Women of color

"Personal Adventures in Race Relations : We Need Atomic Understanding!"


"Personal Adventures in Race Relations" by Esther Popel Shaw (class of1919), Dickinson's first African American female graduate, was published in 1946. It addresses the sources of prejudice and racism, and she urges in her introduction that cooperation is necessary to overcome these detrimental assumptions regarding African Americans. "At a time when all our energies are needed to meet and solve together the crucial problems of the postwar period, we find a large element of the population torn by resentment, suspicion and hatred.

Esther Popel Shaw's Letter to Mr. Spahr

September 5, 1945

This letter, dated September 5, 1945, was written by Esther Popel Shaw, the first African American female graduate of Dickinson College 1919, to Mr. Boyd Lee Spahr of the Board of Trustees. Writing from her post at the National Association of College Women, Esther Popel Shaw defends herself and her race against Spahr's "apparent lack of awareness of what constitutes acceptable designations when racial references are involved" as well as racial injustice when it comes to college housing for African American students.

A Poet Stirs Awareness

April, 1974

Tara McCallum, in hopes of aiding in the movement towards creating black awareness on Dickinson's campus, contributed to the monthly publication, The Black Perspective, published by the Congress of African Students.  Her work appears in the April edition of the Perspective. McCallum has several creative poems published, all harkening back to the struggles of black individuals.

Remembering a Lack of Diversity

March, 1979

In her "Women as Leaders" survey response, a female Dickinsonian remembers how the Dickinson experience was for her. Being only one of two African American women on the campus, she felt that her social life was restricted. She remembered the two other African American students on campus, Judy Rogers and Skip (Everett) Hewlett.

Esther Popel Shaw, the First African American Woman to Graduate from Dickinson College


Esther Popel, the first known African American woman to graduate from Dickinson College, was listed in the 1919-1920 yearbook. Described as quiet and "a true scholar," Popel commuted from Harrisburg to Dickinson every day. The Microcosm wrote, "We see her but we seldom hear her." Popel went on to become a poet of the Harlem Renaissance movement.

AAUP Accepts Report on Women Faculty

October 27,1972

In October of 1972 the American Association of University Professors unanimously adopted the "Recommendations and Report on the Status of Women in the Academic Profession" at Dickinson College. The primary questions concerned the number of women in decision-making roles to serve as models for the women students and the salaries of women in comparison to those of men with equal qualifications and responsibilities.

Discrimination in the 1920s

April 21, 1994

Frances Vuilleumier (Class of 1924) explains in an interview that her sorority, Phi Mu, did not extend membership to black or Jewish students, adding that there "was probably some[one] else we didn't allow." Calling Phi Mu exclusive, she explains that these practices were normal during that period. She points to the 1960s as the decade in which "they didn't stand for that anymore," although the national chapter of some sororities, according to Vuilleumer, still prevented the pledging of minority women.

Myrna Bernadel Returns to Dickinson to Minister to Students

March 4, 1984

Rev. Myrna Bernadel returned to Dickinson College in 1984 for the Congress of African Student's Black Arts Festival. On Sunday March 4, 1984, she led a college church service in Memorial Hall at 11:00 a.m.

Chi Omega and Discrimination during the 1950s

March 28, 1988

According to Jane Myer Sellers (Class of 1955), there were no women of color and only one or two men of color at Dickinson during the 1950s. She reports that there were "a few Asian girls" who were considered to be minority students. The only sorority that accepted minority students, says Sellers, was Pi Phi.

Chi Omega and Discrimination during World War II

December 15, 1989

Wilma B. Prescott (Class of 1945) describes in an interview the discrimination that the sorority Chi Omega practiced during the World War II. According to Prescott, the Chi Omegas discriminated in their membership policies, which explains why the sorority is no longer on campus. Chi Omegas could not take "oriental or Jewish" members into the sorority. As Prescott explains, "You were a WASP...." Prescott points to the war as an explanation for discrimination against the Japanese in their membership policies.