By Shirley Marchalonis
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Extra info for College Girls: A Century in Fiction
Other than the fine library, Matthew College has literally nothing for a bright girl who wants to stretch her brain. When she offends one teacher by "bringing too much outside information to class" (325), the intellectually curious Rebecca discovers that the way to get good grades is to give back what the teachers have said. When she stays at the college Page 129 over a vacation to catch up on work missed through illness and to read in the magnificent library that for her is now the center and meaning of the college, a faculty member who meets her coming happily away with an armload of books is shocked to find that many of them are not on any required reading list.
Vassar is the target of both these fictional attacks, as the name Matthew College in one case and the thinly disguised Edna St. Vincent Millay and Lucy Maynard Salmon characters in the other indicate; both authors went to Vassar, graduating around 1920. Whether the failures they portray were unique to their institution or whether all the women's colleges had grown the same way, as generalized commentary about them suggests, is impossible to determine from the fiction. Probably readers interpreted the novels as typical of all women's colleges, and certainly critics and reviewers did.
But Miss Millay was not born to set them right," and E. W. H. " 34 Lapsley fares somewhat better, though there is no enthusiasm either way in the reviews; the Times found her novel "readable, intelligent, informative. " 35 The reviewers accepted all the novels as true, almost reportorial, accounts, inside looks at women going to college. None finds much significance in the fact that three of the novels portray the experience as negative and painful, while the one positive account rejects the standard college trimmings.
College Girls: A Century in Fiction by Shirley Marchalonis