Aug 2021 - ND Women Connect “In Her Own Words” Needs You!

ND Women Connect “In Her Own Words” Needs You!

By Jack Bergen '77

Editor’s Note - With the 50th anniversary of coeducation at Notre Dame approaching, the ND Senior Alumni group is proud to partner with ND Women Connect celebrating this major milestone.  Over the next year, we hope to feature a series of articles from both the past and current sharing memories of this journey.  Here is the first in the series requesting alums to share their stories.

Capturing Coeducation History “In Her Own Words” – Volunteers Needed!!

Happy summer, alumnae! Can you believe that ND will celebrate 50 years of coeducation in just one year? In anticipation of this important occasion, Notre Dame Women Connect has launched a project; “In Her Own Words”, where we are capturing stories through oral interviews from alumnae who were part of the early days of coeducation on campus in the 1970s. We are looking to travel back a few decades and enjoy a handful of sometimes silly, sometimes shocking anecdotes. Additionally, we are working with the University Archives to enable these stories to be cherished over time. 

We want to hear from you, if you are an alumna from the classes of the 70s.  If you are interested in participating in "In Her Own Words", please let us know (  Help us shape this project and record history.

Project Background - In 2019, Jeanine Sterling ‘76, Sharon McAuliffe ’74 (former NDSA Board members), and Kathy Anders ’74 proposed the project “In Her Own Words” (IHOW) to the ND Women Connect Board to celebrate the upcoming 50th anniversary of coeducation at Notre Dame.  What began as a newsletter feature and Reunion roundtable discussion has evolved into a concerted effort to capture, through interviews executed with archival quality, your experiences as pioneers in Notre Dame's coeducation history. 

The IHOW working group currently includes Kathy Anders '74, Donna Leary Smith '81, Lauren Mack '98, Trudi Cassidy '79 and Kimberly Thigpen MBA'05.  Thank you to those who have already recorded an interview!  We enjoy how these interviews become relaxed conversations as we explore what it was like to be on campus in the ‘70’s.  For a sample of previous interviews, see below.

(Excerpts taken from NDWC News Articles)

Rose Lennon ‘74, ‘77 JD

Shortly before 8 a.m. on the first day of the fall 1972 semester at Notre Dame, Rose Lennon arrived in O’Shaughnessy Hall for a class in American literature, but all the seats had been taken by young ND men. Eyeing Lennon in the doorway, one guy stood up, flipped a trash can, parked on it, and gestured for her to take his seat. Thanking him, she sat, and minutes later, the class began. Then 19 years old, Lennon was in the first group of ND undergraduate women. The decision to welcome women had been announced the previous November, and the first group arrived in the fall. 

The male-female ratio sometimes made for awkward moments. “I remember a couple of times entering North Dining Hall with other women,” Lennon said. “When we walked in, there was absolute silence, and all eyes were on us.”  Because so many ND students had attended single-sex parochial high schools before enrolling in all-male ND, learning to simply be friends with the opposite sex now encountered in classes, clubs and the dining halls proved challenging experiences for many.

To read the full article, go to: In Her Own Words: That First Year.


Mary Anne (Madden) Hoffman '73

In the fall of 1972, newly returned from a year at Saint Mary's College Rome Program, and one of 90 women admitted to the University from Saint Mary's, I enrolled in Dr. Bernard Norling's "European History from 1880-1920" class. Based on the catalog description, the course was to have been a social history of Europe during that 40-year period.  I eagerly looked forward to the course, feeling well prepared by my year abroad studying history, art, and culture -- favorite topics.

My heart sank on the first day of class when Dr. Norling announced he was changing the focus from social history to military history.  My male peers were as enthusiastic about this new focus as was Dr. Norling.  There were 15 books to read that semester, all focused on the mechanics of war, some of which had been written by Dr. Norling.  He told us we'd have a quiz every Friday over the assigned book for the week.  If we didn't want to take the quiz, we could write a book report.  I don't think I have ever read as many books or written as many reports as I did in that 18-week period.  I knew I didn't stand a chance on a quiz where I'd be asked to dissect the merits of a Howitzer.  Dropping the class was an option I was unwilling to consider.

To read the full article, go to: In Her Own Words: The Only Woman in Class.

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