Harva Zelda Fisher, class of 1936


In this interview, Harva Zelda Fisher explains her reasons for attending Pembroke College, particularly citing geographic proximity to her home and small student population. She recalls Dean Margaret Shove Morriss, Physical Education Director Bessie Rudd, and Professor George Downing, but says one of her favorite professors was Israel Kapstein. She gives a brief educational and personal background of her parents and moves on to vaguely remembering some Pembroke traditions and more clearly remembering Sophomore Masque.

Fisher discusses belonging to Question Club and running for Class President, despite comments that she would never succeed because of her Jewish heritage. She expounds on being a Jewish student, the quota of Jewish students living in dormitories, and Jewish clubs such as Menorah Club and Tower Club. She specifically remembers receiving letters as Class President from political organizations claiming that Jewish people were going to take over the world and she should do whatever she can to stop it, not realizing that the Class President could be Jewish.

Fisher recalls her life after graduation, pursuing her master’s in library science at the University of Rhode Island in the ‘60s, and her twelve year career as Reader Services Librarian at Bristol Community College in Fall River, Massachusetts. She concludes the interview by asserting that becoming Class President and participating in the Elizabethans are her favorite memories of Pembroke.

Part 1


Recorded on May 13, 1988 in Providence, RI
Interviewed by Sasha Oster

Suggested Chicago style citation: Fisher, Harva Zelda. Interview. By Sasha Oster. Pembroke Center Oral History Project, Brown University. May 13, 1988.


Harva Zelda Fisher, known by “Zelda,” was born in Providence to Harry and Ida (Zurier) Fisher. Fisher’s father was a Russian émigré with a grammar school education who became a real estate developer in Providence; her mother was an emigrant but schooled in the Providence schools. After studying Economics at Brown, Fisher received her Master’s in Library Science From URI in 1966. She was the coordinator of library services at Bristol Community College in Fall River, Massachusetts, until her retirement in 1978.

Her husband, Harry Andrew Gourse, owned several stores for men and boys’ clothing, the largest in Fall River, where the couple built their home. Fisher and her husband established the Sydney Jane Gourse Memorial Scholarship in the memory of their first daughter who died at the age of 5. Their second daughter, Leslie, was a prolific author best known for her biographies of a wide range of jazz musicians and singers.

Fisher was past president of Fall River’s Pembroke College Club and a member of Brown’s first General Development Committee. She was also a member of the AAUW, the Sisterhood of Temple Beth El in Fall River, the Brandeis Women’s Committee, the Rhode Island Jewish Historical Society, and the board of Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. She died on August 29, 2008.