Building on Bryn Mawr College campus
Building on Bryn Mawr College campusiStock

As part of its pledge to deal with the legacy of the the antisemitism and racism of its second president, Pennsylvania's Bryn Mawr College announced it will remove M. Carey Thomas’s name from its campus library.

The removal of Thomas’s name from the college’s Old Library, which was named after Thomas in 1935, is the latest effort by the women’s college located near Philadelphia to respond to "institutional histories shaped by racism and antisemitism," according to Philly Voice.

In 2017, Bryn Mawr President Kim Cassidy announced a moratorium on using Thomas’s name when referring to the library.

The Old Library and the Great Hall were both named after Thomas, who served as the private college’s president from 1894 to 1922.

According to biographer Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, Thomas prevented the hiring of Jewish teachers at the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, and later made sure she was not dealing with Jewish candidates for faculty positions at the Pennsylvania college. Horowitz also noted that Thomas lobbied against the admission of a Jewish student, Sadie Szold, to the Bryn Mawr School in 1886.

Thomas “had a profound impact on opportunities for women in higher education, on the academic development and identity of Bryn Mawr, and on the physical plan of the campus,” Cassidy wrote in a letter to the Bryn Mawr community six years ago. “[She] also openly and vigorously advanced racism and antisemitism as part of her vision of the College. Some of you have suggested that the College rename Thomas Library and Thomas Great Hall because of this legacy, and others have suggested making that history explicit in other ways.”

In the letter, Cassidy said that the college placed a moratorium on the use of the name Thomas to refer to the library and the Great Hall for the 2017-18 academic year while the issue was debated by a working group.

After the inscription with Thomas’s name is removed from the library, it will be moved to the college’s archives.

In a statement released on Tuesday “[acknowledging] the harm and hurt Thomas’ legacy of exclusion, racism, and antisemitism has caused for so many,” the college’s board of trustee said:

“We have concluded that the fraught legacy of M. Carey Thomas continues to impede our progress in becoming the community we aspire to be. Even as M. Carey Thomas was steadfast in her drive to build a first-rate academic institution for the education of women, the limitation of her vision to the education of wealthy white women, her embrace of eugenics, and her outspoken racist and antisemitic beliefs have caused pain for generations of students, staff and faculty.”

Noting that Thomas’ “social beliefs are irreconcilably in conflict with Bryn Mawr’s mission, values and aspirations today,” the letter stated that the board approved the removal of the inscription with Thomas’s name from the library.

“Initially intended to honor Thomas’ contributions, [it] now sends an unwelcoming message too powerfully placed to be offset or clarified by countering narratives elsewhere,” they said.

According to the Forward College Guide, Bryn Mawr has around 1,300 undergraduate students and approximately 200, or 15 percent, are Jewish.