Up | Down | Top | Bottom A Series of Firsts: Barbara Carter

Barbara Quinn Carter

Barbara graduated with a Master of Science in Zoology in 1952. She worked as a research scientist at both the University and Parke-Davis, as a Professor of Biology at Onondaga Community College, and as a technical writer for Shared Medical Systems. Barbara has four children.

Growing Up

Listen to Barbara describe her family and why she chose Mount Holyoke for her undergraduate degree and U of M for her graduate degree.

KW: So, you have the list of questions and they kind of just have been generated to get you thinking about any accomplishments or memories that you would like to share with me. So, don’t feel pressured to come up with an answer to each and everyone of them. They’re kind of just a guide to get us going. I guess to start us out, could you tell me a little bit about your family?

BC: I grew up in a town called New Rochelle, New York, outside of Manhattan.

KW: You're still in New York now, is that correct?

BC: Pardon?

KW: You still live in New York now, correct?

BC: No, not still (laughs). But yes, I am back in New York after being all over the globe. I just moved back here last spring or last summer but I have not lived here in years and years and years. I left New York and went out to Michigan for graduate school. I had graduated from one of the Seven Sister Colleges in New England, Mount Holyoke, and I graduated from there in ‘49. Then I went to work for the Rockefeller Institute, it was an institute then, it’s now a university in New York City, and I worked there. I realized that I really couldn’t do anything in my field, except grunt work, unless I got a graduate degree. So, I applied to some of the big...I wanted to do something different...I applied to some of the mid-western big colleges. I had never had a coed experience except way back in high school. I also applied for an assistantship in the department and I got one at Michigan. So, that’s the reason I really chose Michigan was because I had help. I could work my way through graduate school. I graduated actually from high school in 1944 but I was not college oriented. This was the middle of the war and there was only one college on the East Coast that was having any real social life, because there were no men around, and that was Connecticut College for Women, right up in New London, Connecticut. I applied there as the only college I applied to, believe it or not, and I was put on the waiting list because everybody in the country was applying there. It was a big feature in LIFE Magazine about it was the only school in the country where anybody was having any fun. So, I went then to take what is called the fifth year of high school at a prep school in upper New England. My folks sent me up there and I guess I really learned to study up there. And every college I applied to that year I got in and I chose Mount Holyoke. My sister already was at Mount Holyoke.

KW: I actually, one of my cousins goes there.

BC: Is that right? It’s a good school, it still is. Believe it or not, they have stayed female oriented. So that...I think going to a school like that first really was a good idea. If I had just gone right to Michigan, it would have been the same old high school experience I think where I was more interested in just having a good time. Rather than...it wasn’t...the coed situation wasn’t cut out for me to learn how to study in. And at Mount Holyoke we...you could get into much smaller classes and you could also be very active in them and I just wasn’t that way in high school. My prep school was not coed either and I found that out in prep school, and, believe it or not, my father didn’t want me to go to a coed college. He was valedictorian. He was a Yale man. My family went to college way back then. My mother went to University of Chicago, so that was my background. I have a brother and a sister. The brother went to Yale and the sister went to Mount Holyoke, so we were college oriented.

KW: Were they older than you, your brother and sister?

BC: Brother was younger, sister was older and then my brother married a Mount Holyoke girl, so we’re loaded with that.

KW: What did your parents do for a living?

BC: My father was in real estate in New York and my mother was at home. Just like I was for years and years.

KW: Right.

Listen to Barbara talk about her interest in science and her experience working with prominent scientists at the Rockefeller Institute and at U of M.

KW: Was there a time when you realized you were interested in the sciences?

BC: Actually, it was in prep school. I didn’t do well in high school science at all. No, I really didn’t. I actually was taking a chemistry course. I couldn’t stand it. I dropped out and took art, which by the way is what I am doing now, which is really funny. It's gone...it's taken about sixty years to make a full circle, so it’s just really funny, but of course I’m very, very interested in science. That’s been my life too and so I became interested in...I took chemistry again and really loved it in prep school. Good teacher, small class, everything was so different, and so I was going to major in that at Mount Holyoke and the first year I was still majoring in it. The second year, believe it or not, I just hated organic chemistry.

KW: I feel that is still true today.

