Ann Stillman '51

  • Ann Stillman
    Ann: Okay. So I say: This is Ann Stillman.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: Yes.Ann: And I currently live in Grinnell...Chelsie: Right.Ann: Having moved back here last August, 2010 to the Mayflower community. So...Chelsie: Okay.Ann: I’m back.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: Class year?Ann: 1951.Chelsie: 1951?Ann: Yeah.Chelsie: Cool. OK. Thank you, Ann, for coming. So, first question: why did you come to Grinnell College and what is your first memory of the campus?Ann: Oh, dear. Why did I come? I think because my mother insisted that I go to college.Chelsie: Okay.Ann: If it had been left up to me, I might not have gone.Chelsie: Right.Ann: I didn’t realize until later how important it was.
  • Ann Stillman & Chelsie Salvatera
    Ann: What is my first memory? Ohh.. I don’t think I have very many first memories. I do... I lived in Main Hall..Chelsie: Okay.Ann: Up over the entrance where you come into the building.Chelsie: Oh, they had dorms on the first floor?Ann: No, we were on the second floor.Chelsie: Oh, second floor, OK.Ann: Right. But our room looked out on the steps below where you walked up into the main door of the building, so... So I guess I remember that.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: Okay. Great, okay. So, was there a professor, student, or staff member who had a particularly strong influence on your life?Ann: Gosh. Professor, student, or staff member... I think I was a very shy student, and it would’ve seemed very presumptuous of me to think that anyone would be a mentor. I mean, being a woman in 1947, no one expected us to really do anything. Looking back on it, I’m kind of stunned by that. So that I didn’t really see myself as a student, even though I was a very good student. And I was very curious about many things, but apparently not about my future.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: What are your best memories of your time at Grinnell College?Ann: Oh, I might say, maybe, about the question we were just talking about, the student. Because perhaps the most... I married my lab partner from Biology and probably that- he was the biggest influence because he was kind of like my teacher. He became a professor himself, so in a way, it’s kind of like I married my professor even though...Chelsie: Okay.Ann: Yeah.Chelsie: Wow.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: So what are your best memories of your time at Grinnell?Ann: Best memories... I thought the campus was very interesting. I- particularly because I was interested in Natural History, and the trees, there were so many, such a variety of trees and many I had never seen before because I grew up in northern Iowa. For instance, that we had this big Cypress tree over near Goodnow Hall. I had never seen a Cypress tree before, and some of those trees are still here.Chelsie: Yeah.Ann: I know just where they are. The Sycamores.Chelsie: They're still there.Ann: Yeah.Chelsie: Yeah, Iove the campus. It's really beautiful.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: What did your dorm look like? Or where did you live?Ann: Now, yes, in Main Hall.Chelsie: Right.Ann: And ‘course all the rooms were alike. It was very... We decorated it a little but not much.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: Did you- Didn’t you- Did you live in Read, as well?Ann: Later, I did.Chelsie: Okay, but Norma lived...Ann: My second year I lived in Read, but I don’t know if Norma was there.Chelsie: Okay.Ann: My third year I lived in Loose, and the fourth year I was president of Cleveland which was a freshman dorm at that time.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: Okay, so what did you do as president of Cleveland? What does that have to...Ann: Well, the- There was an election each spring.Chelsie: Right.Ann: And you maybe know something about that history?Chelsie: Very little. I’ve seen it in a yearbook. That’s all.
