Yale’s Female Iconography: Former Yale College Dean Mary Miller’s Portrait

“When I was 18, I didn’t think I’d still be fighting feminist battles my whole life, but I am.” Mary Miller ’81 PhD, reflected as we spoke about her portrait recently installed in the Faculty Room in Yale’s Connecticut Hall, where it hangs with seven other paintings of Yale College Deans, all white, all male. In addition to being the first (and only) female Dean of Yale College, a position she held from 2008-2014, Miller previously served for a decade as Head of Saybrook College, has taught art history at Yale for over 36 years, and currently claims the title of Senior Director of Yale’s Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage.

According to a sample study of portraiture conducted by the Women Faculty Forum at Yale, about 11% of campus portraits include female figures. Some spaces boast better numbers, such as Saybrook Dining Hall, where another portrait of Mary Miller hangs alongside 3 other portraits of women, making the tally there 4 out of 15 or about 30%. And the hall outside of the President’s Room upstairs in Woolsey Rotunda offers 75% with 4 portraits of past Yale provosts, including three women. Inside the President’s Room, though, men still dominate; here hang no portraits of women out of 8 portraits total. Will those numbers ever change? Will a portrait of a woman one day make it into the President’s Room? While we can’t know the answer to that question, we do know that with the addition of Miller’s portrait in the Faculty Room, the faculty who gather there no longer have only men to, quite literally, look up to. Now they also have this portrait of a woman of accomplishment to inspire them.

As Dean of Yale College, Miller served as chief academic officer of the undergraduate school of 5400 students, managed a staff of 240, and personally raised over $450 million ($100 million in 2014 alone, more than any previous Dean of Yale College in a single year). During her tenure, Miller also identified the need for a clear policy addressing sexual misconduct. Not only did she spearhead the effort to write a new policy; she also developed an ongoing program of Peer Educators to guide students in consent and intervention. Over the years, she explained, she had learned that the world is not a better place, that one could never declare victory—that, in essence, for a policy of sexual misconduct to be effective, people must be reminded year after year that sexual misconduct is possible and that each person must make their own choices. “You are your own person, intellectually, sexually. You are your own self. That should be liberating to both men and women. 

When she committed to sitting for her portrait for 20+ hours, Miller hoped for a “warm and authoritative” effect. In the painting, she stands in a dark blue blazer covering a black outfit, hands crossed at mid-section, holding a pair of glasses. She gazes out at the viewer with an unmistakable authority. Alone among the 8 portraits that hang in the Faculty Room, Miller’s includes no props of her profession, while the 7 other images boast urns, paintings, maps, books (open, in piles, in rows), and even a machine alight with scientific discovery. Miller, on the other hand, stands against a rich gold background, a background that she said got “lighter and lighter” as the artist worked, finally “luminous” in contrast to the other darker paintings. While Miller explained that the bright, uncluttered trappings resulted from the artist’s desire for a 21st century portrait style, I can’t help but think about how these choices mark the subject as decidedly different. Unlike the others, this figure looks toward the future, suggesting: It’s not the props of my profession that matter, or the credentials; it’s the legacy I’ve left, the determined work toward an unwritten future.

- Alice Rebecca Moore ’16 PhD

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Update: YaleWomen Mentoring

In the last issue of this quarterly enewsletter, we asked you to tell us about your mentoring interests and needs so that we have a better understanding and can better shape YaleWomen's mentoring network. Your responses to the survey yielded great food for thought! Stay tuned for news about what emerges from your input. In the interim, many of you said you are interested in working with current Yale students. Check the YaleWomen calendar for student-oriented events the chapters might host this summer. Here are a few other opportunities to explore and take advantage of:

Yale Office of Career Strategy – Job Shadowing and Career Trek Program

Designed for career exploration, the program provides an unparalleled opportunity for students at Yale College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences to learn more about professional opportunities in a given career field.  For more information, email [email protected].

Yale Entrepreneurial Institute Mentor Network

YEI Mentor Network taps Yale alumni to create a robust, engaged circle of founders and senior executives who can advise both growing student and faculty startups.  For more information, email Rick Hunt at [email protected].

1stGenYale

1stGenYale is an emerging AYA Shared Interest Group (SIG) whose mission is to support alums who are 1stGen and share a common bond to make Yale a welcoming and supportive place for current first-generation students at Yale College and the Graduate & Professional Schools.  For more information, email [email protected].

