes on who he was and where his parents were and so forth because that's what she would do. After she had seen GIs or whatever, Navy or whatever personnel, she would send them a note, a handwritten note. She was an incredible woman. She was one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen, even though she was not attractive in the American sense of beauty. She was dressed immaculately with just very simple jewelry, but jewelry that was so incredibly unique.
KP: Well, I have been told by people she just radiated charisma, much like her husband.
EC: Do you know I can't remember what color her eyes were? I saw him [Franklin Roosevelt] from the second floor in Philadelphia of the Record Building, and he was in a car, an open car going by. My God, you could see his eyes. You could see Jack Kennedy's eyes, you could see Dick Dilworth's, Joe Clark's. I'd love to write a short article on blue-eyed people, because their eyes seem to reflect back the light. Brown-eyed people absorb it somehow, and they aren't anything like as charismatic, it seems to me. That's idiosyncratic.
KP: You mentioned that in many ways you do not think of Douglass as a women's college anymore, but you are still active with your class.
EC: I think what I have to say is that it provided a unique education for me, and I was a difficult soul to educate. Maybe other students found the faculty terrible, but I never found faculty that didn't sit down and listen and didn't offer [advice]. Even if I was the most hair-brained soul in the world, and I probably was, they were caring, Dr. Judson, Dr. Hickman, Dr. [Anna] Campbell--Campbell and I did not get along, but that's all right--Dr. [David] Burrows. Any of them would spend time with you in their offices or invite you to their homes.
The deans, particularly I've known [Mary] Hartman. I did not know Polly Bunting, but I was there. Part of the reason I could come to Rutgers was that I did some research with Harry [C. Bredemeier, sociology professor] and with Bob Gutman [sociology professor], and the same kind of program that Polly Bunting put in at Radcliffe had been started at Douglass. There's a strong sense of women's rights and women's leadership, and I think Hartman and [Barbara] Shailor are doing a good job of that. I particularly liked Hartman. I'm sure she irritated the hell out of Rutgers. She's a very strong woman. I think Shailor came in, this is my administrative attempt, she came in [and] she determined that she would have more freedom to function and Douglass would have its own group of people recruiting students because the student body at Douglass went downhill. I was on the dais at a graduation next to a faculty member whom I thought just felt that Douglass students were really very passé, very minor. I think, you see, here we go; the minute you get outside this little circle, the eggs are going to hit the fan.
KP: Yes, it is just interesting.
EC: Well, it really distressed me. I almost wrote this faculty member, and then I thought, "Well, now that's not very political either." So, I finally just told some people in the women's studies program and at the dean's house. This was a Fellow, so that I felt that the Fellows really should be people that are absolutely, not to me, I'm an alumna. For God's sakes, don't tell me that we're a mess. It was just sort of a downer. [Editor’s Note: In 1981, reorganization of the faculty of the Rutgers-New Brunswick undergraduate colleges took place, eliminating the college-specific faculty and forming the unified Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS). In response, the Douglass Fellows formed and consisted of about 150 members of the faculty that made decisions about academics and the general direction of the college.]
KP: I have actually had many Douglass interns, so I would not.
EC: There's a young woman who's working at the historic site that I was president of and am still on the board, and her husband is here. Don't ask me what department, because I deliberately didn't feel this was an area that I should get involved in, but I've met him and he speaks highly of Douglass students. One of my classmates gave a lot of money to set up the math and science dorm and to really emphasize this fact. Because this gal had been the first woman to do a Master's at Lehigh in, I can't remember what area, and I'm sure she put up with a lot of guff at Lehigh, being the first woman there and so forth. So, she understood the importance of mentors and providing support. I'm afraid that women are socialized by the age of three, as are boys, and so you've got a lot of work to do. This is what I think is important, the women's center there. Len, being in advertising and market research and market promotion, gets very irritated that everything that comes out of Douglass has to have Rutgers imprint on it.
KP: Yes, it is not just Rutgers and Douglass. In general, colleges have lost a lot of their identity.
EC: Which I think is a real tragedy. I think that was something that I was very sad that [Rutgers President Edward] Bloustein pushed so hard.
KP: Yes. In fact, Douglass, I think, is probably the best undergraduate college in many ways in terms of the support it gives to students in scholarships.
EC: I hope so.
KP: In terms of quality campus, the only campus I think that competes is probably Cook. Rutgers College has all kind of structural issues.
EC: Yes, and yet it's beautiful. The changes on this campus just that I can see, going from Kirkpatrick over, I mean, just that chapel alone, “Holy Hill” is really a much different place than when I was here. [laughter] [Editor’s Note: “Holy Hill” refers to the location of the New Brunswick Theological Seminary.]
KP: Yes, people have alluded to that.
EC: Maybe it hasn't done you any good, but it gives an aura to the campus that wasn't here. I think the Zimmerli Art Museum is a remarkable institution.
KP: It has changed even in my years at Rutgers.
EC: Oh, good. How long have you been here, Kurt?
KP: I came here in 1983 to start my Master's, and I finished my Ph.D. in 1990. I came back initially on a post-doc for a year in '93, and then that turned into this project. This project started in July of '94, and it will continue on with my successor at least until the year 2000.
EC: Good, although I swore I would never come and be interviewed at Rutgers. [laughter]
KP: I am delighted. Let me thank you very much. We both enjoyed this.
---------------------------------------------END OF INTERVIEW------------------------------------------
Reviewed by Sandra Stewart Holyoak 7/15/99
Reviewed by Kate Rizzi 8/14/18