College Girls: A Century in Fiction by Shirley Marchalonis

By Shirley Marchalonis

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Even Rosamund, as she grows from a shallow butterfly to a woman dedicated to becoming a doctor and rejects popularity and the callow admirers of younger days, has marriage in her future. At her graduation a distant cousin, an intelligent young doctor, applauds her speech; that they find each other attractive and that there is a rapport between them is clearly established. Unlike Guilford Randolf, he admires her ambition, and the reader can envision a life of shared work and partnership as they marry and practice medicine together.

A Wellesley student observes that it is "impossible to manage college and a love affair at the same time; she had seen friends fail in the attempt" (303). And a Bryn Mawr student, distracted from the arrangements for May Day festivities, grumbles about the "nuisance of having men mixed up with college functions" (113). Page 140 Men can indeed be a nuisance; at a basketball game at Vassar, a character pities a friend: "Poor Ruth! behold her skirting the edge of things with a man. He is only the second most interesting, and she has struggled to foist him off on somebody, anybody.

The importance of men is downplayed in all the early fictions with the exception of Goodloe's College Girls (1895), where so many tales can be classed as love stories with a college background. More, Goodloe implies the unreality of the college world, presenting it as a diversion from life. In one story, "As Told by Her," a visiting minister tells the young women in his audience that "until woman rediscovers that life is everything, that Page 138 all she can learn here in a hundred times the four years of her college course is the least part of what life and nature can teach her, until then I shall not be satisfied with the modern education of women" (77).

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