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Truth to Power

While Croasdale’s journey from Technical Assistant in the Department of Zoology to Professor of Biology is an interesting example of the importance of allyship when combatting discriminatory practices, it is equally important to remember her own self-advocacy. After all, it was her request for a meeting with Deputy Provost Rieser in 1959 that started the ball rolling for the men with administrative power in her Department to become accountable for her situation.

“It’s not what I’d call a brilliant career, but it has been fun most of the time, and I’m still going strong—I hope.”

Similarly, the congratulatory letters informing her of promotions, raises, or awards warranted responses that demonstrate the subtle and age-old power in a woman’s ability to answer. Her replies to mundane professional correspondence, preserved in her Personnel File, often betray a sharp wit and sense of self-deprecating humor at her position, as in a 1968 letter to Rieser in which she refers to her promotion to full professor after 32 years of work at the college a “lucky break.” She demurs at the end of the same letter: “It’s not what I’d call a brilliant career, but it has been fun most of the time, and I’m still going strong—I hope.” Her signature brand of self-deprecation fused with a slight passive-aggression, which is featured most prominently in this closing line, shows that she did stand up for herself in the ways she thought potentially productive.

Croasdale is remembered by her friends and mentees as warm and genuine, but since most of her records are professional letters, that side of her—authentic and unbridled emotion—is rare to see. A selection of her witty replies has been made available below, including the 1968 response to Rieser.

From the Archives

Prof. Croasdale writes Arthur Jensen, Dean of the Faculty, to thank him for explaining the “situation surrounding promotion” and granting her a “real raise.” This letter was likely written in 1959 and refers to a conversation regarding her ability to be promoted to a full Assistant Professorship from her position as Research Assistant.

Prof. Croasdale writes the Dean of the Faculty to thank him for explaining the “situation surrounding promotion” and granting her a “real raise.” This letter was likely written in 1959 and refers to a conversation regarding her eligibility to be promoted to a full Assistant Professorship from her position as Research Assistant. 

Prof. Croasdale writes again to Arthur Jensen with thanks for her promotion to Research Assistant with the rank of Assistant Professor. She expresses happiness for finally rising above the rank of instructor and is not shy about the fact that she needed the corresponding raise: “It gives me a financial security that I have not had for years.” Her promotion to “Research Assistant with the rank of Assistant Professor,” was a miscommunication according to her colleague J.H. Copenhaver in a letter to Leonard Rieser a year later. Apparently, the Zoology Department had voted to recommend Croasdale for the official position of Assistant Professor, but when Jensen “informed [him] of the action of the C[ommittee] A[dvisory to the] P[resident] it was 'with the rank of' and there was nothing [he] could do about it.”

Prof. Croasdale writes again to Arthur Jensen with thanks for her promotion to Research Assistant with the rank of Assistant Professor. She expresses happiness for finally rising above the rank of instructor and is not shy about the fact that she needed the corresponding raise: “It gives me a financial security that I have not had for years.”

In this letter, likely from 1961, Prof. Croasdale writes Rieser to thank him for her recent promotion. Her claims that the promotion came as a complete surprise seems to suggest that she was largely unaware of the Croasdale Memos. She is brutally honest about her situation when she tells Rieser: “I thought I was in a dead-end, except for my research... life is far sweeter than it was four years ago!”

In this letter, likely from 1961, Prof. Croasdale writes Rieser to thank him for her promotion. Her claims that the promotion came as a complete surprise seems to suggest that she was largely unaware of the Croasdale Memos. She is brutally honest about her situation when she tells Rieser: “I thought I was in a dead-end, except for my research... life is far sweeter than it was four years ago!”

Prof. Croasdale writes Rieser to thank him for her recent promotion from “Research Assistant with the rank of Assistant Professor” to Assistant Professor with tenure. She does not hide the fact that she thinks the promotion is long overdue and her last promotion a bit of a farce when she says “It is very gratifying to be a Faculty member at last, with no strings attached, and to have a salary I can live on. I do like to get letters from you!”

Prof. Croasdale writes Rieser to thank him for her recent promotion from “Research Assistant with the rank of Assistant Professor” to Assistant Professor with tenure. She does not hide the fact that she thinks the promotion is long overdue when she says “It is very gratifying to be a Faculty member at last, with no strings attached, and to have a salary I can live on. I do like to get letters from you!”

Prof. Croasdale writes Rieser to thank him for her recent promotion from Assistant Professor with tenure to the rank of full Professor. She takes the time to acknowledge Rieser's role in her rise through the ranks throughout her Dartmouth career: “It was you who gave me my first boost, long ago, when I felt trapped as a mere technician...” The letter still contains her trademark biting and ironic humor, towards both the institution and herself: “I'm very glad that I made this grade [full Professor] before my retirement. It was close... It's not what I'd call a brilliant career, but it's been fun most of the time, and I'm still going strong--I hope.”

Prof. Croasdale writes Rieser to thank him for her promotion from Assistant Professor with tenure to the rank of full Professor. She takes the time to acknowledge Rieser's role in her rise through the ranks throughout her Dartmouth career: “It was you who gave me my first boost, long ago, when I felt trapped as a mere technician...” The letter still contains her trademark biting and ironic humor, towards both the institution and herself.

Prof. Croasdale writes Rieser about her reappointment to teach a course for the Summer 1974 term. As opposed to her correspondence years earlier, this letter shows Croasdale enjoying the hard-won fruits of her labor: record enrollment in her course and “the best of all possible assistants.”

Prof. Croasdale writes Rieser about her reappointment to teach a course for the Summer 1974 term. As opposed to her correspondence years earlier, this letter shows Croasdale enjoying the hard-won fruits of her labor: record enrollment in her course and “the best of all possible assistants.”

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