Irishwomen, Friends and Scholars
Chapter 1 - Queen’s Undergraduates 9
Chapter 1 Queen’s Undergraduates College Friends ‘I went to college, and was suddenly and amazingly happy.’1 Helen Waddell’s experience at Queen’s University Belfast in the first decade of the twentieth century parallels that of many university students: freedom from super- vision, socializing with peers, intellectual stimulus – and the headiness of possible romance. Sitting and laughing in the ‘little fenced in paradise’, the garden Queen’s had dedicated to the use of women students, feeling ‘very wicked and very gay’, Helen suddenly realized that her companion was going to fall in love with her. ‘It is a sensation at any time – but when one is just nineteen …’2 There were other triumphs; in a letter to her sister she described the Professor of English Literature returning essays in class: Well, he read out the 17 in alphabetical order – my miserable self coming last. The only First Class at all was Ella Fisher – A minus, – ‘a good essay – gracefully written’ says [Professor] Gregory [Smith] approvingly. Internal curses from me – being like the Turk too fond to rule alone – Then a weary waste of B, B minus, B minus minus minus. Then, ‘Miss Waddell.’ Pause. ‘An exceptional piece of work … an original treat- ment … in fact, one of the best essays I have ever read … and I have judged it worthy of the highest mark to be given – A plus.’ Somebody said afterwards that if she had been in my shoes she would have had hysterics. As it was, I sat and looked as...
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