Meryl Streep, Vassar 1971
“In high school ... I wanted to learn how to be appealing. So I studied the character I imagined I wanted to be — that of the generically pretty high school girl. I researched her deeply, that is to say shallowly, in Vogue, in Seventeen, and in Mademoiselle magazines. I tried to imitate her hair, her lipstick, her lashes, the clothes of the lithesome, beautiful and generically appealing high school girls that I saw in those pages ... I adjusted my natural temperament, which tends to be slightly bossy, a little opinionated, loud, a little loud, full of pronouncements and high spirits, and I willfully cultivated softness, agreeableness, a breezy, natural sort of sweetness even shyness, if you will, which was very, very, very effective on the boys. The girls didn’t buy it [but] I had actually convinced myself that I was this person ... a girl who laughed a lot at every stupid thing every boy said and who lowered her eyes at the right moment and deferred, who learned to defer when the boys took over the conversation ... I got to Vassar, which 43 years ago was a single-sex institution ... and I made some quick but lifelong and challenging friends. With their help outside of any competition for boys my brain woke up. I got up and I got outside myself and I found myself again. I didn’t have to pretend. I could be goofy, vehement, aggressive, and slovenly and open and funny and tough and my friends let me. I didn’t wash my hair for three weeks once. They accepted me like the Velveteen Rabbit.” — Barnard Commencement Speech, 2010
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While Vassar is no longer a women's college, Barnard College is!