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Katherine Ann Watson has accepted a position teaching art history at the prestigious Wellesley College. Watson is a very modern woman, particularly for the 1950s, and has a passion not only for art but for her students. For the most part, the students all seem to be biding their time, waiting to find the right man to marry. The students are all very bright and Watson feels they are not reaching their potential. Altough a strong bond is formed between teacher and student, Watson's views are incompatible with the dominant culture of the college. Written by
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All her life, she had wanted to teach at Wellesley College. So, when a position opened in the Art History department, she pursued it single-mindedly until she was hired. It was whispered that Katherine Watson, a first-year teacher from Oakland State, made up in brains what she lacked in pedigree. Which was why this bohemian from California was on her way to the most conservative college in the nation.
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The end credits for the prominent cast and crew are set in front of vintage footage and advertisements showing women in the 1940s and 50s. See more »
A disappointing picture of Wellesley College in 1953
As a graduate of Wellesley College, 1952, I was eager to see the movie. For a while I thought maybe it was supposed to be a satire. I had read reviews but no one mentioned satire. It was so ludicrous, so over the top, so busy giving us stereotypes, and so far from my experience that it was depressing. I didn't mind the Julia Roberts character although she is probably anachronistic. Certainly those young women, so well dressed for classes, talking back to her in well thought out sentences full of vitriol were figments of Hollywood's imagination. I remember no courses offered, either in classrooms or rooms in dorms or faculty housing, on "poise," proper table setting, etc. And nowhere in the movie did any of the girls discuss ideas (except in the art class). The nighttime dormitory sessions were all about men, getting husbands, and pointing fingers at Giselle, the "whore." In actuality, we used to stay up late discussing ideas, and we were passionate about such things as academic freedom.
The plush dormitory rooms were more figments of Hollywood's imagination. Our rooms were of the bare bones variety. I remember bringing a comfortable chair of my own from home.
I loved my art history and music appreciation courses. They changed my life. I had known nothing of art before Wellesley and only the Warsaw Concerto for classical music. But those two courses informed my life and have stayed with me all these years, enriching my experience. I had a career as a high school English teacher and my literature courses were wonderful for that purpose and for expanding my reading. But the art and music courses were special.
Good acting; good costumes for the most part; the people looked authentic for the times (except too dressed up for class; we wore skirts and blouses, no blue jeans). It was nice to see some of the beautiful campus. I don't remember ever taking part in hoop rolling, daisy chain, the opening day ceremony in front of the chapel.
Finally, what was the point of making such a movie today? To suggest how far we've come from the 1950s? To ridicule what was then? After all, there was much that was good. I mean I feel so lucky to have been able to go to a place like Wellesley even if it was for the privileged. It certainly was not as conservative as the movie depicted; nor was it a "finishing school." Professors were continually opening our minds to more and more knowledge. The canon then may have been mostly men (we read almost all male writers in our English courses, but that's how it was). What was wonderful, however, was being with all women, being able to speak up freely in class, being able to win positions of authority in extra curricular organizations like the college newspaper. Not having to compete with men.
I was really disappointed, In the Women's Room after the movie, I questioned everyone there...there were a couple my age or a little younger and then a few a generation or more younger. Everyone had liked the movie! One young woman tried to tell me it wasn't just about Wellesley; they were depicting the 50s in general. But the fact is the 50s in general were not that dismal!
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