The Whole World Was Watching
an oral history of 1968

Kathryn Spoehr
Interviewed by Danielle Savastano and Stefanie Wyss
April 21, 1998

Danielle Savastano/Stefanie Wyss: Where and when were your born?

Kathryn Spoehr: I was born in December of 1947 in a town just north of Chicago, Illinois. And I grew up in suburban Chicago until I came to Rhode Island to Brown to go to college.

DS/SW: Where did you grow up?

KS: Well, the town's name is Willmette. And if you know anything about the geography of the Midwest, which you may or may not, Chicago is right on Lake Michigan, on the western side of Lake Michigan, and Willmette is a town that was also right on Lake Michigan, north of Chicago, but before you get to Wisconsin.

DS/SW: Could you briefly describe your family and your neighborhood?

KS: My family was mainly me and my father and my mother and my dog. That was pretty much it, and we lived, it was a middle class. I'm from a middle class town. It's not unlike South Kingstown, only it wasn't so rural. It would remind you, if you, have you ever been to the East Side of Providence? It was a suburb, but the houses were sort of right next to each other, and so that's what it was like.

DS/SW: What were your parent's political views and affiliations?

KS: Oh, my parents were genetic Republicans. And, the town where I grew up was pretty much all Republican. And, that was interesting because if you know anything about the city of Chicago, you know that during the Fifties and Sixties, the Mayor there was Mayor Daley, who is the father of the current Mayor Daley. And he was a Democratic political boss, and there was a lot of crime and corruption in the city of Chicago, and a lot of people who lived in the towns surrounding Chicago really looked badly on the Democratic Party because of the crime and corruption of Mayor Daley's political machine. So, my parents were always straight Republicans. In 1964 I think they voted for Barry Goldwater, and so they were pretty conservative.

DS/SW: Where did you and your family get information about politics and other events?

KS: Mainly from the Chicago Tribune which was a very conservative newspaper, even though it was published in the city of Chicago, and from television. We had television back in the old days. You know, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, although my father used to yell and scream at the TV set when, you know, because he always thought the media was too liberal.

DS/SW: What did you think you wanted to do when you grew up and how did that change over time?

KS: Well, when I was in junior high school and high school, the one thing I always thought I wanted to do was become an astronaut, but back in those days, you couldn't be an astronaut unless you could be an Army or a Navy jet fighter pilot first, and they didn't let women do that, especially women who wore glasses. They thought better of those things now, so I knew that wasn't realistic. I don't think I had any specific career aspirations until I really went to college, and then I got very interested in a lot of things, which made a big difference in my life.

DS/SW:When you were at, were you aware of any discrimination among people in your neighborhood or in your family?

KS: Well, yeah, the town where I grew up was all white, and I think it would have been difficult for a black family, for example, to buy a house where I grew up. I think my parents also objected to people who were Jewish. I remember when I got to high school, I had some Jewish friends, and they always, well they didn't ever say you can't have Jewish friends, they always sort of wanted me to go to my Jewish friend's house instead of having my Jewish friends come over to my house. That bothered me a lot.

DS/SW: Besides them being so, like, your parents talking about Jewish people, did they talk about any other ethnic groups around you?

KS: Not particularly. We had a black woman who came in and did the cleaning once a week in our house. And, you know, my mother took sort of a materialistic kind of role toward her and tried to help her out, but it wasn't, it was the kind of thing which is like superior people helping inferior people, and not co-equal kinds of things.

DS/SW: Where did you go to high school and college?

KS: Okay, well I went to high school which is fairly well known. It is New Trier High School. It is usually listed among the ten best high schools in the United States. Now at the time that I went there, it was a very large high school. There were over five thousand students in high school. My graduating class was about fourteen hundred students. And right after I graduated, they built another high school to serve half of the, it was a high school that served several towns, north of Chicago, and so they built another building to serve some of the towns, so essentially split it in half.

But, when I graduated from there, I came to Brown University and essentially it was a smaller school then the high school that I had been at. At the time, there were only about thirty five hundred students at Brown, and so it was a much smaller place. It was kind of unusual. How big is this high school?

DS/SW: This is like twelve hundred I think, and it's 9-12, so.

KS: Right.

DS/SW: Small compared to yours.

KS: Right, but it seems big to you probably, right.

DS/SW: Yeah, a lot. What did you study while you were in high school and at Brown?

KS: Well, in high school, you know, they sort of tell you what you have to do, like four years of English, and so many years of history. I had taken Latin as a seventh and eighth grader, and I continued with Latin in high school and I also took German. And I got really interested in my sophomore year in science, and I took Biology, Chemistry, Physics and then AP Chemistry my senior year in high school, and when I applied to Brown, and I also liked Math a lot.

And when I applied to Brown, I thought I would be a Math major. And I got in, early decision, at Brown, into the Bachelor of Science program in Applied Mathematics. And when I got to Brown, I found out that I was pretty much of an anomaly, that girls just didn't apply to this program. You know, the professors were all looking at me like, you know, "Is she all right" kind of thing?

I remember the one time I really experienced sex discrimination in high school, I wanted to go to a Math camp in the summer, and it was going to be held I think on the campus of Purdue University. And I applied, and it turned out I was the first application they had every gotten from a girl, and they wrote back and said, "I'm sorry, we can't take you, because we have no dorm space for girls." So, for this program, they just figured that anybody who went to math camp, they would be a guy.

So, when I got to Brown, I thought I would be either a mathematician, and I thought that maybe I would be a chemist. I got a load of chemistry labs that lasted all afternoon, you know, most days of the week, and decided that I didn't want to do that. In the end, I ended up finishing a Math major, but also finishing an interdisciplinary thing in mathematics and psychology, studying human memory and learning, and that is eventually what I did. I went on to graduate school in psychology, and computers.

I was also among the first students at Brown to take computer science. It was instituted in 1967 while I was a student, you see I came to Brown in the fall of 1965. And so I took computer science and for a while there I wasn't sure if I wanted to work for IBM, or whether I wanted to go on in school, and so there were several professors who were fairly influential in my life, and they encouraged me to go to graduate school, and so that's what I did. I went to Stanford eventually, in 1969 to graduate school, and I combined psychology and computer science, and we call it Cognitive Science today, that's my home department now at Brown, the study of intelligent behavior in making computers do smart things.

