Featured Member: Linda-Lee Freeman, ’57
Linda-Lee Freeman ’57 is a lecturer in English at American University’s OLLI Program. She has some book recommendations for you.
Who to blame for her interest in Wellesley: You have to blame it on Louisa May Alcott, because I was so taken with Little Women. I realized that she had many connections with Boston, so Boston sounded like a pretty good place to be. During my freshman year at Wellesley, I took three subjects that I thought I might major in: one was chemistry, one was history, one was English. English won out.
The Phys. Ed. requirement was a bit different in the ‘50s: Freshman year there was a series of things that the physical education department thought we should know about. One was how to lift a heavy suitcase and how to move our furniture around in the dorm rooms without straining our backs. Students in some dorms had to learn rope climbing because the buildings didn’t have adequate fire escapes. We also had a helpful course on relaxation techniques. They taught it right before finals!
But some things never change: There was a great deal of studying time needed and also great potential for a social life. I gave up on the extracurricular stuff and did a lot of dating for two years. You could date young men from many different schools. There were some weekends when I was out with one guy on Friday, another on Saturday and a third on Sunday afternoon. Then I met Dave, my husband. We were engaged by the end of my sophomore year and married before my senior year. He was in graduate school at MIT, so we lived in Cambridge, and I commuted out for class each day. We have been married now for 62 years and have four children and seven grandchildren.
What she did with her first paycheck: I spent many years at home with our four children. But then we needed money to pay for their college tuition, so I took a position at Washington National Cathedral as a writer and editor. When I got my first paycheck, somebody asked, “What are you going to do with all that money?” I said, “It’s going straight to Wellesley College to pay tuition for our daughter!” (Katherine Haines Freeman ’84).
On working her way to a Ph.D. at age 60: I later worked as a writer-editor for the University of Maryland, where I could take one graduate course a semester. Eight and a half years after that I ended up with a master’s degree and then a Ph.D. in Victorian literature. I was the graduate student with bifocals. What I didn’t know then was that I also would be given the gift of time to use the degree. I taught juniors and seniors for 15 years at the University of Maryland. I’m still teaching at American University in their Osher Life-Long Learning program for retirees.
Why you shouldn’t read Moby Dick (unless you’re over 65): People usually like a little help with Moby Dick. It’s something that my retiree students at AU return to, often having hated it, and they are surprised to find it a whole new exciting and enchanting world. It is fun to teach it to older people, because they have lived enough of life to recognize how great that novel is. I don’t feel anybody should try to read Moby Dick until that person is 65. It’s not for kids. It’s too profound.
Why you should read Thoreau, no matter how old you are: Everyone in college should read Thoreau at one point or another. It encourages you to simplify your life enough to figure out what is really important. That’s something we all need to do from time to time. I like to teach this to retired people, because it is never too late for any of us to take up the kind of serious review that Thoreau calls for.
On her experience with Wellesley in D.C: The Washington Wellesley Club kept me sane when I had small children! I was later a club officer and for five years 1957’s class president. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, I was also involved with a group the Experiment in Mutual Understanding, founded by Washington Wellesley Club members. This group provided hospitality to international students at universities in D.C., particularly Howard University. Some Howard students had bad experiences with segregation and went back to their home countries and promoted anti-U.S. policies because of it. We offered friendship and hosted discussions, speakers, and dinners for the students.
Where to find her on the weekend: My husband and I live in the Bethesda-Grosvenor neighborhood. I often spend my weekends preparing for classes. I’ve also been an opera lover my whole life. We have subscriptions to Arena Stage, the Shakespeare Theatre Company, and the Washington National Opera.
The Washington Wellesley Club is excited to introduce you to DC area alums through this new series of online profiles. Each month, a local alum will talk about living and working in DC and share memories of Wellesley. These profiles will illustrate how Wellesley alums stay creative and resilient despite the challenges that inevitably come our way. To view profiles of previously featured members, click here.