Vintage Photograph Exhibit Showcases History of Diverse Student Body

December 5, 2012

Mosaic: Redefining Vintage Wellesley opened on Tuesday for a one-night-only event in Tishman Commons. The exhibit, subtitled A Photo Exhibit of Wellesley Students of Color from the 1920s-1980s, included approximately 100 photographs from the Wellesley College Archives.

The event was organized by Meredyth Grange ’14, the Multicultural Affairs Coordinator, member of the College Government Cabinet and former Ethos historian. Grange noticed the lack of students of color represented in the vintage photographs of Wellesley students around campus. To her surprise, she discovered that there had been a significant number of international students at Wellesley in the early and mid-20th century, as well as a handful of students of African descent.

She began looking for photographs of those students in the Wellesley College Archives, and with the help of archivists Ian Graham and Jane Callahan, found dozens of photographs of Wellesley students of color. With the encouragement of College Government, Grange researched the history of the images and organized the exhibit in order to share her findings with the rest of the college.

For current students of color, Grange said, “There’s something really important about seeing yourself represented in your school’s history. It creates a sense of community.”

The photographs feature a variety of student backgrounds and activities, from the first international student from Japan, Madame Chiang-Kai Shek ’17 returning to Wellesley, Ethos members awaiting Jesse Jackson’s speech on campus in 1972, activist teach-ins by Lake Waban, and students participating in Wellesley traditions like Lake Day and step-singing. Grange paired with the photographs with copies of old Wellesley News articles, and the histories of several Wellesley cultural organizations such as Ethos and Mezcla.

“I want people to fall in love with our history as much as I have,” said Grange.

Grange credits Rick Bourque of Printing Services, Ian Graham and Jean Callahan of the Wellesley College Archives, the enthusiasm of College Government, and the members of Diversity Committee for making Mosaic possible. The event was funded by College Government and the Marjorie Copland Baum Fund.

In the future, the photographs will be displayed in various campus buildings. Many of them are now available for viewing online at the Wellesley College Archives Image Gallery.

—Gabrielle Linnell '13