Mully: I wanted to be a history major, but when I realized that all we were going to do was learn about dates and wars, I thought, “This isn’t going to work for me.” Then I wanted to be a teacher because that’s what girls were, you were a nurse or a teacher. So I went to these education classes and thought, “I’m never going to be able to make thirty children do the same thing at the same time.” So I stopped. Then I thought I would be a humanities field major but they wouldn’t let me do that at Davis. That major had to be at Berkeley, so I finally said, “Ok I’ll be an English major” but it was only by default.
Then when I had to read Chaucer and Pope, those were my incompletes. I was reading something that happened three or five hundred years ago in old English and I was thinking, “This isn’t me either!”
So I just ended up doing all the political stuff. I think the first political action I ever did was stand at a candlelit vigil for Birmingham Sunday. I remember it clearly, this huge long line of candles flickering in the dark across the open courtyard at UC Davis.
I was aware of racism before then. We had a woman named Ruby who came to our house once a week to clean when I was about nine years old in elementary school. She was black. I remember sitting at the piano and thinking how she was really warm and friendly and huggy, which was a good thing because no one else in my family was.
I just remember looking at Ruby, then looking at these pictures of my mother and Auntie Barb hanging on the wall behind the piano and thinking, “Every morning Ruby wakes up, she looks in the mirror and she looks like Ruby and every morning all the rest of us wake up, look in the mirror and we have this different kind of skin, and that is a big deal. I don’t know what it is, but it is different whatever it is.”
That memory followed me through my life so I think I was destined to act out in the ways I did.
The Free Speech Movement was another pivotal moment for me. I drove down from Davis to Berkeley by myself in my little Volkswagen. I parked my car and I was walking up Telegraph Avenue to go to Sproul Hall where they had all spent the night. As I crossed Bancroft Avenue, there on the right was the whole National Guard, walking down to the Hall with their guns in their hands. I was by myself so I just stood there and watched them turn the corner to the hall.
There were a lot of kids my age in there. From my vantage point, I wasn’t quite in it. I watched them. The windows of the Hall were positioned to show the stairwell and offices. I watched the Guard go up the stairs, down the hall and start hitting kids on the head. I thought, “This is not what I learned in my U.S. history class.” That was a defining moment for me. I was completely disoriented after that day.
Then the whole Vietnam War started. The whole place was just this fomenting hot bed. I wasn’t academically grounded so I immersed myself in the politics and the countercultural stuff, before it had a name.
I saw the classic picture in this magazine called Ramparts that was of this little Vietnamese girl that had been burned by napalm. That was my other defining experience.
I was just gone. I could not be linear and sequential. I didn’t know what to do with myself. It was too much stimulation for me and of the wrong sort. I couldn’t handle it. That cover was so difficult to understand that I just ended up doing all the political stuff.
In my last year of college I began caring for two beautiful siblings, ages four and five. Being with them was amazingly pure and beautiful, and I became interested in the field of Early Childhood and education in a different way than I had when studying elementary education. Davis had a good Early Childhood department, and my lasting interest in Early Childhood was fostered during the time I spent there.
I didn’t manage to graduate from college at this time. I managed to get pregnant.