The Woolley-Ham Controversy

Author Ann Karus Meeropol discusses her new book, A Male President for Mount Holyoke College: The Failed Fight to Maintain Female Leadership, 1934–1937, which tells the story of how some trustees—convinced that a man should lead the women’s college—achieved their goal despite strong opposition from Mount Holyoke faculty and alumnae.

» Read the feature article, “The Great Divide”, from the fall 2014 Alumnae Quarterly.

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2 responses to “The Woolley-Ham Controversy”

  1. Nancy Wiggin Cameron says:

    As a Holyoke alumna (1954) and also the daughter of one of the male trustees on the Board which selected Roswell Ham, perhaps I have a different perspective on the issue.

    My father respected May Woolley tremendously. She was constantly thrown up to me as I grew up as a wonderful role model. However, the college was not in great shape financially and the trustees felt it essential to get it back on track. During those depression years I can only imagine how eager they were to have a strong endowment. I can understand how the faculty and alums felt betrayed because they were so proud of their tradition and Miss Woolley in particular.

    I have never felt that having male presidents at Mount Holyoke weakened the position that women could achieve greatness. It seems more important to me that the college have the right president at the right time than whether that is a man or a woman.

  2. Shireen Alam says:

    This is a great example of how men choose men. It struck me that when Ham was elected, the board of directors was mostly male. This kind of thing hasn’t changed till date and women still struggle to get leadership positions. I have nothing against Ham, or the requirements to run the college as a business, but I find it hard to believe that we couldn’t find a woman who could have assembled a team to achieve the same results. To see that MHC was just so similar to the outside world is disheartening. If a woman can’t be the president of a woman’s college successfully, how can a man possibly do it?

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