DS/SW: You said something about discrimination against , like, girls, against guys, was that like common?

KS: Well, it wasn't. There were certain clear expectations about what was appropriate for girls and what wasn't. And one reason I came to Brown, I had done well in high school, the college counselors at my high school said if you are a girl and you are interested in science, you should either go to Brown or Cornell. They said, you know, a place like Wellesley, Bryn Mawr or any of the other, or all-women schools, did not have particularly strong sciences. It was largely a guy thing, and so you had to go to a place where there would be male science nerds, and Cornell and Brown were two places that took women. They were basically co-educational, so that is why I came to Brown. I visited both places, and I mean I went to Ithaca, New York, and that is where Cornell is and when I saw how lonely and desolate it is up there, I said, no, I don't think so, and decided to come to Brown, and I wasn't disappointed.

But, to get back to your question, clearly, it was unusual to see women in science courses. It was less unlikely at a place like Brown. I don't know if you know anything about Brown, but for many years, Brown had what was called a coordinate college, Pembroke College. Women, and I was admitted to Pembroke College, but we had all our classes with, you know, at Brown, and with the men at Brown, and my diploma says Brown University, so I never quite figured out how I got from Pembroke to Brown, except that that's how it worked.

And Pembroke tended to attract people like me, who were interested in math and science, so there were many more people like me, girls, men, women, excuse me, like me, at Pembroke then there would have been at a lot of other places I could have picked to go to college at the time. And I had the advantage that it was very far away from my house in Chicago, just what I wanted.

DS/SW:Could you describe dating among your group of friends, and was there any difficulties in your relationships when you went to college?

KS: Um, I didn't really date much in high school, and part of it is the stigma attached to being a smart girl because the smart guys didn't have any hormones or something. But when I got to Brown, freshman were pounced upon by the upperclassmen, and that worked for a while, and you know, I dated occasionally, but I didn't form any close relationships. If you look at my class, you see quite a few of the women who came in with me either dropped out because they got pregnant and married, in one order or the other, or they got married and stayed in school, but their husbands were Brown men. And there was a lot of, especially in the classes ahead of me, the classes that graduated from Brown in 1966 and `67, there was a lot of monogamy, people getting fraternity pinned and things like that.

In our class, it was interesting, because it sort of split in two. There were a bunch of students, both men and women, who were very much like that, intended to do the old "frat" social thing, and then there were a bunch of commie-hippie-radicals who sort of palled around, not unlike I think you're probably used to. My husband is a high school teacher, and I have a son who is in high school, and it seems like there are groups of students, both female and male, who pal around together, but it is not really a dating kind of thing. And that started happening with my class. Many of us were like that. And we tended to pal around with the kids who were interested in the same things we were interested in, and if it wasn't in being the May Queen and/or the prom queen, then it was politics.

DS/SW: What about your extracurricular activities?

KS: Oh yeah, my first couple of years, I was really involved in student government. And, at that time, there was a separate student government at Pembroke college and one at Brown, and then we got sick of that and decided to merge them. So I was instrumental in doing that. It didn't make any sense to have two of them, except we had a separate old bag female deans in Pembroke College that we had to deal with. I even brought my yearbook if you want to see their pictures.

But, what I got heavily involved with starting in about my sophomore year, which was in about 1966, was politics, and the antiwar movement. You know, I think when I got to Brown, that was the first time I might have met a Democrat, and that must seem weird to you. But, growing up where I grew up, it wasn't so weird.

And there were a lot of teach-ins during that time because we were beginning to get really heavily involved in the Vietnamese war, and there were campus wide teach-ins, in fact, there was a non-credit course that a number of professors organized, and we would go once a week and hear some lectures and there would be readings about the history of Vietnam and the French involvement in Vietnam and how the Americans got in, and it sort of activated me politically. You know, I came to the point where it seemed clear that that war wasn't right. And, so, when you get to 1968, we'll talk more about it. Is that what we're about here?

DS/SW:Yeah, you said there were teach-ins, so you obviously participated in them. Could you describe, like, what they were about and everything?

KS: Well, there were a couple of different kinds. Some were fairly well organized, and they involved faculty, and like in the History department, some of the faculty who were against the War would announce informally that there would be meetings like every Wednesday night at seven o'clock. You know, people who were interested could come, and they would give almost like background lecture and they ordered books in the bookstore and we could get them if we were interested in reading about it. And I remember getting some of those and reading about it. It wasn't part of any regular course I was taking.

And then there would be more politically oriented teach-ins, which were largely student organized. There were a number of what people called radical campus groups at the time, who were heavily involved with political groups at other Ivy league schools, like Columbia, and you probably heard of the Columbia student takeovers, the riots at Harvard and so on. And very often, graduate students are politically active from those campuses would come and talk about the latest indecency perpetrated by, you know, the draft boards or the US Army, or Lyndon Johnson, or any of a number of things. And they were less intellectual, but they were designed to sort of raise people's consciousness about what was happening all across the Northeast and the country.

DS/SW:Did people think differently of you or others who went to teach-ins?

KS: I don't think so. Well, you know, I had a lot of friends who went too, and I sort of was close to people who shared my interests and activities. And I was, you know, the people who didn't did their thing over there, and we did our thing, and I think we just sort of ignored each other. I know the faculty was always leery of what was going on on campus. They were concerned that there would be riots and so on at Brown. In fact, there never were riots at Brown. I don't know if you knew that or not.

You know, in 1968, there were riots in Columbia, and there were riots at Harvard and people, students, took over administration buildings and were arrested, and the police bashed their heads in and stuff like that, but that never happened at Brown, for a couple of reasons. But we'll get there, we're not on the right question. What question are we on now?

DS/SW: We're just kind of.

KS: Yeah, just moving on. Okay.

DS/SW: Um.

KS: There were many who were more radical then I was, incidentally. There were some students, we had ROTC at Brown, you know what that is, Reserve Officer Training, and some of the men at Brown had scholarships and they dressed up in their uniforms and paraded around, and that tended to draw a lot of demonstrations. And there was a lot of concern about whether that was appropriate activity to have on the Brown campus, especially since the classes were closed. And you couldn't, you know, not just anybody could take them, you had to be in the ROTC program, and it sort of flew against the culture of absolute freedom for Brown to have courses that not everybody was allowed to take.

