Jean McKaye Tanner, class of 1945


In this interview, Jean McKaye Tanner discusses life on campus during World War II. Tanner was engaged to be married while at Pembroke and she recalls her urgency to marry her fiancé, Knight Edwards, because of time constraints put upon them by the war effort. Knight Edwards, who was in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) – a program that required summer courses for male students to graduate and enlist in the military faster. In the interview, Tanner also discusses her own participation in the Women’s Auxiliary Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES).

In regard to her life on campus, Edwards explains that the strict rules of living in a dorm did not appeal to her, especially since she had a fiancé, so she chose to remain a “City Girl” – a female day student who attended Pembroke but did not live on campus. Tanner remembers professors Robert Hudson George and Charles Alexander Robinson, Director of Physical Education Bessie Huntting Rudd, Dean Margaret Shove Morriss, Assistant Dean Nancy Lewis, and Dean of Admissions Eva Mooar, as well as her time in the glee club. Tanner concludes the interview by summarizing her position as class president and reviewing the 1944 and 1945 yearbooks.


Recorded on October 24, 2005
Interviewed by Jane Lancaster

Suggested Chicago style citation: Tanner, Jean McKaye. Interview. By Jane Lancaster. Pembroke Center Oral History Project, Brown University. October 24, 2005.


Jean McKaye Tanner attended Hope High School in Providence, Rhode Island and began studying at Pembroke College just four months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. During her time at Pembroke, Tanner served as class president as well as she pursued an accelerated program in order to graduate early with her fiancé, Knight Edwards, who was in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). She and Knight Edwards married on February 19, 1945, and Tanner graduated a few months later with her A.B. in English.

After Pembroke, Tanner attended Midshipman’s School and Communication School at Smith College in order to enlist in the Women’s Auxiliary Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES). When the war ended, Tanner worked as a proofreader at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and went on to obtain an A.M. in English literature from Radcliffe College and a master’s degree in library science from the University of Rhode Island. Tanner worked as the librarian at the Lincoln School in Providence until she retired.