Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Education in a Single-Sex Environment

BOND: Now, the people who championed single-sex education or women’s education, particularly, say that if you go to Spelman, if you go to Wellesley or if you go to Vassar, which used to be single-sex — that there’s a kind of nurturing of women that takes place there that wouldn’t take place had you gone to a co-ed school. Did you experience that at Wellesley or maybe not having some comparison, you don’t know, but do you think Wellesley gave you the kind of nurturing that you might not have gotten had you gone some place else?

PINN: I think so, but, you know, I think back and certainly my high school was both boys and girls, as we were called then, and I guess I always have been one to speak up and speak out. And so getting to Wellesley, being with all women, I don’t know that it made — I’m not sure that it was — well, let’s just say it did nurture me and it did encourage me to move on, but I did see and hear from many others who maybe hadn’t always been as aggressive in their styles and outspoken as I guess I’ve been all my life, who felt that the experience of being in an all-women’s institution really did make a difference.

I enjoyed that environment and I enjoyed the stimulation of being among women who were outstanding, that I could look up and benefit from their experiences, and where I didn’t feel I was having to compete so much on the basis of being female versus male which was the exact opposite of what I had to deal with when I went into medical school. That was a different environment. But since that time, watching and talking to a lot of young women who’re making decisions, trying to encourage them to think about an all-female school like Spelman or like Wellesley, that I’ve seen many make the decision that they would prefer to go to a school that was all female because they witnessed what seemed to be a better nurturing, better support because you weren’t afraid of social situations and you were able to express yourselves freely and it has made a difference. And, of course, then there’re others who feel they’d rather be in a social environment where they’ve got both men and women to compete with.