Judy Ewell, W&M Professor Emerita of History
Judy Ewell arrived at William & Mary in 1971, not as a student but as professor of History. During her 30-plus years at William & Mary, Ewell fought on behalf of equal pay for women, contributed to the development of the international studies curriculum, and received the Thomas Jefferson Award and the Commonwealth of Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award. She served as Chair of the History Department from 1991-1998.
In her interview, Ewell discusses the experience of being one of two women in the History Department when she arrived at William & Mary. However, she states that it was “not very hierarchical…it wasn’t a kind of department in which they threw their weight around and their voice mattered more than…an untenured person’s voice.” Her time at William & Mary, while very successful, was not without challenges. Ewell spent a decent portion of the 1990s in which she went back and forth with administration over the discrepancies between her pay and that of her male colleagues. She expresses a hope that William & Mary will become “a leader in liberal arts, broad education, and promoting diversity, promoting openness, promoting thinking, and tolerance…”
William & Mary
Interviewee: Judith Ewell
Interviewer: Carmen Bolt
Interview Date: June 15, 2017 Duration: 1:20:12
Carmen: My name is Carmen Bolt, the oral historian at William & Mary. It’s currently around noon on June 15, 2017. I’m sitting in the Alumni House with Judy Ewell. Now what is the date and the place of your birth, and what years did you teach at William & Mary?
Judith: Okay, I was born in, actually, I guess it’s Northampton County. I think of it as being Accomack County, since that’s where I really lived, but born in Nassawadox, Virginia. And I…let’s see, I always lived on the Eastern Shore until I picked up and left and went to college and then went out to California to teach high school. And I was…have been at William & Mary or was at William & Mary from 1971 until I retired in 2004.
Carmen: Thank you. And before we jump into that time at William & Mary, let’s back up, and will you tell me about how you were raised? You said you were raised on the Eastern Shore.
Carmen: So can you tell me a little bit of how you were raised and what your family was like?
Judith: Ah, okay. Well, I have one brother, who actually I just saw last weekend. He lives in Denver now, so I don’t see him that much. And my father was a farmer. He had been a school teacher earlier on, but he decided that he’d rather do farming. And then my mother also had been a teacher briefly. But those were the days in which a man didn’t like his woman, his wife to work outside the home because then people would think he couldn’t support her. So she—that didn’t mean she didn’t work. She worked on the farm all over the place and did a lot of stuff.
But we…both my parents were the first in their families to go to university. And from the time I was a little kid they would ask me, now where are you going? My mother had gone to Duke and my father had gone to University of Richmond. And they would say are you going to Duke or are you going to University of Richmond?
00:01:58 And when I was trying to be really diplomatic, I would say, well, I’m going to Goldey’s because both of them had done some business courses at Goldey-Beacom in Wilmington, Delaware. [Laughs.] But I did end up going to Duke finally. But it was a nice place to grow up. My high school class, graduating class, had just 34 in the class. And we were in the same building, and with a lot of the same people from first grade through the 12th grade, so it was very sheltered.
And in fact on the Eastern Shore the Bridge Tunnel was not built until, I think, in about the last 1950s, and my mother always got seasick, so if we were driving somewhere and were trying to go to a city for something like getting braces or whatever, we’d always go north to Salisbury, Maryland, because she didn’t want to have to go on the ferry across to Norfolk.
Carmen: I guess that’s understandable, but yeah, a little more difficult to get to and from, it sounds like, during that day.
Carmen: But did you enjoy growing up on the Eastern Shore?
Judith: I did. I did. Very much.
Carmen: And both of your parents were at one point school teachers. Is this why you chose to go into higher education?
Judith: Well, I think at that point there weren’t so many choices, or women or girls didn’t perceive that they had so many choices. It seemed you could be a nurse or you could be a teacher. And I guess the teacher was…I wasn’t so big on blood, so I thought maybe a teacher would be the better thing.
Carmen: I’m sure teachers see blood sometimes, but, yeah, probably not as—
Judith: [Laughs.] Right.
Carmen: —often as someone in the nursing field. Well, what about college? Was that something that was discussed and hoped for? Because you said it was between your parents’ alma maters, it was up in the air where you were going to go. So did you always know you were going to?
Judith: Yes, uh-huh. And it’s interesting. I think my father, he was very good about getting along with anybody on the Eastern Shore. He would…he wouldn’t use proper grammar, and he’d go I ain’t doing this, and I’m doing that, and he said he didn’t want to talk too properly because then people would think he had airs or he was putting on airs.
00:04:02 And they did, I think, a good job with me in terms of saying, now you don’t put on airs, and you’re not better than other people, and you may have a little more money than other people, but you’re not letting people know that. But you are going to college. You are different and you’re not like… And there were very few in my graduating class who did go to college. I think there were maybe three or four of us.
So yeah, it was expected from the get-go that I was going to college. Now my brother didn’t take the lesson quite as well. He was never very bookish. He was younger than I and never much liked school. And he went maybe for one year to college and kind of flunked out and then went in the Air Force. So the lesson took with me, but not with him.
Carmen: Sure. And so you went to Duke.
Carmen: How did you choose your program of study?
Judith: In one sense I decided to major in history because it was like not deciding, that you could still do—I liked political science, I liked sociology, I liked writing, I liked reading, and I thought with history you can do all of this. You can do political history, you can do economic history, you can do social history, you’re still going to have to write.
And plus at that point it was easier to get jobs as history teachers maybe than—or if I did, I guess I did a social science background so I had enough political science and sociology that in theory I could have taught things like that. But history seemed to be the thing. And I did a secondary school certification.
Carmen: Great. I like the language you’re speaking here. I graduated and got a degree in history as well, so I totally agree with you.
Carmen: There’s so many options in history. Some people don’t think so, but I agree. So how did you end up, then, focusing in on Latin American history?
Judith: Well, sometimes people ask me, and there must have been something that I read as a child or, you know, a teenager that got me interested in Latin America because I remember in high school doing a little term paper on Simon de Bolivar. I don’t know where that came from. And then as an undergraduate at Duke I didn’t trust the high school French I’d taken so I started taking Spanish, and ended up taking three years of Spanish at Duke.
And since I was doing that, I took two courses in Latin American history from John Tate Lanning, who was one of the real pioneers in Latin American history in the U.S., and was just a wonderful—talk about a storyteller and a raconteur—he was really quite wonderful.
But of course looking at history and secondary school teaching, Latin America wouldn’t have been a specialty, so I had lots of American history and European history as well. So my first interest in Latin America came from some deep, dark recesses of my childhood and then were kind of improved, I guess, at college.
00:07:01 And then I went, after I graduated I went to Bakersfield, California and taught high school for a couple of years. And in theory, in California you were supposed to have a master’s to be certified. And I was taking some courses at night, and I didn’t really like doing that after I’d worked all day. I was a real wuss. And so I decided I was just going to go back and get a master’s all at one time.
And by the time I decided to do that, by then I would have been a citizen of California, so I could have gone to a California school with little or no tuition, but I waited too late to apply. So driving back and forth across the country to get to Bakersfield, I had driven through Albuquerque, New Mexico and I thought, oh, this looks interesting, bars on both sides of the road and then kind of a weird looking place, and Hispanic architecture. So just on a whim I applied to New Mexico.