BC: Yes, that turns people. I was even thinking of medical school, but you had to have organic chemistry, so I dropped out of that and a very strange thing happened. I took art again at Mount Holyoke, just to make up the rest of that year. Then I also took biology and then became very fond of biology, so I had to really catch up and took a lot of science courses my last two years at Mount Holyoke. But my other minors were English...Philosophy was a minor, English was a minor. Let’s see what else was there that I really used. I guess those were my two minors. I wasn’t good in languages. I had to take two for a science major. So, I had to take German and French and in high school I had taken four years of Spanish, but now I can’t speak anything but the English language, so that got me there. That’s why I became interested in science and what about women in science at the time? Well, as far as I was concerned, there was no reason they would not be in science because I am coming from Mount Holyoke. And then when I got down to the Rockefeller Institute that really was like going to college for a year or two. I mean we had every famous scientist in the world was working there and I was working with the people that developed the polio vaccine, you know Dr. Salk and Dr. Sabin. Mine, the doctor I worked for, was working with those two men, one had the live polio vaccine and one had the attenuated one, and my boss was very close to them. Believe it or not, we didn’t have a secretary in the office and I ended up typing...doing the typing for my boss in addition. That’s why I went to graduate school, I think. I was typing his letters for him but that was interesting too because in the end the letters were to Dr. Sabin and Dr. Salk and Dr. Francis was a famous person right then. And then when I went out to Michigan, Dr. Francis was there in the School of Public Health. So, the whole thing was coming together really well. I think Michigan was a good place to go and I was a research assistant for a very, very nice man, Dr. Kemp, K-E-M-P, in the Zoology department. He was working on embryology, the development of certain cellular structures in embryology. So, I had only half...I only got to really work on my studies...well, it wasn't a full load. It was almost a full load. It took me two years to get my master's degree.

Listen to Barbara discuss her job at the Rockefeller Institute and how her education at Mount Holyoke compared to the courses at U of M.

KW: At the Rockefeller Institute were you there as a researcher? Was that your title? Or what exactly...?

BC: You mean at Rockefeller? Yes right, I was.

KW: What made you decide to go there?

BC: And it was such, you wouldn’t believe this because it’s so different now. We didn’t have then any of these open hiring plans. They would only take people from the Seven Sister Colleges. Yes, it was a very snooty place to work.

KW: Were you pretty well accepted there? Did you ever experience any...?

BC: Oh yes. Oh yes, except we had our own dining room and the Ph.D.s, M.D.s had their own dining room. So, it was not a real democratic society by any means, but it was straight-laced and it was typical of the time, 1950.

KW: Do you feel, looking back in comparison to how things are now, did you feel like you were treated differently at all there because you were a woman?

BC: Well, I think it was because I didn’t have a graduate degree because there were a few women doctors there and I would really have to ask one of them; they got to eat in the other dining room (laughs). But no, I just never thought about that, I just knew that it was something to do with the amount of education I had rather than that I was a woman. All the research assistants were women, come to think of it. I don’t believe I remember any men. There must have been. Maybe they ate in the other dining room, so that was why I went back to graduate school. Oh yes, what else I did while I was working at Rockefeller I took a night course in bacteriology because actually I was working in a bacteriology/virology lab. It wasn't a zoology lab when I was working there. So, I went to Hunter College at night after work to take bacteriology and I really liked that and in the end, at Michigan, I was really majoring in bacteriology but I was working in the zoology department and my degree came through zoology but I had had practically every zoology course they had there already at Mount Holyoke, believe it or not. So, the ones that I took, some of them were sort of a repeat and that wasn’t too good to say about Michigan. They just didn’t have much diversity...I mean I took genetics over again. We had different emphasis on different things but I really had had genetics and same with endocrinology, I mean some of those things I had had, but the biochemistry that I took I never had had and the bacteriology I took there I never had had, so I would say I spent more time in biochemistry and bacteriology than I did in zoology with the studies there. So, I was really like a triple major and the biochemistry was funny because I hated organic chemistry in college but to take human organic chemistry, which is biochemistry, it was a different thing completely and the teachers were better and the best teacher I ever had was my basic biochemistry teacher at Michigan and his name was Dr. Lewis. So, you can put that down as saying that that’s something and in bacteriology I had Dr. Nungester who I thought was tremendous. Ok, there you are for that (laughs). I think you better start asking questions!

University of Michigan

Listen to Barbara talk about campus life, including her friends in Alice Lloyd.

KW: So, just to make sure I have this correct, you decided to go to U of M because you got the assistantship? Is that correct?

BC: Yes but I only had applied there and at I think Wisconsin. I can’t really remember. I might have applied at one of the Eastern schools too...I don’t know whether I applied at Yale or something like that. I just can't remember that.

KW: Where did you live while you...so you were at U of M for about two years?

BC: Yes. I lived in a graduate dormitory the first year, believe it or not, it was one of the Alice Lloyd Halls I guess, are they still there? On Observatory Street? And one of those...there were four units I think and one of them was for graduate students only and we had a wonderful time, it was a great...actually it was all female...and we had a great time. We were on the top floor and I think there were about eight of us that did things all the time but I never could join them in the summertime. I worked in research and took courses. They always went swimming in the afternoon but I always had labs. That was the problem.

KW: What were they studying?

BC: Well, a lot of them, my friends there, believe it or not, were in the School of Education.

KW: So, what kinds of things did you like to do on weekends or days off?