So there were a lot of demonstrations. A friend of mine, who is now on the Brown faculty, David Kertzer, was involved in the anti- ROTC rallies, and he actually, and a friend of his, led a group of students who were threatening to burn down the ROTC building. But they didn't ever take it over and they didn't burn it down. They scared the hell out of a lot of faculty, though. I don't think David really had the nerve, but they didn't know that.

DS/SW:So were there rallies and demonstrations often during that time?

KS: There were. And, very often, they were off campus. You have to remember that during that period, the draft, the military draft, was keyed up with a vengeance to try to get enough people to go and serve in Vietnam. And so from time to time, people that we knew would get letters from their draft boards telling them that they had to report for a draft physical in preparation for being drafted. And so, whenever that happened, a bunch of us would go off.

There was a draft physical place in Cranston, and I can't tell you where it was, but it was there. And so a bunch of us would go off anytime anybody got one of those to report for a physical, and we would carry signs and march around and, you know, it was not, we, you know, it was like the Civil Rights Movement. It was non-violent, but we wanted to express our view that, you know, this was not the way to run a country, this war was not.

DS/SW: So, did you participate in them?

KS: Oh, I did, yeah. It turns out, you know, I was really disappointed later on in life to find out that I had no FBI record as a result of that. I really, in fact, felt that probably there were little guys, you know, in black trench coats, snapping pictures and all that, and you know, but it turned. In 1980, I had to get a security clearance, and it turned out there was nothing in my record, you know, so all that work to be a subversive, and nobody paid any attention.

DS/SW:Were you involved in any political action groups?

KS: Well, it depends on what you mean.

DS/SW: Like SNCC, or, we just wrote them down, we don't know what they are.

KS: SNCC? Southern Non-violent Coordinating Committee. That was a Civil Rights group. So you are getting towards Civil Rights. You know, I was less active. You know, Civil Rights was sort of an underlying theme of the Sixties, and I think all of us who were concerned about politics in general were concerned about that, but I never actually went south to Mississippi to try to help Martin Luther King organize anything, or you know. So, you know, I wasn't involved in that. There were groups of the Southern Non-violent Coordinating Committee here in Rhode Island. There was one incident on Brown campus where I think those Civil Rights groups were quite active. We had very few members of minority students on campus at the time. There were probably two black students in my class at Pembroke and maybe two or three Asian students, and that was it. It was almost like.

DS/SW: Out of how many was that?

KS: Um, let's see, there were about three hundred kids in my class when we started, and it was almost like a quota system, you know. Um, and so there weren't more than about twenty or thirty black kids at Brown at all.

DS/SW: Do you think it was because of discrimination, or because, like, many people didn't apply there at Brown?

KS: Well, it's a combination. You know. Most minority students at the time came from places that were not unlike where minority students live now, meaning a disadvantaged neighborhood where they didn't get the kind of high school preparation that would qualify them to get into a place like Brown. So, in a way, the admissions office didn't have to be discriminatory, they just didn't get enough applications from people who were qualified who were of color to make a difference.

And so, those that were on campus first felt a tremendous desire to help in the Brown community and to try, you know, within Providence and Pawtucket, and around, East Providence, really, to try to help them in schools there, to get more kids to a point where they could be competitive in Ivy league or any other kind of college education.

But there was also, I think, the remnants of a quota system. Up until about World War II, Brown had a quota on the number of Jews it would admit. And so I think there was a relic to that, and you know, it was a very white middle class, upper class. Brown has been less upper class then places like Harvard and Yale. There is less old money at Brown as there has been at other places. But nevertheless, there are obvious signs of bias.

And so in the fall of 1968, all of the black students on campus organized a march and a walk-out, and they had a demonstration in front of the administration building, at University Hall, and then they walked out through the gates of Brown. I don't know if you have been out there to see.

DS/SW: No.

KS: Okay, there is a big gate at the edge of Brown that faces down the hill toward the city of Providence. They all walked out through the gate and went over to the Congdon Street Baptist Church, which was a black community Baptist church. And they stayed there until a series of demands that they had were met by the administrations, increasing the number of black students, and also to start Afro-American studies at Brown. And there were a number of campus SNCC leaders, and National Association of the, NAACP, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. A lot of those people were part of that rally, and organized that effort.

DS/SW:Did you follow any of the political and social issues while you were in high school or college, like Civil Rights, antiwar?

KS: Well, it was hard not to follow Civil Rights, because it was on television every night, you know, the police in Memphis, and Mississippi and Alabama, hosing and clubbing people who were sitting-in and so on.

I wasn't very active in high school. It was a difficult place to be active, and I wouldn't have known. It really took getting away from my parents and getting away from that environment and learning something to change. And so I did become politically active, we did demonstrate against the War and against the draft.

But in the fall of 1967, when Eugene McCarthy announced his candidacy for the presidency, a lot of us felt, well, here, at least, there is somebody who is part of the system that is willing to take a stand and change it. So a lot of us organized and sort of in the mainstream, and we went up to New Hampshire to campaign for "Clean Gene" in New Hampshire. I spent a couple of weekends I think in January and February of 1968 up in Manchester going door-to-door in working class neighborhoods, hoping that the dogs wouldn't bite me when I knocked on the door campaigning for McCarthy. I sort of wish I had been up there the night of the primary, but I wasn't, but you know he did very well in the primary in New Hampshire and for a while there was hope.

DS/SW: So when you left home did you change from your parent's political views of being a Republican?

KS: Oh yeah! Well, it always made me uncomfortable and it always bothered me the way they behaved and I couldn't see any good reason for it. And it was a lot easier, you know, when you are living at home with your parents, you know, not to raise too much of a stink, but it is a little easier and they don't know what you're doing. Which is one of the goals of getting away from Chicago, right?

DS/SW: What about women's rights, did you follow them, or?

KS: Um, did I or do I? I, you know, um, the Women's Rights Movements seem natural for me, cause it never occurred to me that I would ever do anything other then have a career. There were a lot of, it's an easy thing I think for a lot of my generation to say, well, it's perfectly acceptable just to be a wife and mother. And a lot of people in my class made that decision. They are in fact probably the age of your parents, right? Your parent's are in their late forties and fifties? You see, that's my generation, but it, you know, I didn't date enough and it never seemed like the kind of lifestyle I wanted to have myself. So it never occurred to me to do anything but to prepare myself for some kind of a career, even though I wasn't sure what it was going to be for a while, so I wasn't, you know, I wasn't what you would call a bra burning feminist, that was the, you know, that was the conservative nomenclature, for women who went out and didn't know their place. I didn't do that. On the other hand, I certainly tried not to fit into the conventional mold. It didn't seem right for me.

