M. Carey Thomas' block-lettered name should remain etched over the entrance to Bryn Mawr College's library, but the college should no longer call the building by it, a college committee is recommending.
That includes in printed materials, on its website, and even in basic conversation.
The committee has been researching the issue for the last semester after concerns mounted last year over the former college president's racist and anti-Semitic views. Bryn Mawr president Kim Cassidy last August issued a moratorium on the use of the name for 2017-18 to give the panel time to complete its work.
The recommendation from the committee of faculty, students, staff, trustees, and alumnae would essentially continue the practice Cassidy put in place, but also would add a plaque or information to the library about Thomas' complicated history. Bryn Mawr's board of trustees will consider the recommendation at its meeting next month.
"The college should bring to a close the use of 'Thomas' in reference to the old library and Great Hall in daily business of the college," the committee wrote. "Building names carry the ideological weight of their namesakes."
But the group wrote that the building with Thomas' name on it is a historic landmark.
"The Thomas name etched on the building should remain," the group wrote, "and a significant plaque or other museum-quality display should be installed to annotate the history of the building and inform the public about M. Carey Thomas."
Thomas, a leading suffragist and perhaps Bryn Mawr's most influential president, led the women's college from 1894 to 1922. She figured prominently in helping women achieve equal rights. For a time, she led the National College Equal Suffrage League, and Bryn Mawr under her leadership served as a hub for the suffrage movement, according to a special collection in the college library.
But like some other suffragists, she was focused on expanding rights for white, privileged women. She was reluctant to admit black students to Bryn Mawr and also rebuffed the hiring of Jewish faculty. In her comments to the freshman class in 1916, she said: "If the present intellectual supremacy of the white races is maintained, as I hope that it will be for centuries to come, I believe that it will be because they are the only races that have seriously begun to educate their women."
Thomas died in 1935, and her legacy has been a subject of intense debate for more than a decade.