00:07:58 And I thought, at the time, well, they had a good program in Latin American history and so I said, well, I’m just going to do that, then, rather than American history, because then if I want to go into the State Department or do something other than teaching high school, I’ll have a little bit more of a specialty. And plus I already know Spanish, so they wouldn’t make me take another language.
So I got there intending just to do a master’s in Latin American history. And I was there for one year, and then my mother became ill at the end of that year, so I came back to the Eastern Shore. And she died at the end of that summer. Then I went back to New Mexico intending to finish my master’s. And I often think when, all the times I’ve told students, now you have to plan these things out carefully, I mean, a lot of mine was just serendipity.
I was talking to my advisor and planning to take—I think I needed another course, and maybe I needed to do my master’s thesis—and he said, well, you’ll take this and this and this, and then you’ll take the Portuguese exam in the spring. And I said oh, yes, and I walked out.
00:08:58 And I thought, what do I need a Portuguese exam for? I’ve already got Spanish. I don’t need the Portuguese exam. So I went back the next day and I said, Dr. [Louie], do you mean I’m in the doctoral program? And he said oh yes, of course. So he had just, you know, picked me up and decided I would go in the doctoral program.
So I never got the master’s, I just, I had enough coursework I just did the coursework and passed the Portuguese exam. And so I was just there for two years of coursework and then off to do dissertation research. So very little of my life has been planned out, so I feel exceedingly lucky that things have turned out as well as they did.
Carmen: Sure. That’s a fantastic story—
Carmen: —and wow.
Judith: And, you know, it’s interesting. I did a little autobiographical thing. The Latin American Studies Association last year had a panel on so-called pioneer women in Latin American studies, and I was supposed to be one of them. And some of the other women talked about their experiences when they’d gotten their degrees. And they were getting degrees from Wellesley and Harvard and what do I know?
00:10:00 And they had a terrible time getting jobs. People didn’t want to hire women back in the 1960s. And I thought, well gosh—or people also didn’t want them in graduate school. And here I was, without even knocking at the door, having the door just open so much that I nearly fell on my face in going in. So I have led a charmed life.
Carmen: Yeah, that is incredible. I can imagine many a hopeful Ph.D. wishing that they would be…someone in their life would just….
Judith: Oh, yeah.
Carmen: Take that initiative and put them into that program. But that’s great. I mean, it obviously was the defining moment in your life because you then got your Ph.D. and…
Carmen: So what was the next step? After getting your Ph.D. in Latin American history, what was next?
Judith: Well, let’s see. I had gone to Venezuela and did my research in Venezuela, and then I was back home on the farm on the Eastern Shore writing up the dissertation.
00:11:00 When, as it turned out, there was a temporary visiting position that came up here at William & Mary for the spring of ’71. And my advisor found out about it and said oh, get your name in the hat here. And so I got my name in the hat. And actually, my stepmother had a brother who had been very close to Carter Lowance, I think, who was the academic vice president at that time. They’d been active together in Republican politics. And he said oh, I’ll call Carter Lowance and tell them they really need to hire you. And I said well, okay, a little pull, how can that hurt?
And I didn’t realize until later it was likely the kiss of death to the history department to have the academic vice president, a Republican, coming in and saying you really need to hire this person. So they hired me in spite of that. But I came over. I was cheap to interview. They just had to, you know, I had to drive over from the Eastern Shore. And the interview was something that, again, wouldn’t happen today.
00:11:59 The fellow who was the acting chair of the department was not really the power behind the throne. But I first talked to him and he said, well, I’ve never read a book on Latin America and I never intend to. And I thought, okay, I guess he’s not going to be quizzing me on the content of my work.
And then we went out to lunch, and the guy who was really the power behind the throne, Ludwell Johnson, who just recently passed away, and Lud came in and he immediately said, oh, I’ve had a bad morning, I’m going to have a martini for lunch. And I said, well, me too. And the other guy, the acting chair, was looking, you know, what’s going on here?
I mean, you would never do that today on your job interview, going to lunch and having a martini. But I think that kind of wooed Lud over. And then he also said that he thought that the department needed to have more Virginians, that he was very big on Virginia and Virginia history, although he had been born in West Virginia, and there was only one other Virginian in the department.
00:12:58 So I joke I was an affirmative action hire because they needed more Virginians in the department. [Laughs.] So I was hired just for that one semester. And then in the meantime the person who had the regular job, the regular Latin American job, took another position and so they kept me on the following year on a visiting basis, and then kept me on later.
And at the time I came I hadn’t finished the dissertation, but I did, in that summer of ’71, finish a draft and send it off. And then of course it got sent back with requests for revisions, and I got that all done. So I think at the point that I got that done, then they decided I hadn’t scared the horses and I could have a martini for lunch, so maybe I could stay.
Carmen: Thank you. You might be the only one to have ordered a martini at lunch, but I imagine a lot of people, on their job interview day, would like to have a martini.
Judith: [Laughs.] Right. At least after it’s over.
Carmen: Yes, absolutely. So the position then was for Latin American history specifically.
Judith: Right. And actually, again, I didn’t fit what they needed. When they first had started this Latin American position, they wanted something that fit nicely with Colonial—what I call Colonial—monolingual America, the early American history program. And the person whose position I was taking had been a colonialist. He’d done Colonial Latin America. And I did 19th and 20th century Latin America. So it really sort of indicates how things went at that time.
If you got in the door and you got along, and, you know, they thought you were a good colleague, then even if you didn’t exactly fit what they wanted or they needed, then they kept you. And tenure was very, at that point, was just a very easy thing. I don’t remember it ever even kind of being an issue. I got tenure on the basis, I think, of one article forthcoming. [Laughs.] And actually Lud had said, when I first came, he said well now publishing is appreciated here, but not mandatory.
00:15:00 And so it’s unlike today when you come in, and you come in and you have to really hustle, and you have to get that first book out before the tenure decision comes up or you’re pretty much out. So that again was a pretty easy ride for me.
Carmen: A different world at least then.
Judith: Oh, yes.
Carmen: So it sounds like there were definitely some characters in the history department when you came in. Can you talk a little bit about just your first impressions of being at William & Mary and being within the history department specifically?
Judith: Yeah. You know, for some reason, I guess both in graduate school and even when I was teaching in high school, and then in the department, I had often been either one of the only women or one of few women. And for whatever reason, that didn’t bother me. In graduate school I’d go out drinking with my buddies on Friday afternoons and then I’d go play bridge with their wives, and that was fine.
00:16:00 So when I got here there was one other woman in the department, and that was Cam Walker. And she’d been there maybe a year or two before me, and she had been an undergraduate at William & Mary, and I guess the most brilliant undergraduate they’d ever had. Had gone off to Yale and done her doctoral work and then came back and was teaching. So here was a department, which had grown incredibly in the 1960s, so there were about 20 of us, and just Cam and me.
But again, I didn’t—we also went out and drank on Friday afternoons, so… [Laughs.] Do you see a theme here? So I always felt very comfortable. And it was a department, which I didn’t appreciate at the time, that was not very hierarchical. Although you had what we called the old bulls or the full bulls, the older men who were senior professors and full professors. But it wasn’t a kind of department in which they threw their weight around and their voice mattered more than, you know, an untenured person’s voice.
