There was a time when the only undergraduates crossing Clark’s campus were men — but that changed in 1942, when the University made the decision to admit women to its undergraduate college. An Oct. 28 celebration will mark the 75th anniversary of this historic occasion, and honor the generations of women who came to Clark and later went on to lives and careers of consequence. The day’s events will include a screening of “Challenging Convention: The Women Who Changed Clark’s World,” a documentary by Hannah Kogut ’17.
Kogut, who double-majored in screen studies and history, was recruited to the project by her adviser, Professor Hugh Manon. “It was a perfect marriage of what I like: film and history,” she says. She recorded interviews with several of the first Clark women as well as an alumnus who, to his delight, found himself sharing campus with female classmates. Those interviews, interspersed with archival footage and interviews with current Clark students, were edited into an 18-minute documentary.
“They were very sweet, and also extremely interested about my own Clark experiences,” Kogut says of Clark’s women pioneers. “And some of their stories were just Clark stories. Yes, they paved the way, and we wouldn’t be here without them. But really, they were no different than we are now. They had fun, went on trips, hung out with their friends, struggled — they were just Clarkies.”
Clark’s women kept marching forward, doing more and more on campus and leading clubs and activities when the men went off to fight in World War II. Kogut’s video captures a time of change on campus through the recollections of those who experienced it. Some of her footage turned out to be unexpectedly poignant as it includes interviews with Barbara Norris Andersen ’46 and Dr. Martin Deranian ’47, who both passed away last September.
"They had fun, went on trips, hung out with their friends, struggled — they were just Clarkies.”
Marie L’Heureux ’77, who is helping organize the 75th anniversary celebration, remembers when she was deciding which college to attend, and the choice came down to Holy Cross and Clark. Holy Cross had gone coed only a year earlier, in 1972, and a campus tour gave her the sense it was still very much a male-oriented place. “I had the feeling of being a minority,” she recalls. A tour of Clark that same day had a different, more welcoming feel to it. “I knew I was coming here.”
While details are still being finalized, the outline for the Oct. 28 event is falling into place. Three panel discussions will address the themes of Clark in the Community, Clark Women in Geography, and History of Activism at Clark. Alumni and faculty will participate. Sharon Krefetz, professor emerita, who taught political science at Clark for 43 years, also will be interviewed about the history of women at the University.
Efforts are under way to create a gallery of historical posters and other artifacts that speak to the women’s experiences at Clark University. A luncheon, closing reception, and an event connected to athletics are also in the works.