Jim Schevill and I moved to Providence in 1969 for what we thought was one year, as he was invited to develop Brown’s Creative Writing Program with Edwin Honig. My previous career had been as an opera and concert singer in the Bay Area, and I had attended the University of California for one year before I married the first time. We both enjoyed living in Rhode Island, and Jim was offered a tenured position in the English Department.
He resigned from S.F. State and we moved to the east side of Providence. I met Charlotte Lowney who encouraged me to attend Pembroke College and finish my undergraduate degree – which I did majoring in Music and Spanish. During that time, with Gerard Shapiro, of the Music Department, we formed The New Music Ensemble of Providence that performed contemporary classical chamber music, and I was the singer.
PART 1: I arrive at the Museum
Living in Fall River, aged 31, in the late 1950s, and with four children, I was a bit bored. I was disinterested in bridge, mah-jongg and social activities. I had left N.Y.U. at 19 to get married and I felt my mind beginning to rust. And so, I saw a list of evening adult courses being offered at Brown University, a half-hour drive from my home. I chose a course in South American Cultures with Professor Dwight Heath. I found it absorbing and felt that it raised interesting questions. Professor Heath wrote me a note after the class ended inviting me to attend another of his courses, which I did. I also worked on classifying a set of slides developed by Professor Heath based on his work in Bolivia. Having enjoyed that project, I asked him if there were other “hands on” things I might do. He mentioned that Brown had a museum, the Haffenreffer Museum, in Bristol, Rhode Island – quite close to my home. He suggested I call and ask if the museum would accept me as a volunteer, which I did. The year was 1959 or ’60 and the call set me on a path that transformed me from a young mother to a career that ended at an “international think tank” in California. It also created a friendship that has lasted 50 years.