Meryl Streep remembers her time at Dartmouth in preparation for role in "Iron Lady"

By Kathleen Wahl | 1/5/12 3:30pm

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Courtesy Of The Los Angeles Times

Dartmouth holds Dr. Seuss and Robert Frost (at least briefly) as some of its most cherished alums. Chris Miller '63's Animal House is based on Dartmouth frat life. There are more than a small truckload of fictional characters that attended Dartmouth — see Stephen Colbert of the Colbert Report, Evan and Foggell from Superbad and Dr. Meredith Grey from Grey’s Anatomy.

Though somewhat less discussed, Meryl Streep once also spent some of her college career at the "College on the Hill," and she recently discussed how her time spent at Dartmouth helped her mentally prepare for her role as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. Most recognize Meryl Streep as a well-respected, Academy Award-winning actress who has starred in dozens of blockbusters over the last few decades, but few people know that Streep once spent time studying at Dartmouth through an exchange program during the fall of her senior year at Vassar College. Streep’s life at Dartmouth was starkly different than ours today.

Her Dartmouth experience took place in 1970 at an all-male college (later co-educational in 1972) as one of only a few female students on campus. Indeed, this atmosphere would be more than enough to aid in preparing for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher.

She participated in two student-written plays at Dartmouth, but she doesn’t remember having done so. Streep does remember, however, auditioning for the female role in the main-stage play and not receiving the part.

In an interview with The Dartmouth in 2000, Streep reminisced about her time at Dartmouth. Of course, the extraordinary beauty of Hanover overwhelmed her. She also made exceptional grades at Dartmouth (all As) and enjoyed her classes, but she was unsurprisingly more intently focused on improving her craft.

“There was an us and them feel to campus,” Streep said, recalling the attitude of the students in the college towards the woman exchange students. While walking across the library one day, Streep remembered the male students harshly “pounding their hands” to the beat of her steps.

Although there were times when she felt less than welcome, Streep says that her experience at the college helped “[make] her the woman [she is] today.” And, without a doubt, the Meryl Streep we know today is extremely confident and inspirational.

Kathleen Wahl