It took Yale a long time to honor Pauli Murray by naming a building after her, and it’s about time Yale acknowledged what a great lady she was.
I am probably one of very few people still living in New Haven who knew Pauli when she was a doctorate student at Yale.
Those were the years I worked from home, typing mostly for students. I charged 25 cents a page, a nickel a carbon.
I don’t remember how Pauli happened to come to me. Maybe someone told her about me or she saw my card. She must have called and made an appointment to come to my house to ask if I would type her thesis.
She was tiny — a tiny little woman. Very thin, very slim.
I remember she said she admired Martin Luther King Jr. for what he was doing and that she told me she had marched with him.
She was one of the original founders of the National Organization for Women, and made me a charter member.
She also wrote a book of poetry that I still have. When I ordered the book they said it would cost $10. So I mailed in the $10. Even though I said, “That’s all right, I don’t mind,” Murray was so mad that they charged me.
My husband and I went to her graduation when she got her doctorate, and then we went to a reception at a professor’s house. He was one of her advisers. His name was either Professor English or Professor Emerson.
I think my husband and I were the only outsiders who were invited.
I remember she said, “Ruth, I have more degrees than my advisers.” But because she was a woman, she never got the credit she should have.
We spent many hours just talking, and we somehow formed a great relationship. She died young. I saved every one of her letters, and years later, when I met her secretary, Beth Ward, I gave her the letters to be donated for Pauli’s archives.
Pauli must be smiling from heaven today: “It took them a long time, but they finally recognized me…”
Ruth D. Friedland is a resident of New Haven.