Alumnae in History

Sue A. Dinwiddie (Bobbisue Alpert) '60

Major(s) and Minor(s): History major; Psychology minor
Thesis title and/or topic/description: "Zionism"

What have you done since graduation?

I suspect my experience differs from most, but I thought it might of interest to know how a Scripps Education and a major in History has been valued for the last fifty-three years by one Scripps alum.

My plan was to become a High School History Teacher – at least until I had children. Unbelievable as it now seems, Scripps emphasized that my role as a female was not to specifically have a career (professions were not even mentioned) but to maintain a love and understanding of culture to carry on for my husband and children. Following the pattern of the times I married a Caltech graduate two days after I graduated from Scripps. I was twenty-one. He was twenty-two. (We are still married fifty-three years later.) In the end I did not become a high school teacher, as there were no openings for history teachers. I was told over and over that the field was impacted. So I did not get my teaching credential. For the next ten years I read, discussed current affairs and the influences of history on the present, joined study groups, had some totally unsatisfactory secretarial jobs, did some volunteer work, and had two children. Then in 1970 I read Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystic and it changed my life.

I ended up in Child Development where I eventually became a Head Teacher at Bing Nursery School at Stanford University, taught Child Development Classes through Stanford University, Pacific Oaks College, and several local community colleges. I presented seminars at innumerable local, state and national conferences. My major interest was in furthering problem-solving skills in young children, age two-and-a-half to five. I was interested in cultivating their ability to begin to take perspective (listen to what the other was saying and wanted) analyze their problems, think of choices, choose one, and in some cases even evaluate later. At age fifty-five I took early retirement from Stanford and began my own consulting business: Parent Programs and Staff Development. This enabled me to work with parent groups as well as preschool and elementary school staffs on implementing a problem-solving approach in working with children and to cultivate those skills in the children. Most of my groups were in California, but I worked with a school in New York City for a few years and gave some talks in London. During this time I published two books, I Want It My Way! Problem-Solving Techniques with Children Two to Eight and Let Me Think! Activities to Develop Problem-Solving Abilities in Young Children. I've had many articles published for parents and staffs. Last year at age 74 I retired so I would have more time with my one and only grandchild, who is now four years old and lives across the country. Retiring also allowed me to spend more time on my harp and with the duo I have with my husband, who plays the flute: Wind in the Strings.

How do you think majoring in history or taking history classes has mattered to you?

Although I majored in History at Scripps, I never had a job that required that background directly. However, I consider my history major to have been profoundly valuable throughout my life. History classes at Scripps taught me to look for patterns, go to original sources, dig deep and avoid accepting information at face value, and to look for the bigger picture. I had the good fortune to be at Scripps when three years of Humanities was required. Freshman year covered the ancient world up to the fall of the Roman Empire. Sophomore year focused on the Middle Ages and Renaissance, while Junior Year looked at history from the end of the Renaissance to the present (the 1950's). These courses were each worth double units – six units each semester out of a typical load of 15 units. Humanities examined not just chronological history, but music, art, religion, philosophy, and literature of the each period. I loved all these classes so much that I took Senior Humanities, which was only three units each semester and not required. Senior Humanities in 1959-60 was taught was Professor Merlin, who was one of my favorite professors. The shortcoming of the Humanities as it was taught then was that it only concerned the Western World. I did take classes in History of the Middle East and History of the Far East, but the latter focused on India and did not have any material on China. This, of course, was during the Cold War. Additionally, I took all the American History Classes offered – mostly from Professor White, another favorite professor – and some classes in the History of France. Humanities in general focused on Europe.

I believe that my time at Scripps where I developed a love of learning and inquiring has benefited my entire life up to the present. It keeps me constantly inquiring and learning and never bored. Majoring in history has given me a broader perspective in viewing and understanding the world in which I live. Although my history major was never directly a part of my professional pursuits, for me it has been a very valuable major in living a stimulating and enjoyable life.

Are you available to speak to current students or alumnae?

I am always available to talk to Scripps students, although I doubt that few if any end up in Early Childhood Development these days – especially those who major in history. There are so many more opportunities for women now than in 1960 when I graduated.

Please contact Julie Liss if you would like to connect with this alumna.

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