Crossing Borders

Esther Popel Shaw

Dickinson's first-known female graduate of color, the noted poet-activist Esther Popel Shaw, class of 1919, maintained a close relationship with her alma mater throughout her life, and she indicated to loved ones that she was grateful for the education she received at Dickinson. But her daughter, Patricia—now Patricia Shaw Iversen—did not share her positive view. Patricia applied to Dickinson in the 1940s at her mother's suggestion, but was told that while she could attend the college, she could not live in its all-white dormitories. Patricia elected to attend Howard University instead. 

This chapter in Dickinson's history had been long forgotten until Sharon O'Brien, professor of English and American studies, uncovered it while researching the life of Esther Popel Shaw. O'Brien flew to Norway to learn more. This interview with Patricia is the result.

Learn about a new chapter in Dickinson's shared history with the Shaw-Iversen family. 

Published October 22, 2013