BC: I never had a day off, believe it or not, but I mean, I dated a lot there. You know, the first year, I mean I did, I had quite a social life too. I was very involved with the law school. Actually never dated a med. school person even though I was in all their classes. That was funny. I guess they were busy too! (laughs) But I met my first husband there at Michigan and he was there getting his master’s and I left. I got my master’s and left the second June and went into work at Parke-Davis as a research associate. I guess I was called there because I had my master’s degree and I worked in bacteriology again.

Alice Crocker Lloyd Hall for Women, 1949

Alice Crocker Lloyd Hall for Women, 19491

Listen to Barbara describe how she supported her husband’s education by working for an OBG-GYN.

KW: Okay, yeah, I saw on the survey we sent out that you called yourself a “P.H.T.", “Putting Husband Through"...

BC: Oh yes and so he, after he finished his master's, wanted to stay for a Ph.D. and he was in bacteriology and it took him 5 more years. But after 1 year, after I was at Parke-Davis only about a year and a half, we got married and I moved back to Ann Arbor and I worked in the department of OB-GYN as a research assistant. That was in the Women’s Hospital there and I worked for a man named Dr. Riley and he was interested in what the liver does...my particular problem was to find out what the liver does to the hormones in the body, so that was my assignment and I had at little artificial heart set up. I think it was from a rat (laughter) and a little machine and I perfused it with liquids...or fake blood...that contained the hormones and we analyzed it in the biochemistry lab...we had a biochemist in our department. So, anyway we had...that was it and then I think after I was there...then I was pregnant there too...and I left when I had my first child and that was after about a year and three months or something after I was there. And at that time my husband and I were living in University Housing, which was called...what did they call it now, they were right there behind the Women’s Hospital, but I know Women’s Hospital isn’t there anymore...University Terrace, I think it was called.

KW: Yeah, that sounds familiar.

BC: Do they still have that there? It’s behind Observatory Street there.

KW: I think it might still be there.

BC: Yeah, I think so, they were two-story apartments, garden apartments.

KW: Yeah, I think I know what you’re talking about. I remember seeing...

BC: If you walk down to, oh boy, what did they call it? That park right there...all of a sudden I’m losing it, that’s what happens when you’re 80 years old. I keep saying observatory, the observatory was there, but also right behind there what was that where they have the trees, Arboretum, Arboretum. God, a biologist can’t remember the word arbor!

KW: That’s funny, yeah, I think that might still be there but I am trying to remember because they’ve been doing a lot of construction on the hospital lately.

BC: Yeah they might’ve even taken over the University Terrace there, I don’t know.

Listen to Barbara describe her interactions with male classmates, professors, and colleagues.

KW: I was going to ask you...I’m sorry...I feel bad taking you back to ask you random questions; they are just kind of things I’m curious about. I was going to ask you about your friends at U of M because you mentioned in your survey that there was only one other woman who graduated with you in Zoology, is that correct?

BC: Yes. In the Zoology department in my first year there weren't any others. There was one woman Ph.D. though. I didn’t have her for anything. She might have just been doing 100% research and not teaching that year, but I did want to mention this thing. When I went in for my initial interviews I already was working there, already had been accepted, and was working. I went up to meet the head of the department and he introduced me, his name was Dr. Brown at the time, and he introduced me to another gentleman that was sitting there that was also a faculty member and thank heavens I can’t remember his name because it wouldn’t be good if I did, so he interviewed me because he was teaching a couple of the courses I would be taking. So, he asked me where I lived and I said I lived in Alice Lloyd Hall and he said to me...I mean I was I guess naive, I really was...he said to me, “You’re living in a dormitory?”. I said “Yes". He said, “Well, why aren’t you shacking up with some man?" and that really, that’s where the women were at that point, okay? I think that describes it better than anything. A woman in science, what is she there for? I mean, why is she here at all, you know? What is she doing? I mean, why didn’t she just come out here so she could shack up with some man?

KW: Kind of the implication that women just go to college to find a husband.

BC: Yes, that was exactly it.

KW: Overall, did you feel that your professors were fairly supportive of you?

BC: Yes, I did. I think they were...yes, I definitely did. I think it was unusual that I was there and I remember they had me auditing a physics course because I hadn’t had the proper amount of physics and these were freshman boys that were in there. Before I had always been to school with returning veterans that were always either my age or older and this was freshman boys and that...I mean I just couldn‘t stand that class and I don’t know whether it was because of the way...I mean here’s an older woman in their class and "what the heck is she doing in physics?" you know? But I didn’t feel it in the other departments I was in. Not at all, really. I didn’t. I really didn’t. The only thing I had was the remark I got when I was first there, when I was being interviewed.

KW: Aside from the freshman class, were your classmates respectful and supportive?

