Wellesley graduates 511 students
By Robert E. Malchman
"Many of the women in . . . your generation have hesitated to become feminists, thinking you needed no labels and no help," said Harvard Law School Professor Susan Estrich W'74 at Wellesley College on Friday. "You will discover, I fear and hope, that you no longer have that luxury."
Wellesley graduated 511 seniors at its 111th Commencement Exercises.
Although women have made gains, there is still much to do to improve the lots of women and men, Estrich said. "For years, men have left crying children to go to work, or to travel on assignment. Today, women are free to do the same."
"We have done better at opening the doors for you than at changing the rules for everyone who has passed through them," she declared.
College President Nannerl O. Keohane W '61 charged the graduates not to retire selfishly to their own pleasures, letting the world go by.
Keohane told the graduates not to contribute because they "owe" it to somebody -- they have paid enough to get where they are -- and not because it will make them happy -- improving the world entails risks, losses and humiliations. The graduates will improve the world, Keohane said, "because the world so desperately needs your help."
The College has trained the graduates to be leaders, she said. Wellesley women are "imbued with a sense of divine guilt." These factors "will make it hard to sit back and do nothing," Keohane concluded.
Estrich recalled how she had been raped a day and a half before her commencement and discussed the effects of violence against women. "I cannot tell you why black teenagers in New York would abuse and beat a jogger, or why white teenagers in New Jersey would sexually abuse a mentally impaired girl they had gone to school with all their lives."
Despite all the dangers and all the precautions women should take, "fear can harm you more than crime," Estrich counseled. "I will not give up my freedom to live where I want, and work when I want, and come and go with joy and not fear."
Estrich said the abortion issue has the potential to unite women as a political bloc. "We must be prepared to lose [in the courts]," she warned. "And if we do, when we do, it will be up to us to wage that fight not in the courts, but in the political life of every state in the nation."
Estrich also recalled with irony how she used to wonder whether men ever would be a part of her life. "I have divided my years since college between law and politics. Want to or not, I have spent most of my life since Wellesley in rooms full of men," she noted.
Last year, Estrich was Gov. Michael S. Dukakis's presidential campaign manager. She was also the first women president of the Harvard Law Review.
Senior Nina Diamond spoke for the Class of 1989, praising the dialogue Wellesley created and encouraged among the members of the College community.
"We graduate from Wellesley today, and each of us faces decision-making and path-finding. But this women's college has given each of us special tools -- graceful, delicate machinery with which to forge our tracks: the skills of dialogue," Diamond said.
"If there is one thing that we leave with today," she said, "I hope that it is the mastery of the skill of talking to ourselves. Our truest selves. The selves that can listen to the dialogues with professors and friends and family and then say: `I have heard you, but now I will listen to myself. What do I really want? What does my best self really think?' "