Friday, November 20, 2009

electical trouble

Alas, it's another picture of Rutgers's non-maintenance, here neatly documented: "called in 11.04.05 to be fix." I guess nothing happened, and the note is still here, part of the decor in Alice's office in the Ruth Adams Building, on Douglass. In its glory days, the RAB was known as Recitation Hall, a central part of the campus of the New Jersey College for Women, and it still very much has the feel of a women's college (think St Hugh's, think Newnham, think Girton): the same corridors, woodwork, and interior arches; the same sense, too, of the kind of lack of privilege - despite all of its respectable solidity - that Woolf wrote about in A Room of One's Own whilst comparing women's and men's Oxbridge colleges. Ruth Adams herself (b. 1914) had a solid career as an English professor (with a PhD from Radcliffe College) and was indeed a Victorian specialist - teaching at Douglass, and become Dean, from 1960-66, at which point she moved to Wellesley, as its president, where among other things she reaffirmed its commitment to remain a women's college. She moved to Dartmouth in 1972, where she was Vice President and Professor of English until 1988. One has to admire someone who celebrated her 88th birthday with a flight in a hot air balloon.

The Ruth Adams Building, however, badly needs rescuing from gloomy dingeyness. After British educational establishments, it felt suspiciously familiar - something brought hom not just by seeing my own handwriting on unpacked cartons in A's study, but by the presence, in the outer hall of the suite in which her office is situated, of a poster of the Tiffany window, c. 1908, View of Oyster Bay. For I know this so very well - I bought the poster on my first ever trip to New York, in 1979, and it hung - in increasing degrees of tattiness - on my study walls first in Bristol, and then in Oxford: it was like seeing an old friend again today.

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