  • Ann Stillman & Chelsie Salvatera
    Ann: Anyway, the women chose and each one was the president of one of the dormitories and it was called the League Board. That’s kind of like the women’s self-governing.Chelsie: Okay.Ann: It was kind of like a little, a board of governors or something.Chelsie: Okay.Ann: And we would meet with the Dean of Students- or the Dean of Women, about whatever might be concerns or issues for the women.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: Okay. So what was your specific duties as the- or-Ann: But then, in the dorm, it would be kind of like being the Brownie leader, or the Scout leader, you know? Like- or the cheerleader.Chelsie: Right.Ann: You want your.. You want the kids to have a good time and know each other and people be kind to each other.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: But it wasn’t like a strict role, like...?Ann: Oh, no, it wasn’t like I was a policeman.Chelsie: Okay.Ann: Right. The House Mother had trouble with me because I didn’t keep my room clean.Chelsie: Oh, no! Wow, did you need to keep your room clean, as well?Ann: Well, she wasn’t happy, that.. and I hung my laundry to dry in the window. She thought that was a very bad thing to do.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: Wow. What kind of clothes did you wear every day as a Grinnell student? On special occasions?Ann: I don’t remember much about that; I don’t think it must’ve been a big issue. You said-Chelsie: You guys didn’t dress up for anything though?Ann: Oh, yeah. I think when we had, on the weekend, when we had social events. I remember there were a lot of cashmere sweaters that- some of the girls from the big city even had cashmere sweater sets.Chelsie: Right.Ann: With the short-sleeved one underneath and a long-sleeved one on top. So, but we probably all looked very similar. Yeah.Chelsie: Okay.Ann: But I soon adopted blue jeans.Chelsie: Okay.Ann: And it wasn’t so common then.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: It was mostly skirts and what-not?Ann: A lot of skirts.Chelsie: Okay.Ann: And my uncle gave me a navy pea coat from... I’m not sure how he got it, or navy surplus or something. Anyway, so I had kind of a uniform which was not so common then: blue jeans and a navy pea coat.Chelsie: Yeah. Quite different.Ann: Kids are still creating uniforms, I think.Chelsie: Surely.Ann: Yeah.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: Was there a book in college that influenced you the most?Ann: Yes. Oh, I read a w- I think, A Sand County Almanac.Chelsie: Okay.Ann: That Aldo Leopold’s book came out when I was a student here at Grinnell and it had a huge impact. We didn’t have any courses that would- you could call Ecology.Chelsie: All we have now is-Ann: We didn’t have any Natural History courses and that’s what I was most interested in. So it was a frustrating experience for me because I was... to be a Biology major meant pre-med, mostly.Chelsie: Okay.Ann: So I refused to take Embryology because it was all slides and I wanted to work with living organisms.Chelsie: You should come back-Ann: I wasn’t a crack student anyway, in Biology.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: So you were a Biology major? What did you end up doing with that?Ann: I married my lab partner, because we, those were the kinds of things that we did.Chelsie: Right.Ann: Like, we would botanize for recreation. We’d go out and see what kind of plants we could find and... yeah.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: What memories or images do you have of the town of Grinnell?Ann: Not much.Chelsie: Not much?Ann: I don’t think... We didn’t spend a lot of time in town. I remember going to a clothing store and buying a blouse, and that was very unusual. Yeah. I remember on Sunday night when the dining room wasn’t open, that we often went to the Bowl-o-drome for supper.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: Bowl-o-drome?Ann: And it's still there.Chelsie: What is..? I've never been there.Ann: It’s a bowling alley.Chelsie: Oh, bowl- Oh! I didn't kno-Ann: Called the Bowl-o-drome.Chelsie: Wow.Ann: Yeah.Chelsie: It's called the-Ann: I haven’t been inside it since I’m back but I expect it’s still the same.Chelsie: Pretty sure it's the same.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: Okay. How has Grinnell changed since you were a student?Ann: ‘Cause I’ve visited over the years, so...Chelsie: Okay.Ann: So, in a way I’ve maybe kind of kept up a little bit with what’s been happening, so... I don't know. It doesn’t strike me, except that it was very threadbare when I was here. It was after the war, and the budget must’ve been austere. There weren’t a lot of extras. That’s a major memory I remember that now, it’s more possible to do more things that are different or unusual or special...
  • Ann Stillman & Chelsie Salvatera
    Ann: And, oh, yes, things were more divided into departments.Chelsie: Okay.Ann: And now there’s so much overlap, which is exciting, about seeing how things really are instead of dividing it up into little categories. And you- "Oh, I only study this and you study that."Chelsie: Very open and free curriculum.Ann: Yeah, that’s exciting.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: Describe something that is no longer available on campus but that was meaningful to you. Old buildings, programs...Ann: Oh, gosh. Well, I think it’s too bad that some of the old buildings were demolished, although they were difficult. Some- a couple of ‘em actually looked like- Well, the Biology, or the na- Maybe I forget the name of the building, what they called it. The Science Building, actually looked like a church. So there was this big kind of.. windows and stuff, and wasted space. But like, it was a very old building, but, in a sense, that and the Music Building, and I think the Music Building was built of stone, possibly the Science Building was wood. I can’t remember too well.
