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Alumnae Affairs Biographical Questionnaire

Identifier: BC09-01

Collection Scope and Content Summary

This collection contains completed questionnaires with the original cover letter removed. The original questionnaire also included a final page with salary and income questions. This last page of confidential information was removed and destroyed after the statistical summaries were compiled.

The numerical codes used for translating the handwritten, check-a-box answers into numbers for the machine-readable cards were printed along the right margin of the pages. The forms also bear the pencil marks made by the staff of the Bureau of Applied Social Research at Columbia University as they compiled the data. Some of the punch cards can be found with the questionnaires and with the final statistical reports. There are two folders relating to the processing of the surveys. In one, there are two copies of the Bureau’s original reports (Copy #5 and #15), along with a photocopy of the article from the Alumnae Magazine. The other folder has two completed but “unprocessed” questionnaires. These are printed on letter-sized sheets of paper (not the smaller, printed and stapled brochure) and some of the questions in this version are phrased slightly differently.


  • Creation: 1956-1957



This collection has no restrictions.

Publication Rights

Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the Barnard Archives and Special Collections. The Barnard Archives and Special Collections approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; the responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Reproduction Restrictions

Photocopies or scans may be made for research purposes.

Historical Background

In March 1956, Barnard College sent out a biographical questionnaire to over 10,000 alumnae. The purpose of the questionnaire was to learn more about the alumnae: where and how were they living; did their liberal arts degree prepare them well for life; and more importantly, was their education worthwhile. According to President McIntosh’s cover letter, the survey was “planned primarily to supply data for a new edition of the Alumnae Directory.” She explained further that it would help Barnard faculty evaluate the College’s curriculum and plan for the future. The data would also be used to supply information to foundations and corporations which provide the College financial support.

The College received 5,757 responses, and all class years (1893-1956) were represented. The survey started from the alumnae’s time at Barnard: choice of majors, extracurricular activities, elected offices, scholarships and loans, and housing arrangements. Alumnae were asked whether they pursued advanced studies after graduation; about their marital status: age at marriage and number of husbands, their education and occupation; about their children: number, gender, age and education; participation in Barnard alumnae activities; leisure time activities and community involvement; employment history; household information; and professional accomplishments, such as performances, exhibitions or publications.

The last questions asked alumnae on how well Barnard prepared them for life; if they were entering college today, would they choose Barnard again; and what should Barnard’s goals be for the next twenty-five years. The alumnae took advantage of the blank pages provided to write candidly about their college experience. According to the results reported in the July 1957 Alumnae Magazine article, some alumnae did not think the College prepared them adequately for jobs. Others questioned the College’s interpretation of the woman’s role in society or the ability to combine both career and home lives. While some alumnae would have chosen a different college experience, most indicated that a college education was worthwhile.


18.21 Linear Feet (55 boxes)




This collection consists of biographical questionnaires from the Office of Alumnae Affairs.

Collection Arrangement

The collection is arranged in three series.

Series 1, Questionnaires by Graduation Year
Series 2, Questionnaires by Last Name (did not graduate)
Series 3, Unprocessed Forms and Reports from Bureau of Applied Social Research

Physical Location

This collection is located in the Barnard Archives and Special Collections, Barnard Library. To use this collection, please contact the Barnard Archives and Special Collections at 212.854.4079 or

Acquisition Information

Transferred from the Office of Alumnae Affairs.


No additions are expected.

Processing History

This collection was processed by Joanna Rios, Intern. Finding aid written by Joanna Rios in April 2011.

This finding aid was updated by Hilary Price in June, 2015.

Descriptive Rules Used: Finding aid adheres to that prescribed by Describing Archives: A Content Standard. Encoding: Machine readable finding aid encoded in EAD 2002.

Finding aid written in English.

Guide to Alumnae Affairs Biographical Questionnaire
Hilary Price
© 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Barnard Archives and Special Collections Repository

3009 Broadway
New York NY 10027 United States