BC: Well, my classmates, the ones I ran around with were all women, but then I did date too and they treated me with respect too. I mean they didn’t seem to think it was odd that I was there. At least they didn’t say it to me! I think that it was beginning to be okay but the big choice came later. I mean if I chose to have a child, I was out of the field. I mean really, I was out of the field. There were very few people, unless you had a Ph.D. maybe, but there were very, very few people that would be at work if they had children. Very few.

Listen to Barbara discuss her choice to have a family instead of a career.

KW: Was that a tough decision for you?

BC: Well, no, because that was my choice because I wanted children more than a career and...one question here was, “At the very end, would you do it differently if you did it again?" I was thinking, “Well, yes, I would have gone on for my Ph.D." I actually had six months on my Ph.D. after my master’s because I was there that one summer and stuff and therefore I feel that I could have gotten the Ph.D. very easily but I ran out of money, Dr. Kemp did not get his grant renewed. So, I wasn’t offered the assistantship for a third year. I had it for two and he didn’t have it for the third year, so of course he couldn’t pay me and I really was wondering what I was going to do because I didn’t want a Ph.D. in zoology and in bacteriology and biochemistry, some of those majors over there were already ahead of me. I mean, I had taken those courses but not as much as they had, so I really didn’t know quite what to do. So, I went to Parke-Davis to kind of think it over and to earn some money, so I could go back to get my Ph.D. So, I think that in today’s world I would have gotten that Ph.D.

KW: It does seem now that there are more things in place to help women have a career and a family.

BC: Yes, right. So, actually, we were always very much in debt. I had four kids and we were really in debt because my husband stayed at Michigan for four more years. I mean, his veteran's pay...I mean his plan...what was that called? It was set up by the G.I. Bill. That was out by then even though he’d been in the service for quite a while there in active duty, but that ran out, so he was working. I never could’ve gotten my Ph.D. and paid a sitter and all that stuff even if it were today. So, I really don’t know what I would have done. I guess I’m glad I did what I did because I had four wonderful children.

KW: Right, right, exactly.

Listen to Barbara talk about the impact World War II had on her high school, prep school and U of M social life.

KW: We have a lot of questions about college life during the war that wouldn’t be especially applicable. The Korean War would’ve been...

BC: No, it wasn’t when I was in college though.

KW: Did you have any memories...

BC: World War II I have lots of memories because I was in high school, you know.

KW: Would you mind sharing some of those with me?

BC: Well, I mean, when I graduated there were hardly any boys in the class because they had to get a diploma in January. I graduated in ‘44 and that was a real bad year in the war and they gave the boys the high school diplomas in January, so that they could go. I think they actually had them go at Christmas vacation and they would get their diplomas anyway. So, there was just virtually nobody left here, but you know you were writing all the time to people and they’d come home on leaves and things like that and several of the fellas I knew were in the V-8 Program and they were still in colleges around...they were in the service, but they were being sent to colleges. So, my social life really wasn’t that bad and my freshman year at...I mean the whole time I was at prep school we were at war still and then when I got between prep school and going to Mount Holyoke that few months is when we got out of the war, but V-E Day was when I was at prep school.

KW: What was it like at your prep school on V-E Day?

BC: Well, there was very little we could do. I remember we were just celebrating like crazy and we couldn’t think of anything that we could do. This was V-E Day, so a bunch of us went down and the only thing that we could find that we could do was to go to church. We went into a church that none of us belonged to or anything, we just happened to go inside. There was just no way to really, you know, to somehow celebrate it because we were very restricted and then V-J Day I was a counselor at a camp every summer...I used to counsel at a camp in Massachusetts on Lake Garfield and that’s what I used to do in the summer. I taught sailing, boating, and swimming and stuff like that on the waterfront. And V-J day came while we were there and we just went out to a great big...at night to a big...the counselors went out and celebrated. So, those were where I was when those two important dates were, but the Korean War didn’t really affect me that much. or anyone I knew even.

KW: Were there a lot of veterans coming to U of M from...

BC: World War II, yes, everybody I knew, everybody I knew was a veteran, that I dated. Yes, because they would be my age. I don’t believe I ever dated an undergraduate but the law school...I dated a lot in law school. Yes, my second year by the way I was in a private house on Tappan. I was in a house, it was a woman who took in, I think about twelve of us were there, females. I lived in Tappan and it was right near the law school and I used to study at night in the law library.

KW: That's a good place to study; it’s very quiet.

BC: Yes, right! (laughs) It was just down the street, you know, so...I was in the dormitory for two years. We didn’t have restrictions in this house on Tappan.

Listen to Barbara describe taking the early polio vaccine and its impact on society.

KW: So, we’ve covered a lot of your graduate days, is that correct? But stop me if you had an answer to any of the questions I haven’t covered.