  • Ann Stillman & Chelsie Salvatera
    Ann: But, there might’ve been a way, like in more recent times more old buildings have been rehabbed.Chelsie: Right.Ann: Like Goodnow, which is a wonderful little special building.Chelsie: Oldest building on campus.Ann: Yeah.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: Okay. Describe your favorite academic experience or class at Grinnell.Ann: Oh. I don’t know that I can recall one.Chelsie: Maybe marrying your lab partner.Ann: No, I was thinking actually a real important class was with Dr. Wilhelm. He had a class called The Political and Social Relations of Science, and probably, partly why I liked that is it- well, it did cross the boundaries.Chelsie: Political Science?
  • Ann Stillman & Chelsie Salvatera
    Ann: Yes, that was a very special class to me and I think that’s the reason, because he was very- encouraged us to explore classes with government. Civil Service, like to go to Washington and see what might be available, and that’s what I did actually, is I went to Washington and got a job in the Smithsonian in the Natural History Museum, and that was a wonderful experience. So, I think that class was, that was the kind of thing that I was really interested in, but there weren’t very many things like that.Chelsie: Pretty much just boundaries separating English-Ann: Yeah.Chelsie: Or, STEM Science-
  • Ann Stillman & Chelsie Salvatera
    Ann: And there was another class which I didn’t take. There was an International Relations Club.Chelsie: Ooh, okay.Ann: And I was very interested in that and there were some courses in International Relations. So those were the things.Chelsie: That's an Independent major now, so, yeah, that's really exciting.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: Okay. Describe your favorite place on campus.Ann: Oh, now? ‘Cause-Chelsie: Yeah, now, sure!Ann: 'Cause I don’t know that I had one...Chelsie: Back then?Ann: ..then, but I do now because I found this lovely little statue in a grove of Cypress trees between the Forum and the Science Building. Do you know where I mean, the-?Chelsie: Ganesha.Ann: Ganesha?Chelsie: Yeah.Ann: Yes.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: You wanna talk a little bit about it?Ann: That’s very special, and I memorized... There's this- let’s see if I can remember. An Indian deity who dwells at the threshold of space and time, blessing all beginnings and removing all obstacles.Chelsie: You’re amazing!Ann: I love that.Chelsie: Wow!Ann: That was so special.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: I didn’t know about it until you guys came and you guys, the people, the alumni, pointed it out to me.Ann: Oh, you didn’t know it was there?Chelsie: I didn’t know it was there.Ann: But I don’t know anything about the young man that it’s a memorial to.Chelsie: Yeah, it is.Ann: Do you?Chelsie: I do not know.
  • Ann Stillman & Chelsie Salvatera
    Ann: I keep thinking I should find out. I think it’s a lovely memorial and I think many people must treasure it because I always find little offerings there.Chelsie: There are a ton.Ann: So that, I know people are going there.Chelsie: Yeah, definitely.Ann: But I never see anybody when I go.Chelsie: I did. Once the alumni pointed it out to me so now I can tell my friends all about it.Ann: Yeah, yeah.Chelsie: It’s a beautiful place.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: OK, if you knew then what you know now -Ann: Oh, dear.Chelsie: - what would you have done differently during your time at Grinnell College?Ann: I think I would’ve been more creative about inventing, like creating. I don’t know if it was possible at that time, but now maybe people, if they wanna study something, then they can find a couple other people to do it with ‘em - can you create a tutorial, or a seminar, or get somebody to work with you? Well, like your Mentored Advanced Project, if that’s, did I get those words right?Chelsie: Are you talking about tutorial, or?Ann: The M-A-P.Chelsie: Oh, MAPs! MAPs. Yes, yes.Ann: That would be a way, yeah. I think that I would be a more adventurous student, but the- Maybe at the time I was here, that I did the best I could. But, I would surely be more adventurous another time.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: Okay. Oh. This is one for you. If you met your spouse at Grinnell, describe how you met and fell in love. I think you're the only one that I have that married a Grinnellian.Ann: Yeah, and he was…Chelsie: Is he the same year as you?Ann: Yes, the same year, and he was always in the Biology building, in the Science Building. I think where we were lab partners was Physiology, and some of the experiments were difficult. Like one you had to saw a square in a, the underside, in the shell of the turtle?Chelsie: Oh, wow.Ann: The underside, in order to record the heartbeat.Chelsie: Oh my.Ann: Well, that was awful. So, when we worked together we could manage it, yeah.Chelsie: Love through Biology.