DS/SW:Did you ever think about the threat of nuclear war.

KS: Oh gosh, yes. It is impossible to grow up in the Fifties anywhere in this country without worrying about it. I don't know what your other people have told you, but even in Chicago, right in the middle of the country, there were people whose job it was to stand out in the fields around town with binoculars looking for Soviet planes and missiles, as if a Soviet plane or missile could get to Chicago without somebody in Canada or elsewhere in the United States noticing it on the way by.

And we had drills, at least once a month, you know, sort of like your fire drills. We had fire drills, too, but where the alarm would go off and the air-raid warning would go off in town, and we would all have to duck under our desks, as if being underneath a table like this is going to protect you if there is a nuclear explosion anywhere nearby.

And there was probably some cause for concern that if the Soviet government was going to launch a nuclear attack, they might do it near us, because Chicago was a, is a central railroad place. And disrupting railroads in Chicago would have probably discombobulated the whole country. So it wasn't entirely irrational, but our response to it was irrational. I mean, my God, if they are going to do that, they might as well just get fried at the beginning because it is going to be awful.

DS/SW: What was your understanding of the Cold War, like, what did you think that was?

KS: Well, you know, from my parent's point of view, and all the Republicans felt, you know, the forces of evil over there against the forces of good. And that is a lot of the thinking that went behind the Vietnam War. You know, the Domino Theory that all these Communists and Socialist governments were gradually creeping across the Earth, you know, the spread of the red tide, and then China fell, and then you know then they were after Vietnam. You know, who the hell cares about Vietnam, it wasn't exactly of strategic importance to the United States, and why we ever dug in our heels there, I'll never understand. Except it was a guy thing, I think, for Lyndon Johnson, you know, he didn't want his butt kicked in Vietnam.

But, I guess I got more sophisticated about it, once I got into college and learned a little bit more, that in fact, perhaps the Soviet wasn't as big and evil as a lot of people thought it was. On the other hand, all those nuclear arms which we still have and they still have, you know, and they're not paying very close attention. It is a very scary thing, so.

But, um, and then you get, then I ran into people who were communists, socialists. My best friend from high school went to Wellesley and she began hanging out and seeing the President of the SDS at Harvard, the Students for a Democratic Society, which was a socialist organization, and those people have been over the Soviet Union to transport it here, and it didn't seem like, you know, it seemed like a perfectly legitimate political view to have, even though I didn't agree with socialism itself, but it didn't seem like this great terrible awful thing to me.

DS/SW: Did you ever participate in a Peace Movement or any kind of anti-nuclear movement?

KS: Well, peace movement, you know, we did the antiwar demonstrations. Not, we were more oriented toward the peace movement where we were. We actually, I did more at Stanford when I was a graduate student on anti-nuclear kinds of things, not so much at Brown, as I recall.

DS/SW: Going back to your parents, did you feel that there was a generation gap in the Sixties, between your generations?

KS: Yeah, um and my parent's also were older then most parents. They had me in their late thirties. So that by the time I had grown up, they were fairly old. In some ways, they represented a generation that, they had grown up during the Depression, and so it was more of a generation gap for me then I think many of my friends. And I certainly had a sense that my parents and their friends just did not get it. And, but, I was far away.

DS/SW: Could you describe your wardrobe in the Sixties, and what did clothing fads reveal about yourself and other people?

KS: Well, things changed. When I came to Brown University in the fall of 1965, I was told that I must bring a hat and white gloves for the Dean's reception. I had to meet the dean dressed in a hat and white gloves. I still have the white gloves, as a matter of fact, it's the only pair I have ever owned. I occasionally wear them to weddings.

And when we went to football games, women wore suits, nylons and three inch spike heels with pointed toes, okay? That was what was expected of a lady. And that quickly changed, actually, but there were still many people in my class and in the classes ahead of me that dressed like that pretty much all the time.

At Brown, if women left the Pembroke campus to go on the Brown campus, we had to be wearing a skirt. The only exception to that was on the weekends, when we were allowed to wear trousers, but not jeans, to the library to study, and only if we had a full length trench coat over it, when we wore it. It was some stupid, you know, anachronism that you know, if we didn't dress properly, we would be a distraction to the Brown men. Well, the Brown men didn't, you know, they could be distracted no matter what you did, it didn't.

So, that's how things started, and we had [... -? ed.] rules. We had rules you could only entertain a man in your room from two to four on a Sunday afternoon with the door open. And dorms were, women were on this side of the street and men were on the other. But that changed.

By the time I was a senior, I was wearing slacks quite a bit, I don't think I ever wore, I wore bellbottoms, but not to class. I think I was still wearing skirts often, but not exclusively. And I wore slacks a lot. So it, I think the change in dress and the way we wanted to present ourselves said something, at least among my circle of friends, about what we thought was important and being the perfect model of the women wasn't really that important to me. There were other things that were more important, and if you are going to get arrested in an antiwar demonstration, you probably wouldn't want to be in high heels and nylons anyhow. So, it changed.

DS/SW: How did you feel about the use of drugs. Did you know anyone who did drugs?

KS: Um, well, when I got to Brown, alcohol was really big, but kids were experimenting with grass. I never knew anyone who took cocaine. LSD became to become prevalent during the 1960's and it was much more prevalent among really left-wing socialists type of people. People I knew at Harvard did it a lot more than people I ran around with at Brown. We were pretty clean. I think I only smoked pot in my life once, and that was in graduate school, because I didn't like smoking, it would make me cough, you know, it was sort of, it didn't seem worth it. But there were plenty of students. Actually alcohol was, and probably still is, more of a problem then drugs among the students at Brown and most students, I think.

DS/SW:You mentioned before that you could only have guys in your room from two to four, and the person I interviewed before said that before he went to Vietnam, that if you wanted to go out with a girl, you had to go to a desk in the dorm and then ask for her and she would come down, and when he came back, he was amazed because he could just go up there and, like, do whatever you wanted to do. Did you notice that?

