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Bryn Mawr College caves, officially removes past president’s name from library

Bryn Mawr College has given in and will officially excise the name of one of its first presidents from the campus library.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, following a “multi-year process renaming process” no longer will students see “M. Carey Thomas” on the building now known simply as “Old Library.”

Five years ago, Bryn Mawr decided to keep the library’s Thomas inscription; however, school websites, printed materials and even “basic conversation” henceforth had to exclude the name.

But this wasn’t sufficient for student activists at the Philly suburban school, who included the complete removal of Thomas references from the library — and pretty much everywhere else on campus — in a late-2020 list of demands.

Known as a suffragist and women’s rights advocate, Thomas (pictured) also was a white supremacist who opposed to the hiring of Jewish faculty and matriculation of black students. She served as president from 1894 to 1922.

Thomas had told the 1916 Bryn Mawr freshman class that “[i]f the present intellectual supremacy of the white races is maintained, as I hope that it will be for centuries to come, I believe that it will be because they are the only races that have seriously begun to educate their women.”

The Bryn Mawr Board of Trustees said in a statement “The inscription over the Old Library entrance, initially intended to honor Thomas’ contributions, now sends an unwelcoming message too powerfully placed to be offset or clarified by countering narratives elsewhere.”

We acknowledge the harm and hurt Thomas’ legacy of exclusion, racism, and antisemitism has caused for so many, and understand that the removal of an inscription does not alone redress that pain. We do believe that the removal of the inscription will open a door to healing and encourage the continuing work we do together to make Bryn Mawr a community of welcome and belonging.

In a separate statement, Bryn Mawr President Kim Cassidy said the former library inscription bearing Thomas’ name will be part of a future exhibit “that allows for purposeful engagement with these objects and a reckoning with the full stories behind them.”

Cassidy noted there will be two events in April to “reclaim” the library’s “space.” These will include an “interactive dance performance,” an “opportunity for creative artwork” and a celebration of “the various identities of [the] current campus community.”

MORE: Bryn Mawr agrees to ‘reparations fund’ to help pay for black students’ therapy, books

IMAGE: Philly Protest / Twitter screencap

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