00:17:02 And that was something the department kept pretty much until one of the provosts made us change some of it, until the 1990s. And so as I say, I didn’t entirely appreciate it, but it was a very collegial place to be. Although there were differences. And I pretty quickly kind of, mm, tilted over toward some of the associate professors who had just come in the mid ‘60s.
And they were somewhat reacting against the leadership of Ludwell Johnson, who had the old tradition of I am the head of the department, and I’ll look around and determine what is consensus, and that’s what we’ll do. And some of the associates said but maybe we should take a vote on that. And mm, no, that’s not what I had in mind with consensus. So there were some tensions in that level. But again, I always felt very comfortable with all of them.
00:17:56 And not uncomfortable and not really made to feel uncomfortable as one of the few women. Although Cam and I sometimes would make a little joke that they would say now we’re going to hire somebody new for this position, and when the new man comes, he will do thus and which. And Cam and I said, what if he is a she? And that was a moot point. There were no more shes in the department until the late ‘80s, so for basically the first 20 years I was in the department there were just the two women, Cam and me.
Carmen: Wow. That’s kind of hard to imagine, because now I think it may be closer to a third of the professors in the history department are female.
Carmen: Even still not even, but certainly more than two professors, I guess, out of the whole.
Judith: Oh, yeah.
Carmen: Wow, that’s incredible that it was—
Judith: But it was somewhat typical of the college at the time that there were a good number of women in usually the lowly paid jobs and the hardworking jobs like teaching composition and English or a lot of the language programs.
00:18:58 But in the rest of the humanities and social sciences, and sciences, not so many, so in terms of the faculty as a whole, there really weren’t very many women.
Carmen: But you said from at least within the history department that you didn’t really feel as if you were, I don’t know, discriminated against for that reason, for being one of a few women.
Judith: Hm-mmm, no.
Carmen: What about in the larger college, did you see any trends there?
Judith: No. And I was on some all college committees fairly early. And actually became chair of one of the all college committees fairly early, so I never felt anything, you know, in that respect.
I think—and Cam and I would talk about this sometimes—I think I felt a little more from some of the male students than I did with my colleagues, that they thought a woman faculty was supposed to be very sympathetic if they came in with their sob stories about something or other, and if we say no, no, your paper’s due on that date, I don’t care what happened to you, and that just wasn’t appropriate.
00:20:01 And when they would do it, it took a while before they did very much in the way of student evaluations, but women faculty often were criticized a bit more if they felt we were unsympathetic or not paying enough attention or something. So I think some of the men students were a little more problematic than actually most of my male colleagues.
Now I think in some other departments, and I know later when we had a woman’s caucus that was set up for women faculty, some of the other women in other departments felt more kind of sidelined and kept out of things. But in history we didn’t have much of that.
Carmen: Great. That’s really valuable insight, actually, to hear about maybe it was more of the students having a certain perception.
Judith: And not all of the students because I remember very fondly some of my—I probably remember better some of the students I had back in the ‘70s and early ‘80s than some of the later ones.
00:21:00 And there were a number of guys who were just wonderful and, you know, fun students, and some of them went into Latin American studies or Latin American history, or did all sorts of interesting things, so I, you know, it wasn’t all the guys, but some of the guys.
Carmen: Was the demographic makeup of history department students predominantly male?
Judith: Hm. I don’t think so. It was one of the most popular majors, if not the most popular major, until people discovered economics. So I had the feeling it was kind of balanced. I didn’t really think of it—you might have some particular classes that might have a few more men or some that would have a few more women, but I don’t think it was predominantly men.
Carmen: Okay, great. So did anyone, especially during those first years here, take you under their wing as a mentor, or were there any colleagues you were particularly close to? I know you’ve mentioned Cam, your fellow female in the history department.
Judith: Well, yes, Cam and I sort of managed to bond on this. I think, again, several of the people who became my very best friends, and have been through the years, were some of these people who were just hired kind of in the mid ‘60s, just a few years before me. Ed Crapol, who taught diplomatic history, and Thomas Sheppard, who taught French history, and Jim McCord, who taught British history.
And Jim and his wife Gail were particularly active in making people feel comfortable and inviting people over for dinner and looking out for people. But I think Tom and Ed also. And they were much more political in terms of the department than Jim was. And yeah, I felt that we were good friends and if I needed advice or wanted advice, I could look to them.
Carmen: That’s great. I’m sure very valuable to have someone like that, especially starting out at a new school and a new career. What about…you mentioned a lot of great students that came through. Were there any that looked to you specifically as a mentor that you had really great connections with?
Judith: Oh, yeah, yeah. There’s one has actually made some nice donations to the college for Latin American research, actually, Bruce Christian, who lives in Lynchburg. And he’s been on the alumni board and very active in the college. And he…actually, his mother never forgave me, but he went to Tulane and was working on a doctorate in Latin American studies there. And I think their family in Lynchburg had a steel mill or something like that, and Mama wanted him back home, and so ultimately he went back home and did that. But he was a lovely person.
00:23:55 And at about the same time there was Andy Davies, who is a banker in Virginia Beach. And he didn’t go into Latin American things, but I was very fond of him. A little later Doug Yarrington, who ended up getting a Ph.D. in Latin American history and is teaching in Colorado. Ann Farnsworth-Alvear, who I just recently saw when I was in this pioneer Latin American studies thing last year, and she’s now teaching at the University of Pennsylvania, so some of those.
And then there was some guy who was from Kentucky, and he just went home to breed horses. But I can see him coming and sitting in the chair in front of my desk. And there was some little toy somebody had given me, a little penguin, and he would sit there and play with the penguin, and talk about breeding horses, and so… [Laughs.] And there were…let’s see, Russ, Russell somebody, who was majoring in history, but then was going to become a doctor, and he said, well, you know, he wasn’t going to have time to read history after he got in med school so he was going to do that here.
00:25:01 And then Matt Corey, who I still keep up with a little bit on Facebook, who had a Fulbright and went to Latin America and did some research in Uruguay. And now later—I guess he’s in his 50s now—he decided he wanted to be a doctor, so he went back to med school and just in the last couple of years has become a gerontologist in the Boston area.
And I don’t know why—maybe we won’t speculate here—but it seemed that a lot of the students that I felt closest to and sort of followed along after my path seemed to be guys. And Cam was very, very good with women students. She had a lot of the really brilliant women students who went off and did great things. And I don’t know exactly how that happened, but it happened.
Carmen: Well, it sounds like you both were making really great connections with students regardless. And it sounds like you had some interesting students with some interesting…well, interests that have stuck with you, like horse breeding and the penguin toy and all of that.
Judith: Yeah. [Laughs.]
Carmen: I do have a question that’s somewhat related. So you were teaching Latin American history, and I’m wondering about the Latin American student population at William & Mary, or if there was a predominant Latin American student population here at William & Mary, and if that’s something you were connected to or involved in in any way.