KS: Well, that rule stayed, it was relaxed during my senior year, `68-'69. Men could go up to rooms at other hours, but it was monitored. Actually, the girl had to come down to the lobby. There is a switchboard it the lobby of each of the dorms.

I actually had a job through several years of college manning the switchboards. You know, there would be one phone on a floor, so a phone call would come into the dorm, and it would be for Suzy, and you had to know which floor Suzy was on, and then connect it to the telephone booth on her wing of the right floor, and if that one was busy, then the floor above it or the floor below, and people ran around, or announce it. There was a code. If a female came to visit Suzy, you would call on the intercom "Suzy, you have a visitor," if the visitor was a female. "Suzy you have a caller," if it was a male, and so Suzy would come down and would either greet the visitor in the lounge or if she agreed to take the visitor up, the caller would be greeted in the lounge, except on Sunday afternoon, and that did change. A lot of that change happened right after I left Brown, and so it sounds like your previous person's time in Vietnam sort of spans or probably was between about 1967 and 1969 or something.

DS/SW: Was that rule broken a lot? Did you always, like ,sneak people up or?

KS: Not too much. While the rule was in effect, and not too much. But once the prohibitions come down, they came down quite in a hurry and quite completely. You know, so there would be fire drills at one o'clock in the morning, and there would be nearly as many men coming out of the women's dorms as there were women and vice versa. And the first experiments in coed dormitories took place at Brown in the Fall of 1969, right after I graduated.

DS/SW:What were your favorite musical groups in the Sixties?

KS: Peter, Paul and Mary. I didn't really like the Beatles that much, they were okay, but I wasn't really a Beatles fan. I liked Bob Dylan, who wasn't a group, Joan Biaz, you know the ones who sort of contributed the songs that you would sing at antiwar rallies.

DS/SW: Did you watch TV often, and, like, what shows would you watch regularly if you did?

KS: You know, I remember watching TV in high school, but we weren't allowed to have TV's in our dorm rooms. There was one TV maybe in the lounge of your dormitory, but I never really watched TV once I got to college to be honest. And it wasn't till I got to graduate school four years later, you know, when I was living in my own apartment, that I had a TV again, so I really didn't watch during college. Every once in a while, there would be something of importance, you know, and we'd all run down to the TV in the dorm lounge and watch something important. But I really didn't watch TV during college.

DS/SW: What were the things that were important enough to see, like the assassination of JFK and things like that?

KS: Well I was in high school at that point. That was November of 1963, and you know, that is something that everybody calls a flashbulb memory because everybody who was alive at the time can tell you exactly when and how and where they were when they hard that Kennedy had been assassinated. But I was in high school. I was in Latin class, as a matter of fact. And I had, it was right after lunch in Chicago that we heard about it, and I remember there was talk on the stairwell, one of my friends rushed up and said that somebody had shot Kennedy and they didn't know if he was alive or not. And she was from a very strong Republican family who thought this was the most wonderful thing that had ever happened that this awful president had been shot. But we were in Latin class when the principal came over the intercom and told us that the president was dead.

DS/SW: Did your parents think, were they affected by that?

KS: Well, they sure didn't like assassination, it wasn't, you know, they, although they disagreed with Kennedy, they thought it was a bad thing that a president had died.

DS/SW: What instructor or course do you most remember and why?

KS: From high school or college?

DS/SW: Both.

KS: Um, lets see. In college I remember my first computer science course a lot, because I really liked it. And I also remember taking Introductory Psychology which was the first time I realized that even though I liked math, there were applications of mathematics and things that I hadn't really thought about before. So, that was really important.

And then I took a course from a faculty member who later was a sponsor for my honors thesis. I did an independent research project in my senior year, and he was the one who pointed me to graduate school. So there were a couple of important moments, mostly in college.

You know, in high school, I sort of went along and I did well in a lot of things, and I really liked math and science, but there was no one person or thing that really made a difference in high school.

DS/SW: Did you every attend any rallies?

KS: Such as? I mean there were always rallies for this that and the other things. I mean aside from antiwar rallies which we would occasionally have on the Green, teach-ins, there were, Hubert Humphrey came to Providence, you know. He was in the Biltmore Hotel, that was in the spring of 1968, and he was still running for the Democratic nomination. And we went down and rallied down across the street where they are building the ice skating rink now in Providence. We rallied there, but he never came out, we never saw him. It was an antiwar rally.

And at Brown, there were rallies on educational issues, which are not going to be real relevant to your project, but `68-'69 was the year that Brown made the decision to really change its undergraduate curriculum and that was largely student initiated thing and there were a lot of rallies about that at Brown.

DS/SW:Do you remember the Cuban Missile Crisis?

KS: I do. But I was so young at the time, it was 1961 or something like that, and I had just started high school. And I, it didn't really impinge me until later just how dangerous that situation was, and how close we had come to actually having something horrible happen, so I was a little bit too young for that one.

DS/SW: Could you describe your work experiences after college?

KS: Well, I went to graduate school and got a Ph.D. and what you do with a Ph.D. is you become a college teacher, usually, sometimes a high school teacher. And so I taught for a while at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and then Brown offered me a job to come back, and so I did that. And there is a natural progression of faculty members who start as what is called an assistant professor, and then you can get promoted to associated professor, and the full professor, which I did. And then you can become a department chairman, which I did, and then now I'm a dean, sort of like being a principal.

I got co-opted by the system. I'm sure there are many in my class who are still out planting rutabagas in Vermont, living in communes and stuff like that. I have just lost track of them.

DS/SW: Did you have a sense of the War in Vietnam and the War at home?

KS: Oh yeah, well definitely. I think I sort of told you. We knew what was happening in Vietnam, we knew, the Tet Offensive and all that kind of stuff, the taking of the Pueblo, and we were part of the War at home. You know, trying to make it stop, trying to make them think of something better to do, whether within the political system with McCarthy or outside of it.

DS/SW: Do you think that you had a positive impact on people, like, with doing the antiwar things or anything? And did you, like, feel you did something actually to prove to people or something?

KS: Um, you know, I can't point to any one person who's mind was changed, but I think certainly within the University, a lot of faculty members, because there were so many of us interested and involved, a lot of faculty members thought about their own positions and it heightened the level of awareness and it made a lot of other people ask questions too.

So it is not like I marched down to Washington and got Lyndon Johnson to pull out of Vietnam or anything like that. But I think as we did these activities, it began to make a lot of people who wouldn't normally have thought about what was going on over there more aware of what was going on and to think twice about whether it was the right thing to do or not.

