It’s 1925 and Doris, age 15, has chopped off her hair, raised her skirts, climbed out a window, and driven after a cute boy. Seldom have the roaring ’20s had a more engaging chronicler than the late community activist Doris Bailey Murphy, who died last year at the age of 101. Fortunately, she left behind extensive diaries that provide a vivid window into the Jazz Age and the Depression era, including her time at Reed. Thanks to her great-niece, writer Julia Park Tracey, the diaries have now found a wider audience.
In the first volume, we find Doris as an angst-ridden, independent teen looking for kicks, innocently oblivious of the imminent economic collapse that the Depression would bring. Tracey has been promoting the book by tweeting as her great-aunt, who says things like “We had a party after school to get acquainted. I was introduced to a number of girls but I just can’t be natural. I hate to meet people.” Tracey calls Doris “an aspiring artiste and romantic . . . whose rebellious nature led her to become a young social worker, literary publisher, and arts champion.” Sounds like a lot of students at a certain college in the Pacific Northwest. Doris was radical even by Reed standards—she caused a scandal at the college when she chose to interview prostitutes for her sociology thesis. But she was no dilettante college rebel; she maintained her devotion to social issues throughout her long life, which included marriage to labor leader Joe Murphy, who was prominent in the Industrial Workers of the World, aka the Wobblies. What’s refreshing about her diaries, however, is her wit and her heart. One entry reads: “Last Sunday I would have been willing to go to the end of the world with him. Today I wouldn’t go to a dog-fight with him. That’s why I’m never going to get married. Opinions change too quickly.” More online.