Judith: There really, certainly in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, were very few Latin American students. Later, in the ‘80s and ‘90s, there began to be some, and there were some Latin American student associations on the campus. So at first—and actually, when I was first here, I thought I really don’t want to stay at William & Mary, I want to go somewhere where there’s really emphasis on Latin American studies. I’d like to go back to the Rockies, or to Arizona, or to Texas, or to California.
00:26:59 And then I got the notion, well, maybe I can do more good here talking about Latin America to people who don’t know anything about it, and that became kind of my thing. But it was certainly nice when there were more Latin American students on campus. And in fact I’ve mentioned the college in my will, and it’s for a scholarship for students of Latin American background. And so I think that’s a way both of providing a scholarship and of internationalizing the campus a little bit more.
And it was nice—although sometimes it’s a mixed bag when you have…if you’re talking about a certain country and this person is from that country, and I think I know from academic study and so forth what’s the case, and he would think he knew because he’s lived there. And I remember this one fellow, he was really a very sweet, gentle fellow.
00:27:54 And we were talking about Colombia, and I must have said something about the Native Americans or the Indians there, and he just burst out and he said, Indians! They’re terrible people! They’re awful! I mean, they all should just be wiped off the face of the earth! I thought, ooh, where did that come from? I don’t know.
So, you know, there…and sometimes, you know, if…particularly it was the political tensions were a bit more in the 1980s, when you had the Central American, the Nicaraguan revolution and the Contras and all of that. And both the American students and the few Latinos would get very engaged on one side or the other of that. And that became kind of a hard path to row sometimes.
Carmen: Sure, I have no doubt. How did you attempt to address that and address maybe any sociopolitical climate that was going on in Latin America? How were you able to address that through your courses or through your relationships?
Judith: Well, I tried to do it with reading. Now of course they could always say I was selecting readings that confirmed my point of view. And I would try—they hated my exams. I would usually give just a big essay. I’d say okay, discuss Nicaragua. And I’d say now you can put anything in there you want, but you have to have facts from the reading, you know, from the lectures to be able to back up what your thesis is, or what your opinion is.
And they weren’t real wild about those kinds of questions. So I tried to say you don’t have to say what I say, but if you’re saying something different from what I say, you’d better be backing it up because I can back my things up. And mostly that tended to work. Again, William & Mary students, by and large, were very polite and they were very conscious of their grade and whatever I said, they were concerned that if they disagreed with me too violently, that would affect their grade.
00:29:59 And there was one time I remember one student—this was probably in the later ‘80s, and I must have said something disrespectful about the CIA or something the CIA had done in Latin America. And I don’t think he confronted me in class, but afterwards he came up and he said you know, my father works for the CIA and I don’t really agree with what you said. And I said, well, I’m sorry, I wouldn’t have meant to offend your father or to speak disrespectfully of your father.
So I tried to do it with facts, but they thought sort of… Ed Crapol had a reputation for bing a leftist when he was talking about American foreign policy, and I certainly had the reputation of being a leftist in talking about Latin America. And so he was Red Ed and I don’t know what they ever called me. [Laughs.] But, you know, you just try to go through with whatever factual basis you can.
Carmen: Sure. Yeah, I think in a lot of ways college can be occurring with…it can unfold as if in a vacuum, but I think it’s really great to bring up issues that are occurring outside of a specific college that are going on in the world and have students engage with those ideas and issues, so that’s wonderful.
Judith: And there often were speakers, particularly when there were a few more Latin American students here, or even some of the ones who were interested in Latin America, and they would bring students…or they would bring speakers in who would talk about Nicaragua or talk about other issues. So I think that helped, too.
Carmen: And was the Latin American studies program already up and going here at that time or…?
Judith: That started…it wasn’t up and going when I got here. I’m not sure exactly when that started. I think when they did the curriculum review and they sort of loosened up a lot of the requirements, and they allowed interdisciplinary concentrations.
00:31:56 But then some of the interdisciplinary concentrations had specified paths, and so if you were doing Latin American studies you had to have a certain number of history courses, and political science courses, and language courses. And that became more of a factor in some of the students that I got as time went on.
Carmen: Okay, great. No, that’s great information. So I meant to ask this a little earlier, before…because I do want to focus on your time teaching here. Did you have a teaching philosophy that you approached your classes or just your teaching with?
Judith: You know, I don’t think so. It may be like my going through life with a bit of serendipity. I guess—and I certainly realized this more later, as I had newer colleagues coming in with…or younger colleagues coming in with different teaching philosophies. But I was probably pretty traditional in terms of lecturing.
00:32:55 And I guess I learned, as I taught, that students weren’t always particularly great—they always said I was disorganized. It was not true. I was not disorganized. I was very organized. But they didn’t always see my organization. So I got so when I would give lectures I would hand out a mimeographed outline of the lectures, and spelling the words, the Spanish words. They would say oh, I wish she wouldn’t teach this course in Spanish. And I thought, tell, hacienda is a Spanish word, and you really need to use that word.
So I think I learned from them what wasn’t working and tried to work it. And of course, like all of us, I would do something differently if I were in a lecture course or if I were in a seminar. And in the seminar it was more their research and their reading. That was more discussion, and I wanted them to kind of lead things at that point. And actually, I think some of my earlier years teaching, up until about the mid ‘80s, were maybe more rewarding than some of the later years because I did all of the Latin American courses.
00:34:02 And I would have a number of people who would take both surveys, and they would take one of my upper level courses, and take a seminar, so I got to know some of them pretty well and see them in different settings. And later we had somebody else teaching colonial Latin America, and I taught more the same survey courses over and over. And when I was graduate director and then chair, I didn’t have the opportunity to do as many of the seminars and the small classes, so I felt as though I didn’t get as close to the students then by the late ‘80s or the ‘90s as I had back in the ‘70s or ‘80s. And I was older, too, so… I was certainly not their age, but I was closer to their age in the ‘70s than I was in the ‘90s.
Carmen: And I’m sure yeah, being a chair or a director of any sort you have a lot more on your plate at that point.
Judith: Oh, yeah.
Carmen: But in those earlier years, when you were the sole individual teaching those courses, did you find that those courses became spaces where community was developed, where Latin culture was developed? I mean, were these the… I’m trying to think of where safe spaces or where communal spaces would have been, maybe, for the Latin American community on campus in those years before the population or percentage of those individuals kind of boomed.
Judith: Uh-huh. I guess…I’m not sure I would have perceived it that way. Certainly of the ones who took a lot of the Latin American classes and were interested in Latin America and wanted to travel there. William & Mary had a summer program in Mexico one summer that I went on, and so there became kind of a community of those people who were interested in Latin America. But I don’t know…since in those early years there weren’t so many Latino students, so I didn’t think of it as so much of a safe space that you might see today.
Carmen: Sure. Okay, great. Thank you for answering that. Kind of touching back on something we were speaking about before, that sociopolitical climate maybe in Latin America and how you addressed that in your courses, was there a way that you addressed the sociopolitical climate of events that were going on in the United States with your students?
Or just how you saw those events unfold on campus. Maybe you could reflect on that. I’m just thinking of some different things that we know that occurred, responses to the Rodney King, you know, jury decision, the 1980 military draft kind of protests, antiwar protests even in the early 2000s after 9/11. And I’m just wondering, from a faculty perspective, what you witnessed when those sort of events happened.