Careers, Life, and Yale

CLY connects students and alumni. By sharing career and life experiences, alums help students develop career plans and life skills. CLY events offer insight on both unusual and established career paths, along with networking and mentoring opportunities as well as interviewing and job-search skills.  CLY events go deeper than career wisdom: alumni share insights about leadership, teamwork, financial literacy and greater self-awareness (e.g., strengths, passions, and work/life balance).  The 2017-18 calendar of events is in the planning stage.  To indicate your interest in serving as a mentor, click here.  

Denise Stevens ’95 PhD

Chair, YaleWomen Mentoring Committee

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In Conversation with Tina Lu, Head of Pauli Murray College

SL:  What are your thoughts on the naming of the new college after Pauli Murray? 

TL:  I was appointed after the college was named, but I am overjoyed that Yale decided to name a college after Pauli Murray.  Since my appointment, I've been educating myself about Pauli Murray, who is probably, as Slate.com says, “the most important civil rights activist you do not know.”  It is an incredible opportunity to serve in a college named after someone who is so much of the modern world.  I want to create programming to reflect her legacy and I want her legacy to help create the community in our college.   

SL: What specific programs do you have in mind for Pauli Murray College? 

TL:  Lots of things that are fun and have nothing to do with Pauli Murray the person, of course!  But I do hope also to host programs that commemorate Pauli Murray in different ways.  For instance, I’m planning events in collaboration with the Pauli Murray Center in Durham, North Carolina.  I also hope to commemorate her life in other ways.  Pauli Murray was a lifelong dog lover - so I think it might be fun to have an open-door dog day.  She was also a pastor and a deeply spiritual person.  In honor of that, a Fellow of the college, a faculty member at the Divinity School who has studied Pauli Murray as a religious figure, is planning “moments of reflection” in the college.  There was also a play written about Pauli Murray, and we are working on bringing that to our own little theater.  One of our students has been deeply inspired by her poetry, some of which will be the first set of readings for our book club.  All in all, a whole series of events that reflect her ongoing legacy.  

SL: The Head plays an important role in shaping the college’s culture and identity.  As Head, how do you hope to shape the college’s culture and identity? 

TL: The culture and identity and the traditions will grow organically.  I want to keep it open to the students and have the students make it their own.  For instance, we left open the question of the mascot this spring so that our incoming first-years get to vote too.

SL: What’s on the table for mascot? 

TL: Pauli Murray was a dog lover, and she named one of her dogs "Doc." He was black and white and Pauli used to joke that his real name was “Black and White We Rise Together.”.... but that’s just one idea.... I want to leave it up to the students.  For various reasons I don’t quite get, some of them are pushing for a penguin!  

SL: Any traditions you would like to start in the college?  

TL: They’ll emerge on their own, as they do in any healthy community.  As Head, I want to bring a spirit of openness.  The geographic location of our college physically borders a New Haven neighborhood, so our college interfaces with both New Haven and Yale.  The students are excited about that, and they want to be great neighbors.  We want to embrace that and we want to embrace many cultural traditions.  But here’s one idea.  I look forward to hosting an open-door Seder that welcomes every member of our community.  I really hope it can be a celebration of freedom and resilience.  

 SL: How do you view your position as Head?  

TL: I hope to share myself with a little microcosm of Yale College.  As Head, I really want our students to know that a 21st century Yale looks outward, looks global, and reflects and embraces what is deeply American.  

Stephanie Yu Lim ’00

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YaleWomen Global Newsletter | March 2017

YaleWomen Global Newsletter | March 2017

  • The River of Women
  • "Women of Yale Lecture Series" Features Vera Wells, Alum from the First Class of Women to Graduate from Yale College
  • Ann Klotz ’82 Is Empowering Girls To Change The World
  • Who was Grace Hopper?
  • Please take a 5-minute Mentoring Survey
  • Women's Leadership Initiative hosts 9th Annual "Women in Leadership Conference"
  • Connectivity and Voice at YaleWomen’s Chapters
  • And more YaleWomen events...
  • Women Innovators Breakfast Series - Upcoming Events
  • Congratulations!
  • Donate Now! 

