Today begins the Bryn Mawr reunion of my class, a wonderful class, full of bright and loving and questing women, many of whom have achieved important things in the eyes of the world, but all bright and exceptional human beings; I was lucky to be among them. That I am not among them today was a conscious choice I made, because proud as I am to be one of their number, my hope is, unlikely as it seems at this juncture of the road, to look ahead and build something fresh and new, rather than looking back. Still, I hug them in my heart and remember them, and hope they will think of me this weekend, and maybe even sing one of the songs I wrote for our Junior Show, when my ambition was to conquer Broadway, which, generous spirits that they were and are, they were all sort of convinced I would. As was I, almost, insecurity being as strong a one of my traits as was nerve.
Junior Show having been the triumph it was-- George Segal, my Haverford crush later to become a movie star and always less than a wondrous human being, leapt onstage at the final curtain and kissed my hands. And, more important, Katharine McBride, our great college president, said to my mother as we stood outside afterwards: "This is the greatest theatrical event at Bryn Mawr since Katharine Hepburn was a student here." I nearly swooned with joy and surprise-- I hadn't even known she knew who I was.
My mother looked after her and said "Who was that?"
"The president of the college," I said.
"Oh," she said, superficial being a kind description of the woman she was, judging by appearances. "I thought it was the washerwoman,"
But I had new friends at the Actor's Studio, home of the at-the-time incredibly beautiful and gifted Marlon Brando, who wanted me to come join and do a project. So when I passed Miss McBride a few days later in the Cloisters, the well-named center of the Gothic architectured library, I said: "Miss McBride: Shakespeare and Chaucer have given me everything they can, and the theatre needs me. So I'm leaving Bryn Mawr."
"Well, Gwen," she sort of drawled in her high-end way, "try to be back for exams."
So I was. The details of that Actor's Studio adventure I will save for another entry. But to return to the point, my going back and finishing THAT college stands as the first truly important achievement of my life. Without it, I am not sure I would have accomplished any of the things I might have, or known the value of friendship with truly great women.
I thank all who were among them who gave me such affection and support: Muggy, the prettiest girl in the class who tolerated and even seemed to welcome my having come over the roof to Pem West to sing my new songs to her in the middle of the night, Bethie, her roommate, the most sober among us, who I hope has made it back to reunion, Alice, with her committed and brilliant political consciousness with whom I watched the Army-McCarthy hearings, as both of us feverishly pulled for Justice and Sanity to prevail, as it seems less and less to do these days, Marilyn, whose indefatigable energy will be present among you today, organizing and beating the bushes still for good ideas, Gloria, who I trust will be leading you all in Song-- I capitalize it because it was such an important part of the joy that was my college career-- Suzie, our Egyptian Kopf who exemplifies generosity of spirit combined with clear intelligence, and gave her gifts to a less than illuminated with respect to women U.N., and continues her giving by helping the poor of Egypt by having them make rags into works of art, one of the colorful sacks they created here with me today.
As I wish you all were. But it seemed right to continue my quest to be the most creative and positive woman I can, while I can still walk unknown streets, discover and grow, in spite of my steps being a wee bit wobbly. Though it seems, even to me, a bit quixotic, it feels like I am in the right place: after all, there are windmills.
Great love to all of you.