Judith: In my classes, although sometimes we might have talked about some of those things, but we focused mostly—and there were certainly lots of ways that you could focus on Latin America and get at the other issues, too. Early on, and that was almost before I came that they had a lot of protests against the Vietnam War. And I know Ed Crapol participated in a number of the teach-ins and things like that, and that was kind of confrontational.
The students, by and large, didn’t seem to be highly politicized, and so there weren’t a lot of actions on campus that I was aware of. It might have been and I just was not really involved in it. So again, if they ever wanted to talk about anything, I was usually up on it and would talk about it, but I don’t recall being too involved in it.
Carmen: Okay. Yeah, I think we’ve actually heard that a lot, where, when we do these oral histories, more and more we’re trying to see if there were any episodes of student activism we don’t know about because, as you said, those seem to be, when we look, few and far between in William & Mary history.
Judith: You can certainly see it if you read the Flat Hat, and sometimes the Flat Hat editors were more political and politicized than some others. And I’m sure there were groups on campus. But it didn’t really rise to the level that I think, in recent years, when they’ve done some of the living wage protests and some of the marches and such. And there wasn’t much of that through the ‘90s.
Carmen: Great. So I’m wondering if we can broaden this and you can talk a little bit about some of your just favorite memories from your time at William & Mary.
Judith: Well, I probably touched on some of them, that some of my favorite memories involve the collegiality in the history department with the faculty and some of the students that I really enjoyed in early years and enjoyed the teaching there. I don’t know that there’s that much—I mean, I know this was a question I was supposed to reflect on and I thought, mm, I’m not sure. [Laughs.]
I mean, I feel that all of my time here was pretty positive, and I was pretty positive about William & Mary and the faculty and the students, and sometimes the administration. But I guess in terms of really favorite things, other than the collegiality in the department and some of the students I really enjoyed, I can’t go much beyond that.
Carmen: Sure. Well, just, I mean, even saying that your time here, you look back on it favorably, that speaks numbers. Were there any difficult moments that you can think of that stand out, maybe because they were so rare for you?
Judith: Yeah. It was difficult in the early days, when there was the confrontation with the department about changing from kind of a consensus headship to a democratic voting. And there was a time—this was after there was one other woman in the department—and in the late ‘80s, when she came up for tenure, and was denied tenure.
And it was a very…it was a very bitter split in the department, that clearly she hadn’t done what she needed to do in terms of research, so people who were voting on that level were saying, you know, she’s a wonderful colleague and a wonderful person, but she just didn’t do what she needed to do. And then some others said oh, but she’s a wonderful person and a wonderful colleague and we need to keep her. And that was a very bitter time, and division.
00:40:58 And as it turned out I was away when…I was, I think, in Ecuador when some of that came up, so it had to have been in the ‘90s, actually. And then she protested the decision and was challenging the decision, so that made it draw out a little bit more. And it was very uncomfortable. And ultimately I think she just decided to resign.
Kind of interesting in terms of women, an interesting sidelight. This was in the time when we had, in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, hired more women, and so maybe 20% or nearly a third of the department were women, but a lot of them were untenured. And at that point the department, again being not hierarchical, everybody voted on tenure decisions and promotion decisions. And most of the young women voted against her on the level that, you know, we’re going to have to produce a book and so she damn well better have a book if we’re going to give her tenure.
00:42:02 And it was intriguing because she was all set to start a suit on the basis of sex discrimination, and yet she didn’t really have much of a case because most of the women had voted against her. So it was kind of uncomfortable in lots of ways. And it was after that that actually the provost, Gillian Cell, who had come from a larger university, and she said you just can’t do this. You just can’t have these untenured people voting on tenure. You’ve got to change this.
And we kept saying look, this has worked well for us and it’s a way of integrating people into the department and into the culture and we want to keep on doing it. No, no, no, you couldn’t do it. And, you know, we tried to say, you know, you would have been in a lot more trouble if those women hadn’t been voting back at that time. But that then was when a lot of the procedures for voting changed.
Carmen: Yeah, I can see just the growing pains of what have you, the changing pains, having to make that transition would have been quite uncomfortable to...
Judith: Oh, yeah.
Carmen: …live out and witness within the department. Oh.
Judith: And there were a number of people—again, certainly not as much as Ludwell, who just recently died, and not as much as the people who came in the ‘60s, but I was sort of a transition between the days when you didn’t really have to publish, and as long as you were a good teacher you would stay and everything was all right.
And then we got into, by into the ‘80s with merit evaluations every year, and you were expected to publish, and if you didn’t publish, then you didn’t get raises, or not as many raises. And so there were a lot of people in the department who had come in at an earlier time and under other rules who were less comfortable with the way things were going in terms of merit evaluations.
00:44:00 And then there were some of us who were all right with that and comfortable with that. So that became a bit of a division. And I think the case of the woman’s tenure decision kind of highlighted those divisions, the old ways and the new ways.
And, you know, there certainly were a lot of things that were very comfortable about the old ways, and much more collegial, and I think maybe even today the department is less collegial than it was when I was still in it. But I think the notion about we’ve all got to get out work out, and we’ve got to get our publications, we’ve got to get these big merit raises, and it’s…it put more competitiveness into the department so you were competing against each other for whatever raises there were rather than saying hey, we’re all in this together. And that’s a difference.
Carmen: Sure. And it really brings us to the topic, maybe, of wages and wage discrepancy, and if that was an issue within the history department or the college at large, if that’s something you experienced. We actually have your papers in special collections, so I was looking through some of your papers, and I know that you had correspondence back and forth negotiating salaries. I was wondering if you would talk a little bit about that experience.
Judith: You know, I think whether I was naïve or whether there was really nothing there, I didn’t think about it at all in the early years. And my first salary for that first semester was something like $3,600—[laughs]—and you think wow, I don’t know how you even live on that. And so it didn’t occur to me that I would have been—well, coming in as a visiting and not a tenure track person, it wouldn’t have been surprising to me that I was paid less.
00:45:54 And I don’t know, at the time I became a permanent faculty member or, you know, tenure track or tenured whether that changed. And I do know there were sometimes different periods when all of us got nice raises and nice bumps. And I wasn’t paying too much attention most of that time comparatively.
But by the time we got into, let’s say, the late ‘80s, I was probably publishing as much, if not more, than anybody else in the department, other than one guy to whom I linked myself. And he was making something like 20 or $30,000 more a year than I was by the time you got into the late ‘90s. And yeah, I did think that wasn’t quite right, and I protested that. And there were a number of studies in the ‘80s that talked about gender inequities across the campus, and they certainly were there.
00:46:57 And in some cases maybe some of them got reconciled and some not. Now they never, you know, really reconciled mine with him. And I certainly think I probably was making more than some of the other males in the department who hadn’t published as much. But yeah, I felt a little uneasy, or maybe uneasy isn’t the word, a little miffed—[laughs]—about that.
Carmen: Certainly. I think when I was looking through the correspondence back and forth I noted a time period between 1994 and 1998 where pretty consistently there was a back and forth just with a request that that be reconciled on some level. And though you say it wasn’t reconciled with the other professor, like in comparison to that, was it addressed?