BC: No. I think it’s fine. (skims questions) “What kinds of things did you do on your days off?” I mean, days off? I don’t think I had any, but you know we did have quite a good social life there because I made good friends. In fact, my first year at Parke-Davis I roomed down in Detroit with one of those. Then we rented an apartment in St. Claire Shores, do you know where that is? It’s after you...you get to Grosse Pointe and then the next town is St. Claire Shores and you’re on the water there. So, let’s see...at Parke-Davis I don’t think I really would have gone any place really either without a Ph.D. They were a big pharmaceutical house then but they had just lost an awful lot of money with a drug called chloromycetin. They found out that it caused some kind of anemia in people. It was pulled off the market and therefore they were desperately looking for something new. They were after the new polio vaccine like crazy and that, by the way, was developed by well, as I say, the man that did it I used to write to and I met through the Rockefeller Institute but it was developed when my first daughter was born, so actually we were able to give everybody in my family the polio shots. But somebody I worked with in the department of OB and GYN there, his wife had polio badly, so it was really a bad thing around then, unbelievable. Around 1952-53 that vaccine was a godsend.

KW: Yes, I took a class about epidemics in the United States and my mom was telling me that she remembers taking or testing it out while they were kids.

BC: Yes, right, they did. It was scary at first, I think, but then right after that I guess Sabin, see he had that coated sugar pill, his was supposed to be killed vaccine. They called it attenuated, but Dr. Salk actually worked with, it was actually a living virus in there, so it was kind of scary taking it, but I think it worked out well and it certainly stopped the kids from getting polio.

Listen to Barbara tell her exciting story about meeting Watson and Crick.

KW: Were there any memorable events on campus or in Ann Arbor that come to mind when you...

BC: Well, yes, I remember when...it was, I guess it was my second year there and Dr. Nungester invited me out to a party that was given in the School of Public Health. Dr. Nungester was a bacteriologist, he was head of that department, and he, he sort of liked me I guess, but also, there was a whole other story there too. My husband was studying bacteriology at the time, he wasn't my husband then, but later on when he was my husband he had Dr. Nungester and he also was flunking out, believe it or not, my husband was and I went and had a talk...I hope Dr. Nungester isn't alive today...but I had a talk with him hoping my husband was allowed to stay in graduate school. So, I had a lot to do with keeping him in graduate school, but I’ve never told the children that (laughs). We’ve been divorced since then, so you know I could’ve held it over his head, but oh well. So, I met, believe it or not...I’m going to forget their names now...oh my gosh I can’t believe I did! The two men that founded the double helix for DNA.

KW: Watson and Crick?

BC: Yes that's right (laughs). They were at that and they were describing what they were doing and it was way over my head, you know. I just couldn't get it, but once DNA came out I recognized it and I recognized that I had met them too, so that was exciting and we had a little tea afterwords and everything. And I remember talking to them...I didn’t know really what they were doing because it was real chemistry, real physics and the chemistry they were in so much deeper than I was. So, then later on...ok wait we better...if we jump to the future here I ended up teaching about them and I used to bring that up in my classes that I had met them before I even knew what they were doing. So, when I graduated from college and graduate school they hadn’t even found DNA yet. I mean, you know it was not public at all. So, if you know anything about biology, that's the basis of biology and here I tried to go back to teach it years later and I had to relearn all that stuff.

KW: Yes it's kind of like history was being written...

BC: Yes. I had to relearn biology. I really and truly did from the ground up before I could teach it and that was...wow.

KW: That's interesting. I never thought about that because what you would have learned kind of changed a whole lot then.

BC: Oh heavens, yes. I was completely...my knowledge was so outdated by the time I needed to go back to work it was just pathetic and it wouIdn’t have been in any other field I don’t think.

Listen to Barbara talk about going to U of M football games.

KW: Exactly. Wait, one last question: did you go to any Michigan football games while you were here?

BC: Oh well, I have. I tell you my roommate my second year there still lives in Ann Arbor and we traveled with them. In fact, we took an Italian trip with them; we took a cruise around the Mediterranean with them and everything else. And we meet, we haven’t done it lately, I think it’s because we’re all getting old and then of course my husband died. But her husband went to Michigan and, of course, she went to Michigan and my second husband went to Michigan and I did, so we would go to games back there several years ago. And my husband also had a family back there in Michigan. He‘s actually from Saginaw, Michigan and so we would go back to visit his family. So, we were back in Ann Arbor in the beginning quite a lot. (When I say in the beginning, I mean when I married him.) Between 1980 and 1990 we were there a lot but since then I probably last saw it maybe about '94 and I don’t think we went to a game then. But no I don’t go back just for the games. But I sure did...the first year I was there they were sent to the Rose Bowl. That would be 1951, yeah, the fall of 1950 they were in the Rose Bowl. That was so exciting because I went to every game then and that was a big deal. I watch them on TV. My husband and I always watch the Michigan games on TV since we both went there we had to, you know, we had a team. So, there’s that answer and I also get an email. I get news on the email all the time and I always read that from the Michigan. I guess it’s just for graduates or something?

