In October 1890, my sister, Ethel Walker, and I found ourselves
entering Bryn Mawr College. But we were staying at the old Bryn Mawr
Hotel, waiting to be assigned to our college rooms in the new
Hall, which gave no promise of being habitable before the Christmas
holidays. Meanwhile, we unfortunates were missing many of the social
and student events on the campus.
In the dining room at the same table with my sister and me were
Mr. and Mrs. Clemens of Hartford and their daughter, Susie to them,
and to us always Olivia, a frail, attractive, charming young girl.
As the Clemens were not willing to leave Olivia alone in a hotel,
even though there were chaperones, we had the pleasure of their
company for several weeks.
The long tables in the dining room seated about a dozen or more
people. Seated opposite us was a Norwegian woman. Miss Wergeland
had come as a fellow in history. However, she spoke no English, and
when Mr. Clemens discovered her difficulty ordering meals, he very
quietly removed himself from our group to the other side of the
table, introduced himself to her, and began speaking German fluently
to help her order. This he did three times a day for at least two
Finally, Mr. Clemens convinced the college authorities that, much
as he would like to spend Olivia's freshman year with her, he was
obliged to get back to work, but added that he would not leave her
So, suddenly, Olivia was given a room in Radnor Hall and, owing to
Mr. Clemens's good offices, we two Walker sisters found ourselves
happily settled in a suite in Merion Hall. How we blessed Mr.
At the time it seemed to us very natural that Olivia, like
ourselves, should be coming to college. But later I realized how
strong was the tie between her and her father, how much they minded
being separated, and also how eager Mrs. Clemens was that Olivia
should be happy in a new environment, leading an independent life of
Olivia was very emotional, high-strung, temperamental, and all of
us were afraid she might be homesick. But fortunately she had an
exquisite soprano voice, and liked to sing and act. So we almost
immediately decided to give the opera "Iolanthe," with lovely Olivia
as Phyllis. Olivia was in her element.
Mrs. Clemens would come down occasionally for a short stay, I
think in order to keep Mr. Clemens from coming - she told me he
make any excuse, even bringing down Olivia's laundry! As time came
near for the production of the opera, Mrs. Clemens was established
the then-empty infirmary on the top floor of Merion Hall, where she
helped us cut out and fit fairy costumes, told us stories of her
travels, and won our hearts. She stayed for the opera, which was
very successful. But in those days men were not invited to our
student productions, so Mr. Clemens was not with us!
Meanwhile, it occurred to us that it would be very interesting to
have Mr. …