Read the full newsletter here: YaleWomen Global Newsletter | March 2017

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YaleWomen Global Newsletter | December 2016

YaleWomen Global Newsletter | December 2016

  • From the YaleWomen Chair: A Sense of Place
  • YaleWomen chair Susan Lennon ’85 MPPM receives the Yale Medal
  • 2016 AYA Leadership Awards names YaleWomen an "Outstanding Group" for Volunteer Engagement and Leadership
  • "Women in Politics" webinar marks historic season for females in American politics
  • YaleWomen Chapters Update
  • Author Nancy Malkiel Presents "Keep the Damned Women Out" at Yale
  • Maya Lin and Grace Hopper win the Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • Join the YaleWomen Council
  • Support YaleWomen
  • Host a Yale Student Job Shadower

Read the full newsletter here: YaleWomen Global Newsletter | December 2016

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YaleWomen Global Newsletter | September 2016

YaleWomen Global Newsletter | September 2016

  • From the YaleWomen Chair: Approaching Our Fifth Anniversary
  • Save the Date! YaleWomen’s Next Webinar on Women in Politics
  • YaleWomen's Inaugural Innovation Fellow
  • YaleWomen Chapters: Highlights from the Summer and Upcoming Events
  • Behind the Women at Yale Tour with Alice Moore '04 MFA, '15 PhD
  • YaleWomen co-hosts Panel Discussion "Women on Corporate Boards" in Boston
  • From the Desk of the YaleWomen 50/50 Media Project: Women in Sports
  • The New Power of the YaleWomen Network

Read the full newsletter here: YaleWomen Global Newsletter | September 2016

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YaleWomen Global Newsletter | June 2016

YaleWomen Global Newsletter | June 2016

  • YaleWomen Election Results Are In!
  • A Message from the YaleWomen Chair
  • First Yale Woman to Head AYA: An Inspirational Leader
  • Save the Date: the 2016 Gruber Distinguished Lecture in Women's Rights
  • Inaugural YaleWomen Award for Excellence
  • Confidence When it Counts: YaleWomen's First Webinar Now Available Online
  • Summer Breakfast Series for YaleWomen in New Haven
  • YaleWomen Chapters – Building Capacity through Partnerships
  • YaleWomen Reunion Breakfasts
  • YaleWomen Reunion Recap: On Managing Mid-Career Transitions
  • Support YaleWomen

Read the full newsletter here: YaleWomen Global Newsletter | June 2016

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YaleWomen Global Newsletter | March 2016

YaleWomen Global Newsletter | March 2016

  • Save the Date: Inaugural YaleWomen Award for Excellence, Panel and Dinner on May 2
  • Recap: The Inaugural Yale Women’s Summit
  • Will Grace Hopper's Name Grace a College?
  • Do You Have a Reunion This Year? Join YaleWomen!
  • Join Yale's Day of Service!
  • YaleWomen Seeks Video Editors
  • YaleWomen Chapters: What's in it For Me?
  • Watch: More Videos From YaleWomen's 'Gender Rules' Symposium
  • YaleWomen at Yale: Title IX Report Available Online
  • YaleWomen Faculty Forum Unveils a Portrait of Yale’s First Women PhDs
  • Yale Women's Leadership Initiative 8th Annual Conference: W.E. Women
  • Support YaleWomen

Read the full newsletter here: YaleWomen Global Newsletter | March 2016

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YaleWomen Global Newsletter | December 2015

YaleWomen Global Newsletter | December 2015

  • From the Chair of YaleWomen
  • YaleWomen at the AYA Assembly
  • The Inaugural YaleWomen Award Dinner
  • YaleWomen Chapters: Year in Review
  • Watch: YaleWomen's 'Gender Rules' Symposium
  • YaleWomen at Yale: Addressing Sexual Assault on Campus
  • From the Desk of the YaleWomen 50/50 Media Project: The Gender Pay Gap Through a Hollywood Lens
  • Join the YaleWomen Council!
  • Join the Yale Career Network
  • Support YaleWomen

Read the full newsletter here: YaleWomen Global Newsletter | December 2015

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YaleWomen Global Newsletter | September 2015

YaleWomen Global Newsletter | September 2015

  • From the Chair of YaleWomen
  • YaleWomen Chapters at Work
  • YaleWomen at Yale
  • From the Desk of the YaleWomen 50/50 Media Project: When Doing A Good Job Is Not Enough
  • Coming Soon: Gender Rules Conference Video
  • Calling All Musicians and Composers!
  • Fundraising Gala Honoring Barbara Bush ’04
  • Women's Health Research at Yale Public Awareness Campaign
  • Join the Yale Career Network
  • Support YaleWomen

Read the full newsletter here: YaleWomen Global Newsletter | September 2015

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