KW: Maybe an alumni email or something?

BC: Yes, it's a sheet that comes out about once a week, I think. So, we’re kept up to date on all the different things that are going on there. So, it sounds like they’re still having a very good time there. Do you enjoy it?

KW: Yes, I really do. It’s just a beautiful campus.

Career and Family Life

Barbara Carter, 1952

Listen to Barbara describe her teaching career starting as a high school substitute then becoming community college professor and finally a technical writer.

KW: I was going to ask you...you were a professor correct? At a community college?

BC: Yes, right. Ok, we have to jump then because I stayed home when my children were young and then they needed some substitutes at the high school in the sciences one year. My husband did not want me to leave: barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen. I was not allowed to go working, but I somehow talked him into the fact that the kids were in school and I would go when they were all in school and I would be back when they were home and stuff and they were also older. You know one was a senior in high school at that point, so I went back and I substituted at that school for four or five years, but I could only do it for twenty days a year because I wasn’t certified to teach in New York state. So, then I went back to Syracuse University to get my...I didn‘t need another master’s I just wanted my certification but I had to enter into a master’s program and so I took just night courses. I was able to do that in two years. I was able to get all the stuff and then there was one more year I should have gone back for a seminar and then I would have gotten the master’s degree officially, but they wanted something like $1500 just for that privilege and I didn't have it then. So, I don’t have the paper that says I have a master’s degree, but I have completed all the coursework for their dumb master’s degree (laughter). And here I am back living where they are now, so I had a New York state certification and then while I was doing my practice teaching before that I just decided. It was in 1970 and I‘m telling you between the Vietnam War and the drugs high school teaching was almost absurd. The kids were all stoned. It was just terrible and even the colleges, Syracuse cut classes one day because the students were having a strike. It was all this stupid Vietnam War business and Cornell had to stop classes at spring vacation, they couldn’t even go on. This is the second year when I was getting my master’s degree in teaching, so it was really a nightmare. So, when I finally got this degree I tried to get a job teaching and there weren’t any local jobs around. I couldn’t move. I had kids in school, so I took a course at a new community college that was just starting and they were renting some rooms downtown. And I took this course there in botany because I had never had botany and I figured to teach biology I should know more botany then I do zoology, bacteriology. and biochemistry. So, I took a course in botany and while I was taking it they found out I had a couple of degrees in zoology, or rather three, and they wanted to know if I would teach there, so I interviewed for that and I got the job but not...just on the adjunct faculty. I had to turn down the full time job because my husband wouldn’t let me go full-time. So there you are...there’s the husband telling the wife what to do.

KW: What year was this when you started teaching?

BC: That was 1972, so I taught for five years. Two of those years I was full-time because I took over a sabbatical leave for people, but those were years toward the end and that was also my husband and I had separated and I was able to do what I wanted. And they had an opening for another faculty member and of course everybody expected I would get it but this other adjunct professor, he was very good and he was a good friend of mine and everything, but he had his Ph.D. and I didn’t, so he got it. But that was okay...but it wasn’t okay...I mean it changed my life in a way that if I had gotten it I would never have gotten remarried and gone down to Pennsylvania. But I did get remarried, the divorce went through, I got remarried to somebody I had met at Syracuse University and as soon as we planned our wedding he was transferred by General Electric to Pennsylvania. But I could not leave here because I had one child still in high school for two more years. So, two years later I married him and moved to Pennsylvania and lived there for twenty-seven years. And I just moved back here now because my husband died, but the teaching...I want to go back to that teaching business. It was on at college level, it was completely different than the high school. We did not have, I never had that discipline problem at college.

KW: Even with the Vietnam War?

BC: Yes, right. That was over pretty much by then, I think. That’s hard to say exactly what those years were. Maybe I didn’t start teaching until ‘73 there. I don’t know when the Vietnam War was over! Would you know?

KW: I think it was as late as ‘74-’75 because I know the bombings in Cambodia and Laos ran pretty late.

BC: Anyway, we didn't have that problem there and I had a lot of night courses and the night students were very dedicated. Most of them were nurses that had to get...for that period of time New York state wanted them to have their bachelor’s degree, not just their hospital degree. Some of them had gone to nursing schools in hospitals and they had to get their bachelor’s, so they would come back and they would take biology, I taught biology there, not the zoology. I taught biology, a couple of courses in the biology department, and then I also did some bacteriology there and one zoology course at one time, yes, one summer course. So, I had to teach and learn. I had to teach myself as well as teach there, so I mean I put a lot of study in those years to learn stuff. Really and truly, I learned it as I taught it.

KW: Did you enjoy...