  • Ann Stillman & Chelsie Salvatera
    Ann: And... a kind of a funny story.Chelsie: Please tell.Ann: When... I’m trying to think which year it was. Either the junior year or the senior year, I can- Must’ve been the junior year. OK. Yes, ‘cause I lived in Loose Hall and a couple of us thought it would be a really funny thing. There was a fellow student who was the, like the social chairman for the campus and he was kind of a clown. And he was always thinking up things to do, so we decided we should have him- We would sneak him into the dorm. Then, that’s when boys weren’t supposed to be in the dorm after a certain time in the evening.Chelsie: Right.
  • Ann Stillman & Chelsie Salvatera
    Ann: So we sneaked him in and we dressed him up in a flannel nightgown, and then we’d invite people one at a time to come down to the room to see that he was there, like it was a big joke, right? Well, when the Dean of Women found out about it later, she didn’t think it was funny, right?Chelsie: Oh, not at all.Ann: And, so some of us had to go home for several weeks to be banished.Chelsie: Were you one of them?Ann: Yeah, I was one of them.Chelsie: I'm so sorry! You were the reb- You were adventurous!
  • Ann Stillman & Chelsie Salvatera
    Ann: Yes, and my husband-to-be, in Anatomy class, saved his cat skull for me ‘cause we were studying. I had to get ready for an exam and he saved a cat skull for me so that I could study and get ready for the exam, I think- A sign of true love, right?Chelsie: Oh, my. That’s such a Grinnell story. Did you ever sneak him into your dorm, or did he-?Ann: No, no.Chelsie: Okay.Ann: We weren’t accustomed to doing that.Chelsie: Okay.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: How would compare students of today with your classmates?Ann: I think they seem more confident.Chelsie: Okay.Ann: Even though, when I talk to somebody in depth, they may not be as confident as they appear to be on the surface, y’know?Chelsie: Right, right.Ann: Like we all have our concerns or hesitations, but they seem... taking on- more independent about making decisions. You know, like off-campus study and travels and things, as though people are more, feel more able to do that.
  • Ann Stillman
    Ann: Maybe we were- we felt more limited, more, and limited to the campus, like people didn’t go away to study. That was kind of unusual. We were just here on the campus. And we weren’t allowed to have cars, so we never went anywhere. We really had to try to be a community, or be in the community that was here, and that was a full time job.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: Okay. Describe student and campus life as you experienced it during your time at Grinnell.Ann: Hmm... I suppose in a way it was kind of like glorified high school, because, you know the student council election, it seemed like it was like things from high school but like ramped up.Chelsie: Right. Did you guys have like, homecoming queen?Ann: Yes, oh, we did.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: Wanna talk a little bit about that?Ann: Yes, I think I was, not a queen, but I was once nominated.Chelsie: Oh, okay. So was it based on popularity? Popularity votes?Ann: Apparently, but the homecoming was kind of like, if.. The girls probably were ones that were dating the football players, y’know, ‘cause that’s when homecoming event was the football.Chelsie: So was your husband a football player?Ann: No.Chelsie: No? Okay.Ann: No, he was in the Science Building.Chelsie: Ah, that's right.Ann: Yeah, but I did date a number of the players. That’s how I expect I got nominated.Chelsie: Okay.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: Were you a cheer- Was there cheerleaders?Ann: No, I wasn’t a cheerleader.Chelsie: Any other.. Were you in any extra-curricular clubs, or anything like that? If you recall..Ann: I was intramural chairman a couple times, so I was.. I enjoyed field hockey.Chelsie: Oooh! Very nice.Ann: And swimming.Chelsie: Okay.Ann: I don’t remember too much about clubs, except International Relations Club would bring speakers. So I’m trying to think whether clubs played a big part. I don’t know.Chelsie: Okay.Ann: I mean, there were theater productions. There were- the music people would do vocal and instrumental and do concerts. I don’t remember clubs being such a big thing.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: Last question: If you were writing a history of Grinnell College, what would you include from your years here?Ann: Oh, dear... That’s- that would take some thought. What would I include? I don’t think I can answer that.Chelsie: I think everything that you told me was the history altogether.Ann: But- except that I do have knowledge of what it was like at that time.Chelsie: Right.
