Interview with Professor Helen Cafferty by K. Skyler Walley ’12


Professor Helen Cafferty

Professor Helen Cafferty

Finding Her Way Through the Bowdoin Professorial Ranks: A Discussion with Helen Cafferty


 As one of the first female professors hired at Bowdoin during its transition to coeducation, and the first female professor to pass through all the ranks, from assistant to associate to full professor, Helen Cafferty has had a remarkable experience as a Bowdoin faculty member. To hear about how she established herself in the German Department, introduced unofficial women’s studies courses, and navigated the still predominantly male Bowdoin campus, listen to the audio below.


Audio: click below to begin listening

Intriguing Pieces:

Time: 00:02:20

Quotation: [In reference to applying to be a professor] “So when it came to Bowdoin, I had a long series of hour interviews with everyone on the faculty committee and they were very cavalier and gracious, and perhaps just a touch patronizing, but with the best motivation I think…”


Time: 00:22:45

Quotation: [In reference to recounting memorable early experiences as a professor] “One time, I think this was in the third year of German language class, I did something differently, I basically lectured in German and wrote on the board a lot…And so I talked about existentialism in German literature in German…and one of the students came up afterwards and said, “Finally you are getting the hang of what it means to be a teacher at Bowdoin!”


Time: 00:39:26

Quotation: [In reference to providing classes, although unofficial at the time, concentrating on women] “I did teach, co-teach, a course on literature and women. And this was a representation of women as well as the cultural status of women, sociological status of women, as in the context of the literature…and then a course on history of German literature with a focus on women…that was very satisfying, these early attempts to have a presence…”

Citation: I, Skyler Walley, interviewed Professor Helen Cafferty on Friday, October 21, 2011, in room 403 of Adams Hall at Bowdoin College. We discussed Professor Cafferty’s experience at Bowdoin as a faculty member, and in particular, as one of the first female faculty members present during Bowdoin’s transition to coeducation.

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