Josephine Mary Russo, class of 1938


In this interview, Josephine Mary Russo, class of 1938, explains that she had wanted to attend college since the age of ten. When she came of age, her parents required her to remain in her home state of Rhode Island, so she chose to attend Pembroke College. During the interview, Russo discusses the Great Depression and the importance of working while she was in school because jobs were so scarce at the time. Russo also recalls taking college boards and academic requirements, such as physical education, in addition to compulsory Chapel. Toward the end of the interview, Russo addresses living in a dorm with curfews, as well as dress codes, and activities, like formal dinners, which accompanied living on campus. She credits Professor Sinclair Armstrong who had a profound influence on her time at Pembroke with her interest in history.

In addition to her life on campus, Russo also discusses her life after graduation and recollects being one of the first married women to be permitted to work at the Brown Library. She details her approval of the Pembroke-Brown Merger and states that the two colleges collaborated so extensively that the change was only in the name. Throughout the interview, Russo emphasizes how the Great Depression affected society and Pembroke College.

See also: Jodi Prochaska, a South Kingstown High School student, conducted another oral history in 1995 of Russo’s experience during World War II in this article, War Sparks a More Active Role for Women

Part 1

Part 2


Recorded on November 30, 1982 in Newport, RI
Interviewed by Lori Wirth

Suggested Chicago style citation: Russo, Josephine Mary. Interview. By Lori Wirth. Pembroke Center Oral History Project, Brown University. November 30, 1982.


Josephine Mary Russo grew up in Rhode Island and was the oldest of three children. She attended Rogers High School in Newport and graduated from Pembroke College in 1938 with her A.B. in history. She married fellow Brown graduate Leslie Carson and maintained a career in library services.