DS/SW: Going back to Civil Rights, how did you feel about the desegregation of public schools?

KS: Oh, I thought that was really important, really important. And you know, I couldn't imagine how by law somebody, why you would discriminate against black people. You know, but in a way at the time, it was, because I had never been in a segregated school, it was, I felt a lot, you know, because I had sort of this privileged white upbringing. And so in someways, I felt a little, why would anybody believe me when I say this because certainly I haven't lived it or done it myself, but then I didn't have an opportunity to do that.

DS/SW: What about Martin Luther King's leadership how did you feel about that?

KS: He was courageous and very effective. And he frightened a lot of people. I know my parents were afraid of what he represented. I think they thought that he was going to lead the blacks in this country on some sort of a violent revolution no matter what his rhetoric was. They sort of didn't trust him, and so. But what he did was incredible.

DS/SW: What about Black Power and Black Panther Party, and?

KS: That was scary. You know, that was really scary. I think my own orientation was sort of a peaceful, nonviolent approach. Which is why I resonate more to Martin Luther King than I ever did to Stockley Carmichael or Mike Brown, or any of those people. They were more active, actually out in California. When I went to graduate school, there was more of that happening out there then there was on the East Coast, you know, when I was an undergraduate here.

DS/SW: When did you first become aware of the War in Vietnam?

KS: Well, it was hard to avoid on the evening news, even during the early Sixties to mid-Sixties. But, I think it wasn't `til I got to college that I really understood what was going on there, and I began to see how it affected the lives of people that I knew who were being drafted and stuff like that. And people who had graduated from high school with me began getting killed, you know.

DS/SW: So, did you disapprove of the US involvement in Vietnam?

KS: Yes.

DS/SW:Did you know anyone who got drafted, or was, like, fearing anyone who?

KS: Well, yeah, I knew a lot of people who got drafted. Some of them successfully avoided it, some of them went and got killed, some of them went and came back. You know, by the time I graduated from college, they had instituted really a full court press to get draftable young men. You could avoid the draft while you were in college, and then in graduate school.

But my own husband, for example, the first year that we were in graduate school, and I had just met him then, I didn't know him when I was at Brown, they instituted a system where they drafted people by birthday, so they would, they had a draft lottery, and they put all three hundred and sixty five days of the year in, and then they picked out the first one and saw all the people who were born on whatever day of the year got their draft notices first, and you had a draft number. If your birthday was the ninety first day, and maybe they wouldn't get that far. You know, and it seemed to us that he was born in December, also, it seemed to us that when they put the draft dates, or the birthday dates into a bin, they put the January ones in first, then February, and all, and the December ones were on top, because most, many of the first numbers drawn were December birth dates. They forgot to crank it up and turn it around.

And he was really lucky. He had a congenital back injury from when he was like two years old that was documented, it wasn't just a dodge, and they ended up not taking him, but he actually went through a draft physical.

DS/SW: Did you think that draft dodging was morally correct or it was moral that , if you didn't have like a reason for not going?

KS: Well, I thought the people who took principled stands against the draft were right to have done that.

DS/SW: What about the people who, like, said they had flat feet or whatever, you know, like?

KS: Well, if they had flat feet, that was the Army's decision, basically. I mean in some sense, my husband is an able bodied human being and was back then, but the Army wanted no part of him. They were afraid something would go wrong and he would be incapacitated. Occasionally he does get a crook in his back and is incapacitated, but I didn't then and I still don't believe that you should lie to get out of it.

DS/SW: So, like, if you were just scared then you thought that it was incorrect, if you were scared to try and dodge it?

KS: Yes, but I also thought that people who thought that the draft was wrong and the War was wrong also had an obligation to make that known outside of just, you know, not wanting to be drafted.

DS/SW: Do you know anyone who served in Vietnam or was killed in the War?

KS: Yeah, a couple of guys who were killed. But I, and there were some guys who left Brown, were drafted and left Brown. I didn't know them particularly well. Most of the people I know are principled objectors and conscientious objectors. And one guy I knew fled to Canada, and worked for the Red Cross up there, but I didn't know too many guys who went and came back. Because by the time they came back, I was out of college.

DS/SW: Was there anyone that was related to you that had to go to Vietnam?

KS: No.

DS/SW: Did your opinion of the War change as time went on, at all?

KS: Um, I, it certainly never got any better. I mean, once I sort of became politicized, I thought it was a bad thing and continued to think it was a bad thing until it was ended.

DS/SW: Do you think that if you had stayed with your family and not gone to college you weren't like so, how do you say it, you weren't, like, shown how like the other side and more democratic and liberal, do you think that you would have the same views you do now?

KS: Probably not, probably not.

DS/SW: What were your feelings about birth control and, like, the Pill. Did you think it was, like, bad thing or a good thing?

KS: I thought that birth control was a good thing even though I didn't want to practice it myself at the time. I mean, I thought that was something that all women should have the right to have if they wanted to have it. I wasn't prepared to make decisions for other people. Eventually, when I got married, I did use birth control. I couldn't afford to have any babies in graduate school.

DS/SW: How did you feel when you saw Vietnam vets come home and they were, like, handicapped from being in the War, and, like, in wheelchairs and everything. What was your response to that?

KS: I felt awful. I mean I thought, you know, how could this country make them go through that?

DS/SW: So like, a waste of life?

KS: Yeah.

DS/SW: Do you feel that the veterans were treated with respect and courtesy when they came back?

KS: I think individuals were, but we never honored the veterans of the Vietnam War the way we have for other wars that this country has fought, and I think that has probably hurt many of them psychologically. I mean, they could never quite come to terms. Because so many people objected to the War, you know, I don't think any of us who objected to the War thought less of them. I will say that some people who were gung-ho for the War and were out there to shoot "gooks" over in Vietnam, I was, polite but not warm to them when they came back, but so many of them went because they had to, and a lot of terrible things happened to them.

DS/SW: Alright, there is a bunch of other things next that, just tell us which made an impression on you in 1968. The acceleration of the Vietnam War conflict, like the US bombing of North Vietnam, and shooting the Vietcong, and the Tet Offensive.

