Abbot Hall
December 06, 2023

Opening doors for gender equality

Research offers insight into changing perspectives
by Ann Blumberg Graham ’74

Abbot Academy’s legacy today is due to the hard work and perseverance of many who were focused on keeping the spirit of the school alive.

In June 1973, committed Abbot trustees and alumni created the Abbot Academy Fund (AAF)—originally known as the Abbot Academy Association. It became a spark for change. Former Abbot faculty who moved up the hill were among the first to apply for AAF grants in support of women and coeducation.

Ten years later, Susan McIntosh Lloyd, in partnership with PA faculty member Kelly Wise P’80, ’83, ’86, GP’21, received a grant to celebrate a decade of coeducation with forums, lectures, and art events on gender issues. Shortly after, Marion Finbury P’68, GP’99, a PA college counselor, received an AAF grant to initiate a deeply researched, data-rich study documenting the school’s coeducation journey and status at the 10-year mark.

Finbury’s research resulted in the 1986 publication A Portrait of a School: Coeducation at Andover. Written by PA Faculty Emerita Kathleen Dalton P’00, ’05, this was the first comprehensive evaluation of the gender dynamics at an American high school. Today, it continues to serve as a guide for educators.

Another grant-funded equity report—written by former Abbot teacher Jean St. Pierre and PA instructor in philosophy and religious studies Vincent Avery P’92, ’98, ’98—used the coeducation research to compare the academic needs of female students and students of color. This report also looked at PA’s history of hiring faculty of color and admissions policies regarding students of color, dating back to 1966.

“I wanted to push PA to be more like Abbot,” says PA Faculty Emerita Kathleen Dalton P’00, ’05. “Sue Lloyd represented everything that Abbot always meant to me—a community of women who believed they could do anything. And if they couldn’t, they would still be supportive of each other.”

Turnover among women hired by PA in the 1980s and early 1990s was high, Dalton recalls, but, she says, “The Abbot women stuck with it.” Indeed, their tenures spanned more than 30 years and four heads of school.

When St. Pierre became the first woman chair of PA’s English department in 1982, a position she had also held at Abbot, she reworked the department’s curriculum to include core texts written by women and people of color. Following suit, Dalton introduced the history department’s first gender studies course in 1981.

Other faculty followed. Susan Clark’s European Social History course became the department’s first gender-focused history and social science course—and a four-term history requirement. Natalie Gillingham Schorr ’62, P’95, ’99, a French instructor, used her AAF grant to re-evaluate her department’s curriculum.

“These women were struggling with the patriarchy before they even called it patriarchy,” says Lou Bernieri P’96, ’10, a longtime PA English instructor.

1930 Abbot Circle yearbook photo of Donna Brace, namesake of the Brace Center for Gender Studies

Dalton and her husband, Tony Rotundo, PA instructor emeritus in history and social science, were also instrumental in the creation of Andover’s Brace Center for Gender Studies in 1996. Funded by and named after Abbot alumna and gender activist Donna Brace Ogilvie ’30, the Brace Center provided a home base for the Portrait of a School report and resources for future studies of gender in society. The first of its kind in a private secondary school, the Brace Center further provided a platform for changemakers at Andover and other educators outside of PA.

Categories: Alumni, Magazine, Magazine Online

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