Judith: I don’t think really. I think when everybody, when there were fat years and everybody was getting raises, maybe I got raises, or if I had a new book that came out or something like that, then I would get a raise. And I think why it happened in the ‘90s is because as chair of the department I was privy then to all the salary information, which I hadn’t had. Information is a wonderful thing. And I hadn’t realized quite how much more than I that he had been getting. So I don’t think it was really addressed.
And lots of inequities came, and what often happened, when you would hire somebody new, the starting salaries generally in academe would go up, so you would hire somebody, say, at $35,000. And maybe the person who had been on campus had been hired three years earlier maybe had been hired at $28,000.
00:48:54 So the new hire is making more than the person who had been there for a couple of years, and yet it became very hard, and there wasn’t really enough money to go around to kind of fix those sorts of inequities, so it was… I’ve forgotten now what kind of inequity they called that, but there were a number of salary inequities that I think weren’t really addressed, or not very…
The thing that also was annoying, when some people—and it was usually the men, I don’t know that the women did that—would march across campus to the dean and then march across campus to the provost and wave their little fists and saying I need more money, and I’m very valuable, and you can’t do without me. And the damn deans and the provost would cave and give them more money.
And so then that contributed to the problem because, I mean, I never—I might have written some letters, but I never went around and waved my fists and said you’ve got to give me more money or I’m going to do something terrible.
00:49:59 So I think sometimes the administration was not as perceptive as they might have been about sort of holding the line against some of the habitual complainers who always said they had to have more money because they were so valuable. And if they hadn’t given them more money, they could have done a little more to address some of the other kinds of inequities.
Carmen: Sure. So do you believe these inequities—because it does sound like, and I think this might even still be an issue today, if not within William & Mary, definitely within secondary schools, where, exactly as you said, if you come and start teaching three years later, you’re coming in at a higher pay grade than the person who came in three years before. Did this have any basis on gender whatsoever, or do you think a lot of it was just the timing or whatever, how much money was in the pot, those sort of things?
Judith: I think…I think most of it probably was just how much money was in the pot and when you were hired. Now I think—now I was the chair at the point when we hired most of the women in the ‘90s, and so I think they certainly came in, since they were new hires they came in at pretty good salaries. And they were very productive and published a lot, so I think they did pretty well. So I don’t perceive that as being so much a gender issue.
Carmen: Okay. So if we can transition just a little bit to you spent a lot of time as a Fulbright Scholar twice, I believe, to Venezuela and Ecuador, and you, as you said, you taught in California and you went to school in New Mexico, and you were all over the place, really, and continued, and I think even still continue to travel quite a bit.
Carmen: And essentially see the world, all over the world. So what did that type of travel and those types of experiences, how did they change or develop your perspective when you came back to Williamsburg?
Judith: Oh, okay. You know, one of the smartest things I ever did, when I went to Venezuela to do my dissertation research in 1970, I bought, instead of just an airline ticket to Venezuela, I bought a round trip ticket to Buenos Aires. And so after I finished my research, I headed off, I went through Brazil, I went to Paraguay and Argentina and then worked my way up the West Coast, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama. And I had spent time in Mexico. So I felt in teaching Latin America, I had actually seen and been in most of these places. Now of course, you know, being in a place for a week doesn’t make you an expert on it, but it gives you a little better sense.
00:53:00 And I found that in my travels since then, I often compare sometimes something that I’m seeing with what I know about Latin America. And I think it does give me a wider perspective to be back in Williamsburg. I was horrified years ago to find that only about—now this was maybe 15 years ago—that only about 15 or 20% of Americans held passports. And I thought how can that be?
Now it’s a lot higher, the number is higher now, but I don’t think it still comes to a majority. But it’s higher because you need them to go to Mexico and Canada and the Caribbean. So I think travel—and I’ve loved the travel I’ve done since, mostly since I’ve retired, sometimes on photography tours and sometimes other tours.
00:53:54 I’ve been to China, and Japan, and India, Morocco, Iceland, Czech Republic, lots of places. And I think it, you know, it does give you a different perspective. It makes me also sort of appreciate. I always love traveling, but then it’s nice to get back home with my cat—[laughs]—and where I know where everything is and can go that way. But I’ve always loved traveling.
Carmen: Definitely. And that’s incredible, and I’m envious. Hopefully I’ll be able to say I’ve traveled as extensively as you. Did your travels influence or lead you to get involved in things such as the development of international studies curriculum or did you come to that in a different way?
Judith: You know, I was never very much involved with building or developing that curriculum. There was a while when I was an advisor for some of the Latin American studies concentrators. I guess I tended to kind of stick in the history department.
00:54:59 And although I like to think that in my reading and my teaching I was kind of interdisciplinary, because I did economics, and sociology, and what have you. But I didn’t…I was not really particularly influential in the international studies construction of that curriculum.
Carmen: Okay. So I won’t list it all, but you have had quite the successful career. You had quite the successful career here at William & Mary. You were given numerous awards, including the Jefferson Award, the Commonwealth Award. And I’m just wondering, when you look back, what you view as your greatest achievement, or the moment or the award or what have you that you are most proud of.
Judith: Hm. That’s hard because I certainly appreciated all of them, and it’s nice to feel appreciated.
00:55:58 You can go along and be teaching or in the trenches for decades and feel that nobody notices, and so getting the Commonwealth Award was certainly something that was…I was very pleased and very proud of that. But the Jefferson Award also.
And I think—now this was not the college, particularly, but I was elected in 1991, ’92 to head the Conference on Latin American History, which is the professional association of all Latin American historians in the United States. And that, to me, said that it wasn’t just in my own little fish pond that I was recognized or getting awards, but that I was recognized in the general community of Latin American historians, so I was pleased with that.
00:56:58 The two Fulbrights were not only a wonderful opportunity to teach in Venezuela and Ecuador, but it was really very rewarding to get those awards. They’re very competitive. In terms of what I think of as my biggest achievement, in a way I think I was the utility infielder. We used to joke about this in our merit evaluations. You would evaluate yourself for professional service, for teaching, and for publication.
And a lot of times some people would do a lot in service, but maybe nothing in publication, or a lot in publication, but their teaching wasn’t so great. And I feel like maybe I wasn’t excellent in any one of these, but I did a good, credible job in all of them, so like the utility infielder, I was a decent teacher. I did a good bit of publication. I did a good bit of administrative and professional service here at the college and then beyond the college in Latin American studies.
00:58:08 And so I think I like that. There’s a book by a Brazilian novelist, Machado de Assis, who says the best any of us can hope for to get out of this life is to get out as a small winner. Don’t expect you’re going to get out of this life having won the jackpot or a millionaire, or you’re not going to be king or queen or what have you, but a small winner. And I like to think of my career, in a sense, in looking at the different categories, that I’ve been a small winner, that in each of the categories I’ve made some contributions. And so I think I’m maybe as pleased as anything with that.
Carmen: That’s fantastic and a great way to look at things. I might have to adopt that and hope for that myself. But I have to say, from my research and what I’ve gathered about your time here at the school, at least, you were a big winner at William & Mary.
Judith: Well, thank you.