KS: Yeah, well that had an effect on everybody who was politically active. And we hoped that we could elect Eugene McCarthy so he would stop all that. I mean, that was sort of in the background, but there were you know some really key events in 1968 like Lyndon Johnson announcing that he wasn't going to run for president again. That was incredible, and what you, I went home for spring break the spring of 1968, so I was in Chicago. I remember watching Lyndon Johnson make that announcement at home, on the TV, with my parents. And, they were ecstatic, because they hated, he was a Democrat and they didn't like him, and all that kind of thing. And they thought, oh this is great, cause now a Republican can be president. And I remember thinking, you know, this is a great relief cause now Eugene McCarthy can be the Democratic nominee.

And later that week, Martin Luther King was assassinated. And we had gone down to downtown Chicago, my parents and I, for dinner for some reason, I can't remember why, but we did. So we had driven about twenty miles into downtown Chicago. And we knew that he had been assassinated, but what we didn't know was that the entire west and southwest sides of Chicago had flared up in riots. You know, and things were burning, and it was the one time I actually saw my Dad scared to drive home because we had to go on the freeway sort of through that area. You know, just "swish" like that and hope that the car wouldn't break down or something. That was really scary, just seeing the west side of Chicago up in smoke, and people running around, and hearing the crackling of gun fire, just so, you know, that was incredible and you know, you sort of just didn't know. It was sort of like the whole world order was beginning to crumble.

DS/SW:What about when Robert Kennedy was assassinated?

KS: That was the rest of the world order starting to crumble. I had a job that summer, starting to do research for this professor who was the one who encouraged me to go to graduate school, so between my junior and senior year in the summer of `68, I stayed in Providence. And I remember the only TV that I had access to was in the Student Union Building at Brown, and I had heard over the radio that Kennedy had been assassinated the night before. And so I went over to the Student Union and a lot. some kids who were sticking around for the summer, were watching and it was, you know, people were in tears. It was like chaos in this country; the slums are going up in smoke and our political leaders are either falling by the wayside or being killed.

And at that point, you know, it wasn't entirely clear who was going to be the democratic nominee for president, you know because, you know, Johnson was out of it, Bobby Kennedy had won a lot of votes, but now he was dead, and then there was always George Wallace, who you know, that was scary to think of him having anything to say about anything in this country. And it wasn't clear that McCarthy could pull it together. And then there was Humphrey, just this great mass gelatinous mass, you know, no backbone, that you could discern. And so, I was working, you know, at Brown over the summer, and I went home at the end of the summer, in August, to Chicago, which is the Democratic National Convention. I'm sorry, am I taking too much of your time?

DS/SW: Oh no, no. Could you describe that?

KS: Well, I had gone home with the intention of going down and joining the demonstrations in Grant Park, that was one of the reasons I went home at that point. And my parents had a fit when I told them I wanted to go down, and they said, "There nothing but a bunch of commie-rabble rousers!" you know, "they are trouble makers," and so I didn't go down the first night, and that was the night that the Chicago police began beating people, and I realized that because of my age, the way I dressed, and the length of my hair, if I went down there, you know, I could have even been killed, so I didn't go.

DS/SW: Good choice!

KS: Well, it was the safe choice, but it wasn't a good choice necessarily.

DS/SW: You mentioned Governor George Wallace's campaign, could you describe?

KS: You know, he was running on the state's rights platform, basically. And it was a secessionist view, I mean it was the same view that brought us the Civil War, and that is what the states wanted to talk priority, and I, that I just thought was an anathema `cause clearly what he wanted to do was discriminate against black people. And you know, we have a political process in this country, but we are all in it together. So I didn't think that state's rights was a very good idea, I sure hated George Wallace and the politics that he represented and the racism that he represented. And, I thought that he really upset the political process, it is not clear what would have happened in the election of 1968 if he hadn't been part of that.

DS/SW: What about the Columbia University sit-in, and the student agitation during the War and?

KS: You know, we sympathized with the Columbia students, but I think the general feeling among people I was with at Brown was that taking over the Administration building probably was too much of a good thing, and that it lost the attention or goodwill of people who we wanted to have the goodwill of. So you know, we would have teach-ins and so on, and a lot of the Brown faculty would participate, and the administrators at least were aware of concern, you know, on campus, but I think we stopped short of really threatening them.

I was more aware of what happened up at Harvard, because several of my friends were involved in the sit-in at Harvard. They took over the administration building there, you know, and were arrested and beaten, and were disciplined. One of them got thrown out of school and after a while, he eventually went back and got his degree, but not for a couple of years. And basically, those kinds of things were designed to get the attention of the power structure, and the administrations at places like Brown and Harvard were the power structure. And to get them to care about what was going on, and so, there was always a question about how much the ends justified the means, and whether in fact your ever achieved the ends if you went overboard on the means.

DS/SW: How about Hubert Humphrey's campaign?

KS: Oh, you know, he was the lesser of two evils. But I never supported him and I never campaigned for him. Once he got the nomination, I sort of ended my political involvement because I really couldn't support the man. Surely he was preferable to Richard Nixon, the irony is that I turned twenty approximately one month after the 1968 election. I mean, I wasn't able to vote in it because the didn't change the voting age till later, so I never go to vote in the election. The first time I voted for George McGovern in 1972. I've talked too long.

DS/SW: How about the election of Richard Nixon?

KS: Oh, that was so depressing. Because if you had studied his political background at all, you knew what kind of morals the man had, which was none at all, and that became quite clear. And there had been intimations about Spiro Agnew, right along, and it later turned out to be true and worse. You know that he as was crook from the word `go.'

{Cheers from outside]

So, you know, I suppose it would have been better if Humphrey had won. I was really depressed when Nixon won. But well, my father had died on November 1st, a few days before the election, so I wasn't paying much attention to that.

DS/SW: What about the Women's Lib demonstration of the Miss American Pageant. Did you recall that?

KS: No really, no. I didn't pay any attention to the Miss American Pageant. So that one just went past me, right?

DS/SW: How did the expulsion of the Olympic athletes for their Black Power solute during the playing of the National Anthem at the medals ceremonies, or?

KS: Yeah, I know, in Mexico City, well, I thought that was, I mean, I thought they had every right to do that. I guess I kind of wished the hadn't done it, but they had every right to do it, and I thought that it was really a repressive thing to strip them of their medals for doing that. And it didn't seem like the American thing to do.

DS/SW: What about the Space Program and the circling of the moon by the US astronauts?