  • Ann Stillman & Chelsie Salvatera
    Ann: It’s interesting talking to people now, y'know, like about the swimming pool for instance and comparing with the swimming pool we had.Chelsie: The size we have now-Ann: But it wasn’t even the building that was just torn down; it was the little square wooden building which was over on the east side of the tracks over by the women’s dorms.Chelsie: OK, it was on South Campus?Ann: A little square wooden building. All that was in it was this little pool.Chelsie: Oh, no, wow.Ann: And over the diving board there was a- a part raised in the ceiling because the ceiling was so low, the divers wouldn’t have been able to- unless, y’know, they would have crashed their head on the ceiling.Chelsie: Oh, no!Ann: So they had to build a little..Chelsie: Wow.Ann: It was, y’know, a little, very small pool.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: I mean, one more question that I have of my own. So, were there are any like personal struggles as a woman coming to Grinnell, and just like, the segregation of the males and the females, was there any particular struggle that you had being female on campus?Ann: Well, I think, what’s interesting to me is I didn’t realize it, that there were- or that- the ways in which not only did the professors limit me but I limited myself.Chelsie: Right.Ann: But not, not being aware of it.
  • Ann Stillman
    Ann: And it seemed- and because right after the war there was a big emphasis on when the veterans came back, they were interested in getting married and having a family, even though many women maybe had been quite independent during the war and worked outside the home. But then it all shifted back after the war, and everyone in my class I think practically, almost all the women married immediately after graduation, and if they worked at all it was because they had gotten an education certification so that they would be able to teach school. Very few women in my class actually went off independently and had their own career.
  • Ann Stillman & Chelsie Salvatera
    Ann: One of the few was Francis Nakamura, from Hawaii. Oh, yes! Who went to medical school.Chelsie: Wow. Female.Ann: Yes, yes.Chelsie: Class of ’51, as well? With Norma?Ann: She, Norma’s a couple years later but she knows Francis, yeah.Chelsie: Okay.
  • Ann Stillman
    Ann: Yeah. And- and that was really unusual ‘cause Francis knew all along what she was gonna do and she seriously pursued her studies and she did it. But, I didn’t seem to have that sense about my life. But anyway, everybody got married but I didn’t get married and it was, I went to Washington and got the job at the museum.
  • Ann Stillman
    Ann: Then, in the summer of ’52, my college- my roommate, who was just graduating then, she and I made a bicycle trip in Europe, a youth hostel trip, and we went from like, about July and we came back in November. We stayed in youth hostels, and so we had this wonderful experience and we- we were so excited. We felt it was the first time we were really learning something. You know, we were on our own and we were curious about everything.
  • Ann Stillman
    Ann: So, it was almost like that was the moment when our education began, because here we didn’t have- we weren’t married. We didn’t have obligations and we were choosing what we were doing, and we were learning all of the time. We especially were interested in museums, cathedrals, architecture, and we were in England, France, Switzerland and Holland. And, it was like I was setting off on my own for the first time.
  • Ann Stillman & Chelsie Salvatera
    Ann: And then my lab partner came to visit me, actually in Washing – when I was working in Washington.Chelsie: Okay.Ann: And he thought we should get married. But if he hadn’t asked me, I think I would have been fine. ‘Cause I was really interested in what I was discovering, and that maybe I could have liberated myself from my limitations, but then I slipped back into the, the norm, or the expectation and so then when I went to graduate school, I did my masters when we were both in graduate school together.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: Okay. Where did you go to grad school?Ann: In Tallahassee, Florida.Chelsie: Oh, Tallahassee. Cool.Ann: And he was in Oceanography and then I ended up in Psychology.Chelsie: Oh.Ann: Yeah. So then I didn’t get my doctorate until my children were... probably, I was about forty when I, or somewhere around there. It was very delayed, and then I really needed it because I was divorced, so then I was thrust in to the job market kind of late in life and so I’ve had kind of an interesting devious career.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Ann Stillman
    Chelsie: I'm glad you got to travel a lot.Ann: Yeah.Chelsie: OK, I’m gonna wrap this up!Ann: All right.Chelsie: Thank you so much.
Alumni oral history interview with Ann Stillman '51. Recorded June 3, 2011.
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