Sweet Briar

At a critical moment in Sweet Briar College’s history, when they were considering opening it up for men to attend along with women, Sally Miller Gearhart, an alumnae, writes a beautiful two-part letter pleading with them to remain a gender-separated institution.

The letter to Sweet Briar begins with a rather poetic rendition of her time at the school, how it opened new doors in her consciousness, and opened her eyes to all she could be. This joyful, thankful praise of the school stands in poignant contrast to where she goes next, to the raw sorrow and rage at being shown these incredible possibilities, only to have the door slammed on her new self, to be told that she must stay in the women’s world. It is heartbreaking to read, her pain is so close to the surface of the page.

For Sally though, that pain is a tool, and she channels her whole experience into a clear, passionate defense of gender-separated education.  Using her own observations and philosophy, she explains differences in classrooms and why it is so critical that Sweet Briar remains a space for women only.

While we don’t have the whole detail in the archive, or how much of a difference this letter makes, I find it worth noting that Sweet Briar is to this day an all-women’s institution.

Sally Miller Gearhart Papers, Coll 305, Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, Eugene, Oregon.

One response to “Sweet Briar

  • cstabile

    It’s interesting how many of these women attended all women institutions (Sweet Briar, Barnard, Radcliffe, etc.). I had no idea Gearhart went to Sweet Briar — clearly it had a lifelong impact on her.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Ada Test Site

For experiments!

Ada Journal Review

Review site for the Ada Journal

James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award

"Best way to teach flying is to fly." - Joanna Russ

Queer Geek Theory

"Best way to teach flying is to fly." - Joanna Russ

Comments for SF Signal

"Best way to teach flying is to fly." - Joanna Russ


"Best way to teach flying is to fly." - Joanna Russ

Ursula K. Le Guin: New on the Website

"Best way to teach flying is to fly." - Joanna Russ

%d bloggers like this: