Growing up Newcomb

January 17, 2013 9:00 AM

Cody Wild

An afternoon panel featuring two contributors to the anthology Newcomb College: 1886-2006 painted a portrait of the school as a space where art was cultivated, traditions were reformed, and one of the first generations of female scholars found an unexpected academic foothold.

Newcomb sign

Panelists shared observations about Newcomb College during a recent discussion. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

Art collector and author Earl Retif and historian and author Bobbie Malone were on hand Sunday (Jan. 13) at Caroline Richardson Hall on the Tulane uptown campus to share their unique perspectives during the event "Growing Up Newcomb: 20th Century Journies."

Retif's talk pertained to Newcomb alumna Caroline Wogan Durieux, an artist and printmaking innovator affiliated with the Newcomb art program whose sphere of influence spanned from New Orleans to Mexico and from scientific development to a quiet advocacy on issues of civil rights.

Durieux was reportedly one of the most progressive in her 1930s “Dixie Bohemian” circle on issues of race relations, and is said to have played a role in moderating William Faulkner’s more vitriolic racial views. Retif attributed this tolerance to Durieux’s mixed background: one side Creole and Catholic, the other Protestant, whose roots traced to the Revolutionary War.

Coming from the generation that succeeded Durieux’s, Malone attended Newcomb College in the 1960s and ’70s. Hers, she said, was a generation that represented a bridge between the paradigm of alumna-as-wife to the possibility of alumna-as-academic in her own right.

“In [the ’50 s and early ’60s], college women were very attractive baubles for some successful guy," said Malone.

However, while at Newcomb, Malone’s own perspective changed. She recalled handing in a highly detailed paper and being jokingly called “such a little scholar.”

“I hadn’t ever thought of myself as a scholar," said Malone. "I could do this, I thought. I could say something.”

Speaking of her generation of Newcomb alumnae, Malone reminisced, “none of us had any idea of feminism coming in, but after Newcomb, we found careers we’d never anticipated.”

Cody Wild is a junior at Tulane.

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Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000