An impressive number of women authors have come out of Berkeley—so many that it was daunting to select titles to include on this ideal bookshelf. Here you’ll find groundbreaking journalists and sociologists, beloved children’s book authors, and some of the country’s sharpest critics. They were on the campus in different eras, some for just a short time (can you guess which author was here only for a semester?), but they all left their mark on our campus and the literary world.
IT IS UNCLEAR WHEN AGNES EDWARDS slept. As a sophomore at Berkeley in the fall of 1918, she packed her schedule with social activities. In her letters home to her parents, movies, dances, and hikes with friends mingled with pep rallies and volunteer work at the newly opened Red Cross chapter on campus.
What a journey it has been. This year marks 150 years since women were first admitted to Berkeley. To see just how far we’ve come, the California editorial team designed a timeline of women’s contributions to the university and the world. Today’s students stand on the shoulders of the late 19th century trailblazers studying engineering and agriculture in rooms dominated by men, and every pioneering scientist, artist, and politician who followed.
“Since I’ve gotten old, I have wondered how I did all the things that I did then,” Ida Louise Jackson reflected in 1984 at the age of 82. Jackson participated in some of the major movements of the 20th century: the Great Migration, school desegregation, the battles for equitable education and health, and the Civil Rights Movement. Some of her earliest activism began at Berkeley when she organized the first Black sorority on the campus.
ELEANOR SWIFT LEFT THE DEAN’S office at Boalt Hall, walked upstairs, and started packing her things. After a promising legal career and eight years as one of Berkeley School of Law’s most beloved professors, she had just been fired—her tenure denied by her overwhelmingly male peers.
In late June, visitors find the doors of Berkeley City Club locked, signs imploring would-be entrants to wear masks. The club, originally imagined as a space to foster women’s civic engagement, was designed by the famed architect Julia Morgan (B.A. 1894). There’s a swimming pool inside, its untouched water reflecting the aquamarine, cloistered arch ceiling above. Where there should be the echo of rhythmic splashing bouncing off tile, there’s a cavernous silence.
Elena Conis is a historian of U.S. public health and medicine, with a special focus on the history of infectious disease, environmental health, and vaccines.
IN DECEMBER, KAWIKA SMITH, a 17-year-old high school student from Los Angeles, along with fellow students and advocates, sued the UC system. The goal? Completely reinvent the admissions process by jettisoning standardized testing forever. After a whirlwind year of protests, a pandemic, court battles, and UC policy changes, it seems like they just might pull it off.
In mid-June, the UC Board of Regents held a historic vote, unanimously endorsing a state proposal to repeal Proposition 209, California’s controversial ballot initiative which banned the consideration of race, sex, or ethnicity in public education, employment, and contracting throughout the state.
What would have happened if large-scale policies like shelter-in-place orders, travel restrictions, and business closures were not implemented early in the COVID-19 pandemic?
Our editors have curated a list of entertainment to indulge in this autumn. Here are their top picks of web series, podcasts, films, and more, all produced by UC Berkeley faculty and alumni.
For Grace Lavery, coming out as a trans woman was nerve-racking at first. A professor in Berkeley’s Department of English, she was afraid of how her colleagues and students would react. As she explains, a certain amount of criticism comes with the territory of being in academia, adding that, “in my profession, there’s always some degree of anxiety.”
I didn’t realize there was a kind of basic prejudice against women during the field trips in my second semester at Berkeley. There were two women and 26 guys on the trips. The T.A. always tried to make it too tough for the women. It was like, “Well, the girls couldn’t keep up, just go back and forget about it.”
It was only later that I analyzed the T.A.’s actions and realized how unwelcoming they were.
On May 16, 1992, Armed Forces Day, veterans of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the segregated Japanese American World War II unit that was the most decorated in American history, planted a redwood sapling in Oakland’s Roberts Regional Recreation Area to honor their buddies who never made it back. And they’ve returned every year since then to hold a memorial service under that sapling, which has grown into a towering tree.
One of the casualties of the pandemic was UC Berkeley grad Esteem Brumfield’s Fulbright Fellowship in South Africa, where he was researching the country’s prison system. It was canceled. But don’t worry about him; he’s already falling back on Plan B: going to grad school this fall at Brown, where he’ll be studying the connection between health care and incarceration.