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    • Hopkins students at 2019’s International Women’s Day Assembly.

Exploring Women’s History and Representation at Hopkins

Vivian Wang ’23 Lead Features Editor Zoe Sommer ’23 Assistant Features Editor
To honor the thirty-sixth anniversary of Women’s History Month, dedicated to commemorating and celebrating contributions made by women throughout history, The Razor examined the history of women and gender equity at Hopkins.
We interviewed multiple faculty members, students and an alumna to gain a perspective regarding the history of gender inclusivity at Hopkins and answer the question “How far have we come, and is there still room for improvement?”

Founded in 1660, Hopkins Grammar School (HGS) was an all-boys school until 1972, when HGS merged with the nearby all-girls school, Day Prospect Hill School (DPH). Accounts Payable Manager Wendy Parente, ’75, recalls her experience at DPH before it merged with Hopkins: “I enjoyed my ‘all girls’ experience from seventh to ninth grade. The school was very small and everyone knew everyone.” When asked about the merger, which took place during Parente’s sophomore year, she recalls that “although [it] was difficult for some, mostly juniors and seniors, it was a very exciting time.” Parente is the only remaining Hopkins employee who holds a direct connection to DPH.

As a result of the merger, Parente says she “felt more school spirit with a combined student body” and “there were different courses available and more opportunities.” She goes on to say that, despite the loss of DPH-specific traditions, the merger “was the best for both schools.” Anushree Vashist ’21, leader of the Girls Who Code club, has researched the history of DPH in the Hopkins archives. Vashist notes the forgotten traditions of DPH, believing that it should be discussed in more detail among the Hopkins community: “The unification of DPH and HGS was less of a merger and more of a complete takeover on the part of Hopkins Grammar School: DPH Head of School Anna Bowditch left afterwards, most DPH traditions died out, the original DPH building was eventually demolished and turned into the Thompson parking lot, and the mostly women DPH faculty and DPH’s students suffered through a less-than-optimal experience.”

However, Hopkins has vastly progressed in terms of female representation and in the last fifty years. According to Head Advisor of the Class of 2021 and Spanish teacher Marie Doval, “I think there might be more women than men faculty right now. We are well represented.” Doval elaborates, “I have seen women in top positions at this school since I came many years ago. There are many women Department Chairs, Head Advisers... we [even] had a [woman] Head of School until Dr. Bynum took over.” According to Vashist, Hopkins currently has “four [women as] head advisors and a [woman in the position of] Dean of Academics.” Doval also provides insight as to how Hopkins is promoting gender inclusivity in the classroom by keeping the ratio of girls to boys balanced: “In Admissions we try to create a balanced class so I would say that in the student body we are pretty closely balanced as well.”

In spite of these improvements in representation of women among the rank and file, as well as administrative positions, there is still room for improvement. Doval comments, “I wish there were a couple more on the Administrative Board. I am sure this will come.” History teacher Zoe Resch shares a similar outlook, claiming “it’s important that we continue to value having both [women] and [men as] role models in all departments, athletics, administrative positions, etc. At Hopkins we have those role models, but there is still room for improvement.”

Recent years have given rise to a wide range of clubs dedicated to empowering women at Hopkins. Vashist shares her experiences as a young leader at Hopkins. While involved in various academic clubs and activities, such as Science Olympiad and Debate Club, Vashist states that “I’ve never felt like I couldn’t do anything or that my work wasn’t being taken seriously because I’m a girl.” However, Vashist also acknowledges that Hopkins has a long way to go on certain issues regarding gender equity. The first of these issues is how Hopkins approaches conversations regarding sexual assault and rape. Vashist ob- serves that “on the rare occasion that [these conversations] do come up, we avoid the complexities of these issues with blanket statements on consent ... I think it’s definitely important that we have very clear policies regarding harassment in the handbook and two designated sexual assault counselors ([Dean of Students Lars] Jorgensen and [Biology teacher Kellie] Cox), but we need to more directly address this significant issue for women across the globe.”

Students are advocating for more complex conversations around gender equity, beyond simple representation. Club leader of the Society of Women Engineers, which offers women STEM experiences and opportunities, Amy Zhang ’22 as- serts the need to have more conversations about women with marginalized identities, observing,“... I think it’s important to discuss the experiences of women we commonly talk less about: POC [people of color] women, women from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and women who are caretakers or who work from home.”

There are young women in the Hopkins student body who attest that there is active gender inequity in their daily lives. Arielle Rieder ’23 believes funding is unequal between girls and boys sports, “Girls Squash doesn’t get as much funding as other sports... versus Boys Squash [who] have a coach and funding”. Lynneah Bretoux ’23, shares her experience regarding discrimination at Hopkins, “It’s easier for men to speak up... and their... thoughts are taken into more consideration than [women’s].” Dhalia Brelsford ’23 shares her experiences with micro aggressions in the classroom, “I’ve definitely been talked over by my male counterparts, but that’s a very common experience...and male teachers call on boys more often than girls, typically in STEM classes.”

Hopkins is currently working on creating a Women’s Studies class as part of the History curriculum. History faculty Sarah Belbita, who proposed this initiative, stresses the importance of offering the elective: “As with so many other persons in history, our collective narrative as women has often been either marginally addressed or overlooked in favor of the more traditional ‘comfortable’ narrative, though there is steady progress being made to include more perspectives.” Though still in the process of planning, Belbita has already narrowed the course down to one essential question: “To what extent has American society evolved in terms of women attaining equality?” Belbita expects the course to depend “on the individual interests of students” and plans for “the course [to be] primarily discussion-based, with one project, and utilize excerpts from sources by Mary Beth Norton, Linda Kerber and Ray Raphael, among others.”
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