KS: Well, that was really exciting because I always wanted to be an astronaut even though I knew I never would. The circling of the moon, I think, was less of an event for me then the subsequent summer when Neil Armstrong actually landed on the moon. So, you know, that wasn't a major event in my life, actually. Although that was over at Christmas time, right? 1968? Yeah, cause they did a Christmas broadcast from up there and I remember they read parts of the New Testament, while circling the moon. That's all I remember about it.

DS/SW: Overall, how would you say the Sixties effected you and the United States in general?

KS: Um, well obviously, it really changed what I am. But, and it changed the United States, too because you now have a whole generation of people who were your age during the Sixties who thought they could take over and make a difference. And you know, so now we're your obnoxious parents, and you know, it is your turn.

DS/SW: What were the most important changes of the Sixties, and what did you think was the most positive and the most negative?

KS: Um, I think politically, one of the most important things about the Sixties is that the traditional political parties tended to lose their sort of death-grip on politics in this country, that you no longer had to be part of a Democratic political machine, or a Republican, but there was actually debate in this country. And to some extent, it broke down regularity and orderliness, and that really flummoxed a lot of people like my parents who like things predictable and it wasn't predictable. And the free love and all that stuff, I think it changed sexual mores in this country a lot and not all of it for good, you know, in the sense that we now have to worry about AIDS and a whole bunch of other things, but, it is hard to say. For me at least, you know, it turned me from not having a clear career goal to having one.

DS/SW: Some people feel that drug use and the counter-culture was the most important aspect of the 1960's, and others feel that aspect is overplayed in the media. What do you think?

KS: I think the counter-culture and the drug culture was a symptom of other things that were happening that were much more important than that itself. It was an expression of how some people viewed authority, and the way they wanted to live their lives. But by itself, it didn't cause the changes. I think there were other things that caused the changes and this country was just ready to change. We had gotten done with all the World War II things, the Happy Fifties thing, and so a lot of things that needed to change did change, women's rights, Civil Rights, and all that stuff, and some people were smoking dope while they did it.

DS/SW: How would you compare the presidency of Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon?

KS: Um, well, Kennedy, I don't think was president long enough for us to really know what his real impact would have been. You know there was a certain glamour associated with that, and it still, you know, we still see it when we talk about the Kennedy family, and Patrick Kennedy, and the Kennedy estate.

In some ways, Lyndon Johnson was a much more effective president because he had all the experience in the Senate and was able to manipulate the system for his own ends. In many ways, he manipulated it for the good in that he signed, I don't think any other president would have gotten the Civil Rights Bill through Congress, or had the nerve to sign it.

And you know, starting the Great Society, you know, social good in this country was a good thing. On the other hand, he had this amazing near-sightedness about the War which somehow just didn't fit with the rest of what he did, and I think really detracted from an overall assessment of his presidency. He was a crass and crude man, he didn't have the media style that Kennedy had.

And Nixon I thought was hopeless. I mean, he lied and cheated his way through his presidency and nobody was happier than I was when he had to resign.

DS/SW: Has the change in women's rights and position in society been positive or negative, and do you think we have gone too far or not far enough?

KS: In women's rights?

DS/SW: Uh-huh.

KS: Um, I think it has been very positive. There are so many options even for someone like me that my mother never had. And we're not quite there yet, but we're working on it. You know, there is still a pay gap between what women make and men make for the same jobs, but there is ever so much more opportunity now. And women can have it all, they can do both, have a family and have a job.

DS/SW: What do you think African-Americans have accomplished since they started the Civil Rights Movement, and do you think racism is still a problem?

KS: I think racism is a problem because people always are distrustful of people that they don't know and whose culture they don't understand. We have made tremendous strides, I mean, affirmative action did a lot for this country in terms of improving communication and the opportunities for people from different races, but also different socio-economic statues to come together. We're not there yet, either, you know. We still have the south side of Providence and the projects and kids there who never get a good education because of where they live and where they grew up. That's wrong.

DS/SW: When the War finally ended, what were your feelings?

KS: Well, I was awfully glad that the War ended. I thought it was way too late, but at least we did it, and I suppose we can give Richard Nixon some credit for that. I think we can give Henry Kissinger more credit, as much as we all hated Henry Kissinger.

Henry Kissinger was the commencement speaker at Brown's graduation in my graduating year, June 1969. And I was so ticked at Henry Kissinger because of the War that many of us were wearing white arm bands tied around our black robes on the graduation, and when he got up, we stood up and turned our backs when he spoke. They were afraid we were going to riot. We weren't going to riot, but we did do something else that was impolite, but maybe it sent him a message, and maybe that's one reason he saw a lot of people objecting to what was happening in Vietnam and they finally got it fixed.

DS/SW: Has your opinion of the War changed from then to now?

KS: That we shouldn't have done it? No, it hasn't changed.

DS/SW: Have you visited the Vietnam War Memorial or seen a replica of it?

KS: Yeah, I've been there.

DS/SW: What was your response to it?

KS: Well, it is a very moving thing. You say what a waste, all those lives.

DS/SW: How do you feel about young people like us still striving to answer questions about American involvement and the Vietnam War, and the whole decade of the 1960's?

KS: Well, I think it is really important. You need to know how we got to where we are so you can go forward [cries]. Sorry, 1968 was a terrible year.

DS/SW: What advice would you give to us?

KS: Well, at your age, what we discovered early when we were your age, was that sometimes people who look at things with a fresh perspective have a lot to say. And what I don't see is students your age speaking up, and so I really wish that you would do that if you see injustice.

DS/SW: Okay. Thank you very much.

Glossary Words On This Page
affirmative action
Spiro Agnew
air raid
AP, Associated Press
Neil Armstrong
The Beatles
birth control
Black Panthers
black power
David Brinkley
civil rights
Clean for Gene
Cold War
conscientious objector
Cuban Missile Crisis
Richard Daley
domino theory
draft dodging
Bob Dylan
free love
generation gap
Barry Goldwater
Grant Park
Great Society
Hubert Humphrey
Chet Huntley
Lyndon B. Johnson
John F. Kennedy
Robert F. Kennedy
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Henry Kissinger
LSD, "acid"
Eugene McCarthy
George McGovern
Richard M. Nixon
The Pill
Red Cross
Tet Offensive
Viet Cong
George C. Wallace

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