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.”