Carmen: So before we wrap this up, I first want to ask about what you’ve done since you left the school in 2004. You obviously have traveled extensively. Have you stayed tied to the school in any way?
00:59:16 You know, I thought I would because I just live across the street from the campus on Indian Springs, and when I first retired—we’ll go back to that earlier theme—the department was still meeting at the Green Leafe for beer on Fridays, and so I would go, and I knew some of the people who were hired, you know, in some of the few years after I left.
But then they started having children, or picking up children, or taking children places and they stopped meeting as much. So I think from that time then I didn’t, I wasn’t really as tied into the college as I had thought I might be. It is nice just living on Indian Springs that I can walk to the library.
00:59:58 And some people might have libraries that are further away in their houses than Swem is from me, so that’s very convenient. What I really enjoy, because it’s been something that’s a great learning experience, is I’ve taken up photography, and so I’ve done a number of workshops and tours. And photography, maybe like Latin American history, is something that you can always keep learning more about. You can learn more technically, you can get better in the composition, you can get better with using the software, and I’ve really enjoyed that. And a good number of my travels since I retired have been related to photography.
I also, which was a lot of fun until about a year ago, I lectured in cruise ships, and I would do maybe two or three cruises a year, mostly Caribbean, South America, the Amazon. I kept trying to convince them I might be able to read a book or Google and be able to—Wikipedia and be able to do China, send me to China, but no, they weren’t convinced.
01:01:00 And I met a lot of interesting people like that. And it was just enough, I would say, aggravation in planning the lectures. And the lectures, that I learned a lot on, too, that I didn’t use very much in the way of visual aids when I was teaching, but they expect to be what, “edu-tained,” “edutainment,” and so I learned how to use PowerPoint. Not really for the little bullet points so much, but I would go and steal all kinds of photographs off the Internet, and some of them were okay, some of them maybe not. And so it was mostly presentations of different pictures.
And so that was kind of a different challenge. And sometimes it was quite a challenge. I often, when I would do the Caribbean, I would try to combine things and I’d say okay, the Caribbean when the Spanish were there from, you know, the 1490s and before the British and the French and the Dutch came in, and then the Caribbean when they were all fighting, and then the Caribbean during the revolution.
01:02:04 But sometimes the ships would say no, we’re going to the Cayman Islands. We want a lecture on the Cayman Islands. So I would prepare a lecture on the Cayman Islands. And some woman came to me one time before she was coming—I think she was coming to my lecture, but she said, how can you talk for half an hour about a sand bank? [Laughs.] I said, well, just watch me.
And so it was a nice learning experience, both in how to present this material and to package it and then things that I hadn’t really studied that much before. So I guess I’ve really enjoyed things that have…in which I’ve kept on learning. I liked research and I liked doing writing, and I thought when I retired that I might continue to research and publish. But somehow I just never found a topic that I wanted to get into or spend all of that time on, and so I thought, well, I’ll just do something different.
Carmen: It sounds like it’s paid off because you’re enjoying your photography, and the cruise ship lectures sound incredibly enjoyable, and I’m sorry that I never got to see one. And it also sounds like your mother’s seasickness, was it, when she was, in your younger years, that did not carry down to you, so you were able to…
Judith: That’s right. I used to have a friend who had a sailboat, and I liked sailing on calm water, but I think a lot of sailors just love it when you’re about to die and all the sails are falling off, and the ropes are going down and, you know, just terrible. I said it’s kind of a shame that I have a pretty strong stomach, so it’s wasted since I don’t really like that kind of sailing.
But the only time I felt—well, there were some times when things got a little rocky on the cruise ships, but the worst was going down around Cape Horn. But it wasn’t around Cape Horn so much as going from the mainland out to the Falkland Islands and then back.
01:04:00 And that was pretty rough. [Laughs.] So I had my little wristbands on, you know, those ones that hit your pulse points. But mostly it was pretty good.
Carmen: You had your sea legs.
Judith: Yep, had my sea legs.
Carmen: That’s great. Your life just sounds like…just the travel and the accomplishments and the publications, it sounds like it’s just been very full, and still going. So much left to be done. So much photography still to take.
But since you were at William & Mary for such a period of time, and given that we’re about to kick of the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of African Americans in residence at William & Mary and the 100th anniversary of coeducation of William & Mary, I hope we can take a couple minutes to reflect on those two topics. And I’m wondering how you’ve seen diversity and inclusion at the school evolve and change, how you saw that evolve and change during your time at William & Mary.
Judith: It took a while—[laughs]—for sure. But I certainly, from, you know, from at least the ‘80s that you began to see more diversity in the students. And it was always an issue when we were—now the problem in hiring and thinking about minority faculty, that there was the big hiring rush kind of from ’64 to about ’68, and I was kind of the end of that. And then from, say, ’71 until about the mid ‘80s, there wasn’t a whole lot of hiring, and so it was somewhat difficult to increase the diversity of the faculty.
Now we did, in the history department, we hired an Africanist, Ismail Abdallah, who came in probably…he must have come in the ‘70s, I think. Again, we didn’t hire anymore women until later in the ‘80s.
01:06:01 And it was always an issue, whenever there were searches. And the administration, in most cases, different administrations, were sympathetic, but it became very difficult. I think the way academic hiring goes often makes it hard sometimes to increase diversity as quickly as you might wish, that you say all right, we really need somebody who’s going to do France from 1700 to 1850 because that’s the way our curriculum is.
Well, maybe there aren’t so many African Americans or other people of, you know, non-Caucasian background who do France from 1700 to 1850. And I think if we had been nudged or had thought about shaking up the curricular ideas earlier on and looking for fields in which there were more diverse faculty, a greater pool, then that would have made it more quick.
01:07:07 But even today I don’t think we’re great in the diverse faculty. I think we’ve gotten better with students, but it’s really, it’s difficult because the departments, we become very Balkanized and the department has a notion of what it wants, and we know best, we’re historians, we know what we need.
And we will give lip service to hiring people of color, but then if the person of color or the woman doesn’t exactly fit the niche that we have scoped out, then we say oh well, but then this other person is the one who’s really qualified for our position. So I think William & Mary has gotten a lot better and I think the administration is sympathetic, but there’s a long way to go still.
01:08:02 And I think part of it, too, is a lot of people of other ethnicities are not so wild to come to white bread Williamsburg. I mean, we often found this, that African Americans, professionals, you don’t want to come to Williamsburg, particularly if you’re single, for goodness sakes. It just…there wasn’t much of a community that they would feel comfortable in. And so, you know, it’s still, it’s difficult for all sorts of reasons because of the way departments are organized and because of the kind of town Williamsburg is. But we’re better, and at least giving lip service to it.
Carmen: Sure. What do you think it would take? Do you think the first step is to hire within the college and hope the broader community becomes more accommodating, or do you think it’s the opposite of that? Maybe the broader community becomes a more accommodating place and then we make the changes at the campus level.
Judith: I’m not sure. I think universities should lead, and so I think we need to lead and maybe need to do more to figure out what it would take to be a more comfortable place for people of other ethnicities at the college. Because I don’t know how much you’re going to change Williamsburg, when you have all of our little retirement golf communities around. You know, I don’t think the community itself is going to become more diverse.
