I just returned from four days at my alma mater, where the annual convocation and reunion celebrated 80 years of women at YDS. I am still unpacking the images, the feelings, the thoughts, and the treasures of the experience.
I was emboldened and ignited by the tales of overcoming discrimination and firmly claiming a place in the Church and in the Academy from women a generation before me. It’s hard to believe that just decades ago – memories and experiences of women still living – there were quotas that only allowed ten women to attend the school. There were lectures from the dean that the women should be aware of all the men that were kept out of the school to allow their admission, all the “slots” they took up. There were scholarships lost upon the occasion of marriage. There was a sit-in in a men’s restroom because the only woman’s restroom on campus was three flights of stairs and an entire hallway away from the study spaces in the library. Women recalled being the first or second ordained in their tradition and the struggles that went along with that. There were no female faculty, no mentors when women first started. The history is not ancient; it is still right here, graspable.
I felt a little as though I was about 30 years late for the party. The struggle, commitment, energy of the women’s movement at YDS (and other institutions too, I’m sure) seemed so vital, and I felt as though I was surveying the results after the dust has settled, picking through the rubble and making sense of it all. What will the next generation of women think of our era? Will they see us as a chapter in the same book? Or as a dormant era of complacency? What will our legacy be?
As the airplane lifted out of Hartford, the Connecticut, I looked at the leaves on the trees turning vivid shades of red, gold, and amber. The landscape was striking, bold colorful strokes across the hillsides, crisp and stark. Then wisps of clouds reached out and soon all was hidden by the blinding white blanket of cover. I hope the vision of this experience doesn’t recede as quickly.
Angela Batie Carlin received her MDiv from Yale in 2007 and now serves on their Alumni Board. She is overwhelmed with gratitude for the women who paved the way.