Logo Historical Accountability Student Research Program

Remembering Hannah

Throughout her term of residence at Rauner Special Collections, Caroline Cook was struck by the difference between Croasdale’s perception of herself and the way those around her viewed her life and career. While Croasdale did not think of herself as a pioneer or landmark figure in the history of women in science and women at Dartmouth College, she noticed and expressed disbelief that she was being remembered in this more feminist light. In interviews, Croasdale laughed as she described the disrespect or neglect she experienced as a female faculty member, critiqued the existence of the award created in her honor in 1983,  and openly expressed how she did not relate with or understand so-called “women’s libbers,” who demanded equality and resources from men in power as a prerequisite and not as a result of years of hard work and waiting. In her article for Lady Science, Cook explains:

“There seems to be a disconnect between the way some feminist trailblazers are remembered and how they viewed themselves. Historical context is incredibly important for explaining why women like Croasdale—women we put on pedestals as icons of generations of young modern professionals—may have tolerated unfathomable treatment. A deeper understanding of their context also explains why these women may not have viewed themselves the way we do.”

Hannah made a huge difference for me. You see someone, and if they are doing it, then you know it’s possible. That’s what it is. Hannah being a female faculty member made it look possible.

Above all, Croasdale appeared to value her impact as a scholar and teacher more so than a pioneer for women in academia and science. Although all the students who had the privilege to learn under her tutelage are now alumni, these students still remember Prof. Croasdale fondly and occasionally bond with one another over their shared experiences. Prof. Croasdale and her role at Dartmouth College and the Hanover, NH community have meant different things to different people at different moments in time. While it is important to acknowledge how she viewed her own life and work, it is equally important to value what she means to people today. Celia Chen ’78, a Professor of Biology at Dartmouth and former student of Prof. Croasdale, recalled in an interview with Caroline Cook that “Hannah made a huge difference for me. You see someone, and if they are doing it, then you know it’s possible. That’s what it is. Hannah being a female faculty member made it look possible.” 

From the Archives

Letter from the Hanover Volunteer Hose Company to Hannah Croasdale

During the WWII labor shortage, Croasdale approached the Chief of the local Fire Department and convinced him to take her on as a volunteer. Despite the stir she caused because of her gender, she proved herself invaluable to the department. Croasdale’s home burned down in 1989, but this letter awarding her lifetime membership in the Hanover Volunteer Hose Company fittingly survived the blaze.

Elmire Conklin to President Kemeny, Sept. 11, 1973

Graduate student Elmire L. Conklin writes to President Kemeny to praise Prof. Croasdale, whose course she had just taken in the summer of 1973. Conklin alludes to Croasdale's international renown and domestic fame as an exceptional instructor. She concludes her letter with remarks about Croasdale's poor compensation and “degrading treatment” while at Dartmouth.

Women at the Top (Almost)

An article by Shelby Grantham in the May 1977 issue of the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, which hoped to highlight the state of affairs for women at the College and to be a brutally honest piece. Grantham exchanged letters with many key players in the Biology Department in search of information about Croasdale’s treatment. In a very lengthy response to Grantham’s questions, Bill Ballard shared dozens of anecdotes about his former colleague.

Hannah T. Croasdale Award Ceremony

A transcript of the first Hannah T. Croasdale Award ceremony in 1983. President McLaughlin announces the award is being offered in honor of the 10-year anniversary of co-education and is to be granted to the person who has made the most significant contribution to the quality of life for women at Dartmouth.

Letter from Celia Chen to President Freedman

Celia Chen '78 writes to President Freedman regarding his interest in the idea of young people having heroes. Chen explains that Dartmouth professor Hannah Croasdale is her personal hero, describing her as “the finest example of someone who loves her work and is able to communicate that to her students.”

Dr. Hannah Thompson Croasdale: “Four for the woodchucks, one to grow”

In this short article by Suzanne Spencer, Hannah Croasdale reflects on her early life and Dartmouth career, as well as offering her not-so-flattering opinions on “whiny women's libbers.”

Dartmouth's First Woman of Science

Celia Chen '78 writes into the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine to honor the late Hannah T. Croasdale after her death in 1999. She describes Croasdale as a woman “ahead of her time” and “one of the few female faculty members on campus not yet hospitable to women” when they first met in 1976.

Letter from Joel Deweese to Celia Chen

Joel T. Deweese '64 writes to thank Celia Chen '78 for her eulogy for Prof. Croasdale in the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine. He describes Croasdale as one of the “titans of [his] youth” and her course as “not only the most enjoyable of my Dartmouth career but also [has] ever since been the most interesting and useful to me...”

Dartmouth Women in Science Project: Hannah Croasdale

A short video by Caroline Cook about the life of Hannah Croasdale, which is featured on the Dartmouth Women in Science Project website.

Go to top of page