International Alumnae in History

Since Susanna Major, the first international student to study at Mount Holyoke, arrived in South Hadley from Canada in 1839, the number of international students at the College has grown exponentially.  While their presence contributes substantially to the diversity on campus, it is particularly noteworthy to see how they have made a difference in the world since graduating.  They have truly, as Mary Lyon said, gone "where nobody else is willing to go."  Below are portraits of a few of these stellar international alumnae.  We will feature additional international alumnae in the future.  This page was created in collaboration with the Mount Holyoke College Archives; special thanks to Jelena Jezdimirovic '15, who conducted the research for this project. 

Toshi Miyagawa 1893
First international student from outside North America

Don't you wish that "the glorious '93" could gather once more in that old lecture hall and fight our battles o'er again?  You do not know how your letters make me wish we were all together again at Mount Holyoke and digging again, though the gold lay deep in the mountain.  (Toshi Miyagawa)

Grace Paul '24
Visionary educator from Sri Lanka

Several times during her life she had bemoaned the fact that all the "high-ups" she had to deal with were men, who could not appreciate the woman's point of view.  Managers of schools, contractors, missionaries, directors of education-they were men born with an inborn conviction that no woman could equal men in any field of endeavor.  (R.H. Paul, Professor of Engineering, University of Sri Lanka)

Halina Deschko Turner '49
Social Worker and Holocaust survivor

During the time I was in the Camp, I could not think about my future, because I didn't know what the next day would bring forth.  For three years, I didn't hear a radio; I didn't see a newspaper; but I had a strong desire to leave Europe some day.  (Halina Deschko Turner)

Bertha Akim Kingori '57
East African educator

I have a very genuine and sincere desire to widen my background and to be given an opportunity for study in order to help the people of my country.  (Bertha Akim Kingori)

Helga Jahncke Hernes '61
Norwegian political figure and diplomat

Your contributions to the interests of Norway and the international community are immeasurable.  Your research in the areas of peacekeeping, peaceful resolution of conflicts, and the status of women is cited worldwide.  Truly, your life and work have embodied the bold, pioneering spirit of Mary Lyon.  (Mount Holyoke Alumnae Association Achievement Award)

Dina Vakil '69
First female editor of the "Times of India"

Never underestimate the power of the press.  The press is an enormously powerful medium.  It can do anything.  (Dina Vakil)

Barbara Schmidt-Rahmer '80
Courageous social justice entrepreneur

While admitting it was "scary" to pass up the promotion Standard & Poor offered to entice her back, she followed her heart into the field she'd always intended to rejoin.  Now, she is helping bring focus to a small-business program that began as an offshoot of a church-based initiative to reduce infant mortality rates.  (Laura Singleton, Harvard Business School)

Selome Taddesse '88
Ethiopian political leader

To girls and young women in Ethiopia: You can be all that you want to be.  Don't be concerned about other people's opinions; instead, care about the conversation you have with yourself.  Make your mark on the world; make sure your footsteps are loud and clear.  (Selome Taddesse)

Vijaya Pastala '89
International development activist

Vijaya's passion lies in developing community-based, pro-poor approaches for environmentally sustainable economic development in India.  ("Under the Mango Tree" web site)

Lina Meruane '92
Chilean author

The jury found that Lina Meruane had written "an overwhelming novel, formally daring [...], while balancing with great talent the search for a personal language and narrative seduction."  (Guadalahara International Book Fair)  

Tahmima Anam '97
Award-winning author

What I am about to tell you is very odd, I know, but it happens to be true: I wrote almost all of "A Golden Age" sitting in classrooms.  I would go to class, and my mind would start to wander, so I would scribble in the margins of my notebooks.  (Tahmima Anam)