Dora Chen ’38, AC ’73, Smith Medalist ’81

***i’ve made it to DC! woo – interning at the Migration Policy Institute, sleeping on a friend’s couch, eating frozen dinners, ogling bike messengers, finding independent coffeeshops, and walking everywhere *** 


Relevant Magazine/ PO Box 11687/ St. Paul, MN 55111-9913


Dora Chen‘s story from the Smith College Grecourt News Gate


usually much of the Smith Grecourt News is ‘cheesy, smithie love, we’re so great and full of traditions, young women who are changing the world’ ness Smith propaganda. but Dora Chen is as inspiring and admirable as they get. she got to go to college in the 1930s, but had to leave when her mom married her off to a history and political science professor at St. John’s University in Shanghai. but then the cultural revolution happened – her husband was sent to prison, her sons sent to work, and she found herself living in an apartment with lots of other people, and completely poor. but the goodness of smithies gathered to bring her back to America, and she finished her degree as an Ada Comstock scholar in 1973. said for what Smith did for her: “To think differently, to not restrain myself. I am in America, I am free. The chains that bound me as a Chinese woman are gone. I don’t think I would have liberated myself. Smith did that for me.” as if she hasn’t been through enough, Dora now has lung cancer. but somehow her outlook speaks of a wisdom only someone who has gone through what she has can say, “how many people can boast such a wonderful life?” stories like this always humble the young, cynical and emo me – i complain a lot and my my life really isn’t that bad, and probably will never be that bad.  this makes me believe that the Smithie resilience and spirit does exist in some of us.


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