A Brief Timeline: 1951-1961

Maxine Simpson quote
Norfolk Debaters Beat Ladies Article

An article from a 1958 issue of The Colony, Norfolk Prison's newspaper, announcing the victory of the prison debate team over Emerson's team during the first debate of the season.

Emerson College Debate Team Press Release, 1975

An Emerson College press release from 1975 describing the Norfolk Prison Debate Team's undefeated streak over the last eight years. 

1951 - Prison officials at Norfolk contacted Emerson to bring collegiate debating to the prison. Coleman Bender and Haig der Mardersoian, both faculty in the School of Communication, coached the fifteen-man team to a record of 268 wins to six losses over the next 23 years.

1956 - The all-male debating team at Norfolk successfully defended the negative of the resolution: "That Women have a Natural Superiority over Men," scoring a victory over an all-female Emerson College team. 

1958 - The Norfolk Prison debaters defeat Emerson co-eds over the question of "Intolerance is More Dangerous than Ignorance." The debaters for Norfolk, Tom Vigrolio and Al Barrows, were two incarcerated men serving life sentences who preserved the team's four-year undefeated streak against Emerson and other top Ivy League and collegiate teams. 

Collage of Emerson College Debate Team Photographs, 1952-1973
Photographs of the 1962-1963 Emerson College Debate Team

Co-eds of the debate team, circa 1963

1960 - Norfolk defeats Emerson debating the topic of "Women are Slaves to Fashion." The prison team garnered a 20-second standing ovation from almost 600 incarcerated audience members and visitors, after citing a regulation that stated "visual aids must be turned over to the opposing team for the opposing team's use" when the six Emerson coeds came out dressed up.

1961 - Ann Palmer and Judie Espinola defeat the Norfolk team on the topic, "Resolved that a woman president should be elected president of the United States by legislation every eight years."

Judie Espinola and Ann Palmer, Class of 1961

Judie Espinola (above) and Ann Palmer (below), Class of 1961

Judie Espinola and Ann Palmer, Class of 1961 Photograph of Lynne Lalock Photograph of Elizabeth Kidney Photograph of Cynthia Ann Whalen
Editorial from La Gazzetta del Massachusetts, March 25, 1960

editorial from La Gazzetta del Massachusetts, March 25, 1960

Keep Women Out of Prison Editorial

An editorial from La Gazzetta del Massachusetts, decrying female college students' visits to all-male prisons for the purpose of debating.