In this interview, Susan Cowell explains her reasons for choosing to attend Pembroke College, her expectations for campus culture, her roommate’s struggles with class differences, and the social life of Pembroke. She also discusses her own her peers’ efforts to protest the Girls School culture, including stealing the chimes, and a march to the Dean’s house. Cowell also recalls political actions including a sit-in at City Hall, the 1968 Black Student Walkout, and students turning their backs on Henry Kissinger at Commencement. Referring to changes made after her graduation, Cowell comments on the Pembroke-Brown merger and the effect of national student movements on curriculum reform.
The interview concludes with a discussion of the waning of protest movements in the 1970s, her graduate studies at Harvard and Yale, her years in the Peace Corps in Korea, the choice to leave academia, her work with Ira Magaziner, and her career with labor groups.
Recorded on December 21, 1988 in the Offices of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, NY
Interviewed by Miriam Dale Pichey
Suggested Chicago style citation: Cowell, Susan. Interview. By Miriam Dale Pichey. Pembroke Center Oral History Project, Brown University. December 21, 1988.
Susan Cowell was born in New York City and grew up in Westwood, New Jersey. She graduated from Brown in 1969 with a degree in Chinese Studies. Cowell served in the Peace Corps in Korea, and has earned degrees from Harvard University and Yale University. She has spent her career working for social change, serving as a vice president of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union from 1987 until 1995, and as the Executive Director of 32BJ Benefit Funds.