By Shirley Marchalonis
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Additional resources for College Girls: A Century in Fiction
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. It is, of course, difficult to separate reality and fiction.
But in contrast are faculty members such as Miss Allison, an incompetent, uncaring English instructor, whose careless grading of exam papers and refusal to admit she has made a mistake cause one talented potential writer (who in earlier fictions would have won admiration for her ability) to leave, and who justifies her role as teacher by being the confidant of the priggish, complacent head of student government. The latter is typical of student leaders, all hearty, shallow souls who conform to the administration's vision.
His tactless words are smoothed over, but the story, which contrasts the woman who has "lived" with the professor who has had only a life of the mind, makes his point for him: the real world is outside and life is separate from learning. Men, in fact, become the symbols of reality. Goodloe's Eva Hungerford, who appears in three stories, thinks of herself as a scholar and writer with a brilliant career ahead of her; when her friend Violet betrays their plan "never to marry, but to devote themselves to serious study as a life-work," Eva contemptuously ends the friendship.