Contrary to the portrayal of Wellesley as a school that prepares women for marriage, as depicted in the film “Mona Lisa’s Smile,” few students today get married while in college. The film shows the college in the 1950s, and the accuracy of Wellesley as a place for preparing young women solely for marriage has been debated. Almost 60 years after the time depicted in the film, the point of view has switched; marriage has become seldom spoken about and is a seemingly unconventional occurrence on campus.
Helen Gordon Colby ’17, a current student at Wellesley, was married this past December. She lives off campus with her husband Andrew Colby, but spends a lot of her time on campus. Gordon Colby converted to the Mormon faith in high school, and through these connections, met her husband.
“I definitely thought about marriage more because of my faith, [but] I wasn’t like, ‘I need to get married at this age because of my faith,’ ” Gordon Colby said.
At first, her parents were dubious about her choice and refused to speak with her. After some time, however, they warmed up to the idea and were both happy and excited for her by the day of her wedding. During this tough period, Gordon Colby turned to both her friends at Wellesley and her fiancé for support.
“In general I’ve had so many positive experiences and my friends have only been supportive and great,” Gordon Colby said.
Another Wellesley student, Sally Shepardson-Fungairiño ’16, married her husband in May of 2015. She met her husband through Ok!Cupid, the only date she went on through the site. She knew he was “the one” the summer before her junior year.
“I kept saying, ‘I can’t wait to go home’ towards the end of the summer. But home was not my parents’ house, it was an image of my now husband picking me up at the airport with a huge hug,” Shepardson-Fungairiño said.
She now lives off campus and plans on getting her PhD in Chemistry at Tufts University. Initially Shepardson-Fungairiño’s friends were surprised but also happy about her choice; they knew how close the couple was and it made sense to them.
“At first people assumed I was pregnant. But after they all found out the reason, people were just really happy,” Shepardson-Fungairiño said, regarding the community’s reaction.
Another student, Mary Keenan ’17 has been engaged since Aug. 7, 2015 and her wedding date is this upcoming June. She met her fiancé Shane in high school while they were on the track teams. Keenan told her parents that she wanted to get married three years prior to them being engaged and Keenan described that they were both thrilled and fully supportive.
“I realized that my fiancé was who I thought would make me become the best person that I wanted to be. I saw through him an opportunity to be someone that before I didn’t really think I could be,” Keenan said.
She explained that her engagement has brought her and her friends closer.
“When I told people everyone was supportive because they knew him and could see how good we are together,” Keenan said. “If anything, [my marriage has] allowed me to bond with my friends here. It has brought us closer in that they saw I was including them in something so important in my life and they realized that they are really important to me as well.”
Several unmarried Wellesley students expressed the idea that marriage was both surprising and taboo at Wellesley.
One such student, Margaret Anne Collins ’19, explained that her mother was married three days after graduating because she had promised herself that she would not marry while in college. Because of her familial experience, Collins explained that although she does not disapprove of the choice to be married while in school, she finds it a surprising choice.
Although Gordon Colby has not had any openly hostile interactions at Wellesley, individual students have treated her differently since she was married. The culture on campus has also made her feel like an oddity at school.
“I think it’s just that it’s a narrative that Wellesley students are so unused to hearing and it’s associated with a historical time when women were more oppressed,” Gordon Colby explained.
Gordon Colby admitted to sometimes feeling isolated from the college community due to the uncommon nature of her marriage decision, and Keenan mirrored these sentiments, feeling as though she were also alone in the marriage process at Wellesley.
“I definitely feel like there are very few of us and that it’s not very exposed,” Keenan said.
Despite these experiences of isolation, being married has thus far been a highly positive experience for Gordon Colby and Shepardson-Fungairiño, and Keenan is looking forward to her wedding. Although their commitments to their significant others have slightly altered their future plans, they still plan on carrying out their long-term personal and professional goals. For all three, it is not about having either a marriage or career; these Wellesley women have decided to have both.
“Your ability to make selfish decision is now gone, as you are sharing your life with another person. While that may make large life changes a bit more complex, the trade off is having a supportive partner by your side for the rest of your life, and that is the most wonderful part,” Shepardson-Fungairiño said.