BC: Oh yes I did, I did. I really and truly did and then when I moved down to Pennsylvania you couldn’t just walk into a college. They all had waiting lists of their own faculty members who wanted to get on full-time. They offered me a job in a public school for a part-time job in one of them if I got certified by Pennsylvania. Well, Pennsylvania wanted me to take eighteen more hours of their required courses, which were things like "The History of Pennsylvania" and “How to be a Principal", which I didn’t want to be. I mean these were some of the dumbest courses I ever heard, so I decided not to do that. I decided to go to work after I’d lived there about half a year with Don, with my husband, and I saw an ad in the paper but my last year in Syracuse when I knew I was going to move to Pennsylvania in another year, I took a course in computers, so therefore I was already knowledgeable about the computers they had then which were IBM punch cards, believe it or not. Fed the cards into the machine and that was my programming experience, so I got a job at a computer place. They did scientific computing, so it was up my field a little bit. It was called Shared Medical Systems and they did the medical system software for all the hospitals around the world actually, not just in Pennsylvania, for people that signed on and I worked there for ten years and I wrote manuals.

KW: Right, because you were a technical writer as well.

BC: Yes, I was a technical writer. When I first started there I was in marketing and then I went on to be a technical writer, so that took care of that. I retired when my husband retired from GE. He was about 67 and I was 63 when I retired, so I’ve been retired for a long time and my working environment there wasn’t male against female it was...I was the oldest person in the department. I was even older than the founders of the thing. They were all young kids that were taking these courses, they were majoring, you know, in computer science. We didn’t even have that major when I was in college, so that was a big difference.

KW: Right. That’s interesting.

Barbara Carter, 19522

Listen to Barbara talk about her favorite activities after retirement and her difficult decision to go into and later leave a retirement community.

KW: Did you say that you also worked at a nature center?

BC: Oh yes when I retired what did I do? Sure. That was my big thing. I took young kids and if I had to live my life over again I think I would have gone into pre-kindergarten or kindergarten work or something. I think they just are adorable. I worked at a nature center as a nature educator and it was a volunteer job but I enjoyed it and I would take groups around. They had a campus and we had all these activities. They used to have many training days where they trained us, you know those of us that were volunteering, so I learned a lot then too. You know, I was one step ahead of the students. So, I hadn’t had a lot of that in the field work before. I had done research work but not in the field. So, that was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed that. And I did that as long as I could and then I was in...well, that’s a whole other story, but I was in a lot of pain standing up and all that. I got it fixed finally. They found out that...believe it or not, I had to have two hip replacements and I’ve never been in pain since. I should have gone back to it but by then I had moved and therefore we didn’t do it. So, that took care of that, that was one of my volunteer things after high school..I mean, after high school sure (laughter)...after I retired. And then I also volunteered at the town hospital where I lived.

KW: And now you've come full circle like you said and you’ve gone back to painting, correct?

BC: Yes, right. Well, then a lot of things happened because about two years ago my husband died, Don died, and then I went and lived in a retirement village. I thought it would be safer...we had just bought a new house, just bought it. Two weeks later he died. I mean we were in the new home, we had just moved into it and so I stayed there like they told me to for one year and I could hardly...I mean I just felt isolated. My children weren’t anywhere near, nowhere near. One was in Alaska, one was in North Carolina and two of them were up here at Syracuse. So, I went to a continuing care retirement community. Very expensive to get in and everything but I figured they’d take care of me and after I was there for about five months I decided I did not want to be there. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life there. I could see exactly where I could go, you know from this level to that level to that level until finally you end up in skilled nursing. I just couldn’t take it. So, I was severely depressed and my kids said they had to do something, so they invited me to come up to Syracuse and live near at least two of them. So, I moved up here after I was there about ten months, you know in that retirement community. I think I was the only one that ever moved out head first, by the way, everyone else moved out feet first. They were shocked but it was depressing me and I would never advise anyone to go in one of those. I really wouldn’t. Maybe to go in with a husband or something but I mean if he’s sick...but not to go in when you're feeling fine. But I did choose to stay down there because my friends were there. So, I’m up here now. I don’t have any friends. I have family but I'm right on a lake here. They have this community just built around a lake and it’s just gorgeous and I have a condo, it’s beautiful, and I have a dog, which is my best friend (laughter). He’s snoring on the ground here. He’s a 100 pound golden retriever. So, anyway, I'm happy now. I wasn’t for the last couple years after my husband died. I just really wasn’t, so I haven’t gotten into any volunteer work here but I did take painting my last...about six years ago a friend of mine talked me into taking a class at the senior center down there where I lived. And I did and I've enjoyed it very much and I’ve been doing it ever since. So, when I came up here they didn’t have classes in this local senior center here. They had a workshop, it was called a painting workshop, so I'm in that but it’s only four men and myself, that‘s all there are in the class. It’s really different, but we have a good time.