But there are increasingly more faculty who, say, live in Richmond or maybe, I don’t know that anybody prefers to live in Newport News, but maybe some of them live in Newport News, or Hampton. And so as it’s become… Now back in my day it was very uncommon that a faculty member would not live in town, and it was kind of frowned on if you lived out of town because you were supposed to be here all the time for meetings or office hours or what have you.
01:10:04 And it’s much more acceptable now. Particularly also the other issue is of spouses. If you have two people who are academics, either in the same field or even related fields, it sometimes is difficult for both of them to get jobs at the college, and so then maybe somebody is teaching in Richmond and somebody here, or even Charlottesville and here.
So I think the college has to lead, but it’s difficult. And it’s particularly difficult when there isn’t enough money to have, you know, to make a lot of hires. If you could do the thing that they did in the 1960s and you’re hiring… I mean, the college, in about 1960, was only about 1,500 students, and by 1970 it had gotten up to 4,000 or so, and so there was an incredible expansion of faculty then.
01:10:57 And that brought its own kind of diversity. Not necessarily ethnic or gender, but a kind of diversity. And if you ever had an opportunity like that again, that you would have great numbers of hires and you could think creatively about fields, new fields that you could offer, that might help.
Carmen: Sure. That’s a great answer. Well, what do you view as the value of having an increasingly diverse and inclusive campus?
Judith: Oh. Well, it’s sort of like the question you were asking me about travel. It gives you another perspective. Or even my Colombian fellow who talked about Indians being terrible people, that the more people you come in contact with as students and faculty who have experiences that are quite a bit different from yours, the more you learn about other people. And, you know, in our currently polarized environment, you think well, gee, people with different experiences, and they even are the same ethnicity and they’re not talking to each other, so I don’t know.
01:12:05 But I think it certainly has to…it certainly has to help. If somebody’s never met a gay student and then all of a sudden they are, or they’re aware of the gay student organizations on campus, or if they’ve never met a Colombian, or if they’ve never really had a friend who was African American or an African American who’s never had a friend who was Caucasian or Hispanic, it has to broaden your perspective.
And I think colleges and universities today may be getting a little too careerist in terms of the parents saying now if we’re spending all this money sending you to school you better come out and be able to get a job in a bank or something that you’re going to earn your living, forget about history.
01:12:52 And the notion that a university is a place to learn and grow in different associations and that a liberal arts curriculum gives you lots of different perspectives on things, a diverse student body and diverse faculty give you different perspectives, and that has to make you more aware of other things in the world and other people’s perspectives. And that’s, I think, where universities should be.
Carmen: Great. And you answered this question a bit earlier. The same question really I asked about diversity and inclusion, but about women, the changes you’ve seen. You mentioned that comparatively there’s certainly a larger number of women working, both within the history department and in the larger campus community now. But I would like to hear your thoughts on what you see as the value of women, what they can contribute and what their value is to a campus and beyond.
Judith: Well, it’s sort of a cliché, but the role model, that we have these wonderful women students, and if they never see a woman faculty member, or see very few, then they don’t think oh, I could do that. One of my wonderful role models when I was an undergraduate was Anne Firor Scott, who was a U.S. historian. And she was the most wonderful teacher, and a good scholar, and yet she was always very pragmatic.
She talked sometimes about if you’re thinking about going into academe—and of course at that point I wasn’t—and she said it just happened that her husband was a professor in Chapel Hill, at UNC Chapel Hill and a position came up at Duke. And she said it’s not easy, and this isn’t a common sort of thing. And she said a lot of times departments won’t hire or colleges won’t hire a husband and a wife, so that’s certainly changed. So I think as role models.
01:14:54 And I don’t know that I entirely go along with female exceptionalism, that we think of things…we sometimes see things or perceive things differently—some women do—than some men do. But I think there might be a perspective issue there. So I think in a society in which still—I mean, look at the number of female legislators. There are not that many. Look at the number of cabinet members. There are not that many. Look at the number of CEOs and CFOs. There are not that many.
And sometimes I think that’s because young women…so sort of as I did, when I was coming up, well, I can be a nurse or a teacher. You know, I can’t be a CEO because I don’t see a CEO who is a woman. So I think that is the real value in a good society in getting the most worth out of everybody and having everybody valued for their contributions.
01:16:01 And having, I mean, we need more social help, too, obviously in terms of childcare, in terms of, you know, it takes a village. It does take a village. You don’t just say well, yeah, we’ll give you maternity leave and then you can come back, and then you can do all the work at home and, you know, while your husband is off doing whatever he’s doing, and then at the same time have a very demanding job. I mean, it’s…you need to have more support things that are set into society. And again, if there are more women in academe thinking about these things, and talking about these things, and modeling these things, maybe that will help.
Carmen: Thank you for that insight. So as we wrap up, could you tell me what your hopes are for the future of William & Mary?
Judith: Oh. Well, I think maybe we’ve touched on some of it. I would certainly hope it would continue to be a leader in promoting a broad liberal arts perspective.
01:17:04 I hope it will get better in terms of—even better in terms of a diverse faculty and student bodies and perspective. I think, although I haven’t been so involved in international studies, but I think the foreign study opportunities and the international study has been really good for both the students who participate and for the enrichment it brings to the campus.
And again, when I thought earlier on maybe I can do more good teaching here, where people don’t know much about Latin America, a lot of William & Mary students do go on to high positions in the bureaucracy or the government. I mean, you look at Bob Gates, you look at Comey. And I think if we can foment more leadership like that, that that would be good.
01:18:00 And maybe have more women up there. There are probably some women who are just as important that I’m now not remembering that were William & Mary students. So, you know, I would think being a leader in liberal arts, broad education, and promoting diversity, promoting openness, promoting thinking, and tolerance, I would hope.
Carmen: Great. Well, we’ve come to the end of my list, but I want to open it up to you here at the end and see if there’s anything I haven’t asked you that you thought I might or any story or anecdote that you would like to add before we wrap up the interview.
Judith: I thought maybe I would throw this in because it became sometimes a tension in the department. Of course we’re one of the few departments in the college that has a graduate program, that has a doctoral program. And as a Latin Americanist, I wasn’t too associated with it, but there were a number of students who did do Latin America as an outside field.
01:19:04 And they were thinking pragmatically, oh, I can teach then a course in Latin America, and so then I’ll be able to get a job, I’ll do something other than U.S. history. And I think the graduate programs, small, selective graduate programs, also have a place on campus, and a role on campus.
And sometimes in our concentration on the undergraduate experience and what really is the College of William & Mary, we tend to forget about some of the role that graduate study plays, and it sometimes gets forgotten in terms of financing, too. So I guess I just want to make sure that’s thrown in somewhere.
Carmen: It’s there. It’s on the record.
Carmen: Great. Well, if there isn’t anything else, then we have come to the end of this interview. And I just want to thank you again so much, Judy, for giving us some of your time. This has been wonderful and it’s been great hearing your stories.
Judith: Oh, sure. Well, I’ve enjoyed it. Or as they always say on NPR, my pleasure. [Laughs.]
Carmen: Great. Thanks again.
01:20:12 [End of recording.]
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