First Female Tripod Editor

Photo courtesy of Dartmouth College

Susannah Heschel ’73, H’10 wasn’t looking to join the newspaper staff. “I was at the Cave and stopped to say hello to Dean of the Faculty Robert Fuller and another person. I guess they were talking about The Tripod, and Dean Fuller said, ‘Why don’t you go work on The Tripod?’ I was surprised and a bit shy, but I went down and knocked on the door of the paper and said, ‘I’m interested,’ and they gave me some things to do. The next thing you know, I was the first woman editor of the paper,” recalls Heschel, a history major who now serves as the Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College and a Trinity trustee.

For Heschel, that “next thing” took a bit more time than it should have. “The usual trajectory was to start as a general reporter and then become news, arts, or sports editor. I became news editor. That is the person who is usually promoted to managing editor, but the male editor promoted the male arts editor instead of me. Later, I did get the managing editor job, and I was the best that they had ever had. They acknowledged it, and then I became the editor [in 1972].”

That kind of subtle sexism was prevalent on campus at the time, recalls Heschel. “There were some fellow male students who organized a Karl Marx study group; I said I would like to join, and they said, ‘It’s for men only.’ I was furious, and to this day I’m sort of allergic to Marx,” she says.

Though there were moments when Heschel felt patronized and marginalized, she also experienced times of affirmation and excitement. She recalls a life-changing advanced course in the Hebrew Bible that she took her first year with John Gettier [now professor of religion, emeritus]. “I asked if I could take the class, and he took a chance on me,” she recalls. “We sat around a table, maybe five or six of us, read, translated, analyzed. I loved it so much that I remember quite vividly riding my bicycle across campus to the class and feeling so happy. I felt euphoric. It was nothing I had experienced in high school. That kind of joy. In college, you can be in love with your course work. I think about that class frequently to this day.”

Heschel also sees the value in being part of the first coed class. “It was a good thing to go through because it gave us a push to thinking about these kinds of issues, worrying about them, dealing with them. Being a pioneer is worth something,” she says. “Feminism was something very new. In those days, people called it women’s lib. To get up and call oneself a feminist was a scary thing for women to do. I remember by the time I finished college, I had no problem debating feminism with men and making my voice heard. I felt that I had a wonderfully, deliriously happy four years. I entered as a little girl and left as an adult. I discovered my academic interests, my career interests, and I loved my professors, all of them. And I look back and I wish I could do it all over again. What could be better than that?”

Next: First Female Valedictorian, Joan Davies Jefferys ’74