Listen to Barbara describe her children’s and grandchildren’s careers.

KW: What have your children done? You have four?

BC: Oh yes, right. They have all stayed in the scientific field. My son is in Alaska. He graduated from Cornell and then he graduated from upstate medical in Syracuse, Syracuse University. He got his medical degree and he has his own practice up in Wasilla, Alaska. He’s not married either; he’s a very nice looking guy, so there he is and one daughter was in more or less social work and she got burned out and she went back to graduate school and she got her P.A. Do you know what that is out there in the Midwest? It‘s a Physician Assistant. It’s like a Nurse Practicioner. She works in a group now that includes P.A.s and M.D.s. She has her own patients; she does all that work. It's really like a mini-doctor and my son that was in medical school said that she learned more in those two years at P.A., she went to Albany, than he did in med. school. So, you know, she really did take that to heart. It’s not an easy course, but they do turn out to be able to do...they can diagnose and they can prescribe and they can do all the shots and everything that a doctor does but they have to he working with doctors. So, she’s a P.A. Another daughter is a nurse with...she works in a hospital here. She’s been doing it since...she’s always been a night nurse so she could raise her children and she does it in neonatal intensive care, so she works with very small babies. And my third daughter, my fourth child, is a mother at home, believe it or not. She only had one child but she's been very successful being an at-home mother because her child was not only accepted at Oxford University this year in England, but he was accepted at all of the Ivy League schools here.

KW: Oh wow, that’s amazing.

BC: And guess what? He's going to Yale. We were sure he was going to go to Oxford. He just wanted to go to Oxford because he is interested not in science at all; he’s interested in antiquity, in ancient civilizations, believe it or not. He’s interested in the classics, so he would be a classics major and Oxford is very well known for that. But Yale has got a very good program too and he wants to be a professor, so he will probably go to Oxford for his graduate work. I feel that the children are all very successful and I only have three grandchildren and a couple of step-grandchildren. I also have a step-daughter and she lived with us for sometime, so I really have raised five kids.

KW: Have you told your children that you met Watson and Crick?

BC: Oh sure because the science ones...they all did...in fact the daughter that's been at home for years, she was an English major. She graduated from Penn State...all my kids graduated from college and then two of them have the graduate degrees. The one that has been at home all the time, she had taken advanced biology and everything too. I don’t know why she didn't go into it in college but she was an English major. So, that's the one that did not major in science really but their father, you know, my first husband, is a bacteriologist and he’s retired now. So, you know they got it from I guess both of us being into science, it influenced them.

Listen to Barbara discuss her experience with age and gender discrimination.

BC: I think I’ve covered everything but I think the fact that I didn’t do that much with my career, really, I mean I did teach and I know that people thought that was pretty good. And one year, in 1978 I think, when I had a summer off the National Science Foundation was granting 15 women a chance to go back to college for two weeks, 15 women in science, the chance to go back to college for a two week course in updating their skills, you know, older women. So, I was picked to go and it turned out to be...it was very difficult because we were learning to use these machines. I mean the electron microscope was the basic one but then there were all these things like they used them for reading CAT scans and everything else at hospitals now. We had to learn how to function with those machines and how they were designed and everything else and that really wasn’t my field. I was a naturalist. I was not a physical chemist. And I don't think I got my money’s worth out of that...I mean it wasn’t my money, it was a scholarship, but I did get back into...I was looking for a job back in my field again very seriously because I knew I wasn’t going to be teaching full-time and I wanted to get a job back in research. And I didn’t get one, believe it or not, so I think I was too old by then. I was 52 years old. I went on some interviews but I didn’t get them and I thought I had a pretty experienced background. So, there was age discrimination definitely there.

KW: It’s funny that you mention that because another woman I interviewed, I asked her about gender and she said it really wasn’t so much gender but age...so overall, gender wasn't really a big factor, at least in the workplace?

BC: Not later on. In my field there wasn’t in the beginning. The interesting thing is my second husband was an engineer and he did graduate from Michigan too. So, my first husband got his Ph.D. there and my second husband got his bachelor’s there and I got my master’s there, so we’re really tied in with Michigan. But the engineers I think would have thought it was more strange to have a female, and still do today, than the natural scientists, especially. So that I don’t think that there’s any prejudice...and I don’t think there ever really was, not in the natural sciences. I mean, Rachel Carson, and you know there were a lot of females in natural science but I am a big environmentalist and I do belong to the Sierra Club and all that stuff. I guess I‘m really kind of gung-ho that way (laughs), too much maybe. My kids say I’m too much that way but that came out of my natural science background.

1. Alice Crocker Lloyd Hall for Women, BL001777, University of Michigan Photographs Vertical File, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan

2. Barbara Carter, 1952; from her personal collection