Tuesday, November 7th, 2017...2:18 ammooree

Esther Popel Shaw

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Leaning about Esther was extremely informative and very interesting.  Since she attended Dickinson while racial discrimination was extremely prevalent in the United States, I was able to see the ways in which she was discriminated against and how Dickinson has changed since then, and how it has not.  As a Dickinson student, it was incredibly stirring to hear that as a woman of color, she was unable to live on campus.  It really makes me think about how different my college experience would be if I were not able to live on campus and I was saddened that Esther did not have those opportunities to connect with her classmates in that way and how alienated from the rest of her classmates she must have felt.  In the presentation I remember her senior quote that gave me an insight into her possible feelings and exclusions from the rest of her classmates at Dickinson.  From one of Emily Dickinson’s poems, the quote read: “My thoughts are my own companions.”  In considering how she was discriminated against, I wonder if Esther had many companions at Dickinson because she did not live on campus like the others.  Although it cannot offer a complete fix for the past issues, I am glad that Dickinson has given free education for the rest of her descendants so that they are able to fully have the true Dickinson experience if they so choose.


  • I too found Esther’s senior quote in her yearbook to be quite powerful, as it not only demonstrates her love of literature and academia, but also, as you suggest in this post, alludes to the idea that Esther may not have connected with many of her classmates on account of being racially different from those around her and living off campus. I think that your point is only further enhanced by the yearbook editor’s descriptions of Esther, in which they noted that they, and many other students, did not know much about Esther aside from the fact that she was a committed student and traveled to and from Dickinson from her residency in Harrisburg. I am curious to gain insight into your thoughts regarding Dickinson College’s Posse Foundation, and whether or not you think that this program does enough to encourage diversity and inclusiveness on Dickinson’s campus? Great post!

  • Her entry in the college yearbook fascinated me as well. I recall that the dedication mentioned Esther Popel-Shaw as a quiet, introverted student with high grades. Her quote from Emily Dickinson accompanies this statement, highlighting Shaw’s passion for poetry. I believe it directly contradicts the outgoing personality she put onto the page in her diary. I believe these yearbook remarks could be seen as further evidence of Shaw’s double-consciousness. In school, she received good grades and did not stand out. In her social life, she felt more free to express her inner thoughts.

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