Strong Women Building Strong Communities

Three Volumes of MN Alum Profiles

Volume 3 of Strong Women Building Strong CommunitiesThe Minnesota Smith Club has now published three volumes in its exciting and unique oral history project, Strong Women Building Strong Communities. The project is known throughout the Smith College alumnae world, and many clubs are keen on doing something similar and interested in learning from us.

Volume 1 of Strong Women Building Strong Communities was published in 2008 under the direction of Laurie Kramer ‘ 69 and Betsey Whitbeck ‘71 as part of the Executive Committee’s vision to bring the generations of Smith alumnae in the Minnesota area together in a shared experience. As Laurie stated in her introduction to the book, “oral history is intergenerational – and universal – in appeal.”

The first book profiled sixteen women, including Helen Woodhull Kramer ’34, Anne Hull ’38, Virginia Humphrey ’42, Janet Woodhull ’44, Helen Anderson ’44, Kathleen Ridder ’45, Perrin Lilly ’45, Joanne Von Blon ’45, Sally Pillsbury ’46, Martha Alworth ’47, Grace Norris ’47, Jane Noland ’49, Mary Vaughan ’49, Molly Woehrlin ’53, Marilyn Carlson Nelson ’61, and Ann Pflaum ’63.

A second book was published four years later, in 2012, when Barbara Klaas ’74 was Club President.

The women profiled in Volume 2 are Elizabeth (Betty) Cowie ’45, Sarah (Sally) Ross ’45, Nadine Ide ’48, Harriet Spencer ’49, Carolyn (Connie) Donnelly ’51, Cornelia (Nina) Rothchild ’51, Margery (Marnie) Hensel ’52, Barbara Tuttle ’53, Olive (Polly) Gross ’54, Mary Taylor ’55, Helen Hartfiel ’56, Nancy Malmon ’57, Susan Allen Toth ’61, and Margaret (Peggy) Leppik ’65.

The stories of these women’s lives are both fascinating and inspiring. Barbara had it right when she wrote “I know that I speak for all of us ‘younger’ alumnae in hoping that someday, we too will have our stories woven into this tapestry of Minnesota Smith College women.”

Over a decade passed before Volume 3 was published in 2023 while Kate Lehmann ’78 was Club President. Once again, the project involved numerous alums under the direction of Laurie Kramer ’69, Betsy Whitbeck ’71 and Marty Swain ’71. The women profiled in Book 3 are Elizabeth Beidler Cussler ’60, Susan Teommey Rydell ’62, Eleanor Rauch Crosby ’63, Debbie Baggs Ducar ’63, Eleanor Crosby Winston ’64, Ellen Thompson Luepker, MSW ’66, Ann Alton ’67, Margaret Von Blon Wurtele ’67, Diane Katsiaficas ’68, Katherine Schneider Coward ’69, Laurie Maloff Kramer ’69, Lisa Lebedoff Peilen ’69, Holly Duff Dowds ’71, Randy Miller Lebedoff ’71, Martha Wallace Swain ’71, Elizabeth C. Whitbeck ’71.

Kate noted this group is somewhat different as they “inherited the mantle of community engagement and civic involvement from their Smith predecessors while grappling with increased expectations for professional experience and achievement for women.”


Buy the book by emailing Cost is $30.00. You will receive an invoice that can be paid online and the book will be mailed to you. If you wish, you may also request a free copy of Volume 2. We will be giving these away until the supply runs out.

If you are interested in helping to plan and develop the next volume, please contact the club president at