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Alma Mater

In an article written for the 25th anniversary of coeducation, then-graduate student Kathy M. Newman (Ph.D 1997) writes of “the towering Alma Mater in blue and white above the circulation desk at Sterling.” She explains: “In college mythology, Alma Mater [or Mother Knowledge] replaces actual mothers, to pro-create knowledge itself, and a whole new family of knowledge seekers. The entrance to Sterling makes this clear—the translation of the Egyptian transcription reads: ‘Would that I might make thee love books more than thy mother.’”

Newman points out: “These foster sons are nourished by the spiritual virtues represented in the Sterling mural above the circulation desk: Light bears a torch, while Truth, who is naked, looks at herself in a mirror.” She asks a question we should continue to ask as we investigate representations of women on campus: “Isn’t it strange that these women were created to represent Knowledge, Light, and Truth at Yale at a time when flesh-and-blood women were not allowed to seek knowledge, light and truth within these same walls?”