Miriam Dale Pichey’s interview is an energetic insight into the politics of student life at Brown University in the late 1960s and early 1970s. She describes both the campus atmosphere of gendered social rules and struggling for equal representation after the Pembroke-Brown merger, the founding of Women of Brown United, and the broader political environment of student activism during the Vietnam War and Civil Rights movement.
She begins her interview discussing her family background and reasons for coming to the East coast to attend Brown. She moves on to discuss the disadvantages of being at a women’s college in a larger university setting, describing old fashioned rules such as curfew, bed checks, and posture pictures – a eugenics practice that included taking photos of nude students under the guise of checking for scoliosis. Pichey speaks on the absurdity of these rules that reinforced strict gender divisions and gender expectations while the Vietnam War and Civil Rights Movement were in full swing: “the world was exploding around us and we’re sitting there, learning how to use forks and walking with books on our heads.”
Pichey considers the social changes at Brown during her time there, describing the campus’s move from a staid environment to a more open, experimental one. She spends most of Part 1 discussing her political involvement and activism on campus against a backdrop of immense social unrest. She speaks of the Anti-War movement on campus, the struggle to institute the New Curriculum that did away with course requirements and encorporated the radical idea of self-directed study, the Black Student Walkout in 1968, and the Student Strike in 1970. She also discusses the birth of the Women’s Movement and organizing for women’s rights on campus.
In Part 2, Pichey considers the difference between women and men in social movements themselves, and the hostility or indifference the women’s movement was met with. She ends her interview by celebrating the struggle to advance rights for women, people of color, and minorities of any sort.
See also: A History of Women of Brown United by Pichey
Recorded on November 22, 2015 in Jamaica Plain, MA
Interviewed by Sarah Bochicchio
Suggested Chicago style citation: Pichey, Miriam. Interview. By Sarah Bochicchio. Pembroke Center Oral History Project, Brown University. November 22, 2015.
Miriam Dale Pichey was born in Oakland, California in 1950 and raised in San Francisco. Her mother was a pharmacist and her father was first an engineer, and then a real estate developer. She attended Brown University in 1968, and graduated in 1972 in a concentration of her own formulation, Art and Archaeology. At Brown, she was heavily involved in political activism on campus and in the Providence community, particularly with the Student Mobilization Committee, an anti-war activist group, the Young Socialist Alliance, and Women of Brown United, which organized for women’s rights and equal representation on campus. Upon her graduation, Pichey worked in the museum field in New York, but moved on to more lucrative positions in communications and marketing. From 1992 to 1998 she pursued an M.B.A. at Boston University, and then worked in real estate management. Throughout her career, Pichey has remained involved in activism, continuing to support anti-war movements, women’s rights, gay rights, environmental issues, and civil rights including anti-deportation. In the women’s movement, she focuses primarily on birth control and abortion access. She joined the National Organization for Women and established a “Never Go Back” abortion website to raise awareness of women’s struggles before abortion was legal. Art has always been a major part of Pichey’s life, but now that she is semi-retired, she is pursuing printmaking “with a vengeance!”