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- STORY OF WELLESLEY - 1/33 -
THE STORY OF WELLESLEY
BY FLORENCE CONVERSE
To Alma Mater, Wellesley's daughters, All together join and sing. Thro' all her wealth of woods and water Let your happy voices ring; In every changing mood we love her, Love her towers and woods and lake; Oh, changeful sky, bend blue above her, Wake, ye birds, your chorus wake!
We'll sing her praises now and ever, Blessed fount of truth and love. Our heart's devotion, may it never Faithless or unworthy prove, We'll give our lives and hopes to serve her, Humblest, highest, noblest--all; A stainless name we will preserve her, Answer to her every call.
Anne L. Barrett, '86
The day after the Wellesley fire, an eager young reporter on a Boston paper came out to the college by appointment to interview a group of Wellesley women, alumnae and teachers, grief-stricken by the catastrophe which had befallen them. He came impetuously, with that light-hearted breathlessness so characteristic of young reporters in the plays of Bernard Shaw and Arnold Bennett. He was charmingly in character, and he sent his voice out on the run to meet the smallest alumna in the group:
"Now tell me some pranks!" he cried, with pencil poised.
What she did tell him need not be recorded here. Neither was it set down in the courteous and sympathetic report which he afterwards wrote for his paper.
And readers who come to this story of Wellesley for pranks will be disappointed likewise. Not that the lighter side of the Wellesley life is omitted; play-days and pageants, all the bright revelry of the college year, belong to the story. Wellesley would not be Wellesley if they were left out. But her alumnae, her faculty, and her undergraduates all agree that the college was not founded primarily for the sake of Tree Day, and that the Senior Play is not the goal of the year's endeavor.
It is the story of the Wellesley her daughters and lovers know that I have tried to tell: the Wellesley of serious purpose, consecrated to the noble ideals of Christian Scholarship.
I am indebted for criticism, to President Pendleton who kindly read certain parts of the manuscript, to Professor Katharine Lee Bates, Professor Vida D. Scudder, and Mrs. Marian Pelton Guild; for historical material, to Miss Charlotte Howard Conant's "Address Delivered in Memory of Henry Fowle Durant in Wellesley College Chapel", February 18, 1906, to Mrs. Louise McCoy North's Historical Address, delivered at Wellesley's quarter centennial, in June 1900, to Professor George Herbert Palmer's "Life of Alice Freeman Palmer," published by the Houghton Mifflin Co., to Professor Margarethe Muller's "Carla Wenckebach, Pioneer," published by Ginn & Co.; to Dean Waite, Miss Edith Souther Tufts, Professor Sarah F. Whiting, Miss Louise Manning Hodgkins, Professor Emeritus Mary A. Willcox, Mrs. Mary Gilman Ahlers; to Miss Candace C. Stimson, Miss Mary B. Jenkins, the Secretary of the Alumnae Restoration and Endowment Committee, and to the many others among alumnae and faculty, whose letters and articles I quote. Last but not least in my grateful memory are all those painstaking and accurate chroniclers, the editors of the Wellesley Courant, Prelude, Magazine, News, and Legenda, whose labors went so far to lighten mine.
II. THE PRESIDENTS AND THEIR ACHIEVEMENT
III. THE FACULTY AND THEIR METHODS
IV. THE STUDENTS AT WORK AND PLAY
V. THE FIRE: AN INTERLUDE
VI. THE LOYAL ALUMNAE
INDEX [not included]
THE FOUNDER AND HIS IDEALS
As the nineteenth century recedes into history and the essentially romantic quality of its great adventures is confirmed by the "beauty touched with strangeness" which illumines their true perspective, we are discovering, what the adventurers themselves always knew, that the movement for the higher education of women was not the least romantic of those Victorian quests and stirrings, and that its relation to the greatest adventure of all, Democracy, was peculiarly vital and close.
We know that the "man in the street", in the sixties and seventies, watching with perplexity and scornful amusement the endeavor of his sisters and his daughters--or more probably other men's daughters--to prove that the intellectual heritage must be a common heritage if Democracy was to be a working theory, missed the beauty of the picture. He saw the slim beginning of a procession of young women, whose obstinate, dreaming eyes beheld the visions hitherto relegated by scriptural prerogative and masculine commentary to their brothers; inevitably his outraged conservatism missed the beauty; and the strangeness he called queer. That he should have missed the democratic significance of the movement is less to his credit. But he did miss it, fifty years ago and for several years thereafter, even as he is still missing the democratic significance of other movements to-day. Processions still pass him by,--for peace, for universal suffrage, May Day, Labor Day, and those black days when the nations mobilize for war, they pass him by,--and the last thing he seems to discover about them is their democratic significance. But after a long while the meaning of it all has begun to penetrate. To-day, his daughters go to college as a matter of course, and he has forgotten that he ever grudged them the opportunity.
They remind him of it, sometimes, with filial indirection, by celebrating the benevolence, the intellectual acumen, the idealism of the few men, exceptional in their day, who saw eye to eye with Mary Lyon and her kind; the men who welcomed women to Oberlin and Michigan, who founded Vassar and Wellesley and Bryn Mawr, and so helped to organize the procession. Their reminders are even beginning to take form as records of achievement; annals very far from meager, for achievement piles up faster since Democracy set the gate of opportunity on the crack, and we pack more into a half century than we used to. And women, more obviously than men, perhaps, have "speeded up" in response to the democratic stimulus; their accomplishment along social, political, industrial, and above all, educational lines, since the first woman's college was founded, is not inconsiderable.
How much, or how little, would have been accomplished, industrially, socially, and politically, without that first woman's college, we shall never know, but the alumnae registers, with their statistics concerning the occupations of graduates, are suggestive reading. How little would have been accomplished educationally for women, it is not so difficult to imagine: Vassar, Wellesley, Smith, Mt. Holyoke, Bryn Mawr,--with all the bright visions, the fullness of life that they connote to American women, middle-aged and young,--blotted out; coeducational institutions harassed by numbers and inventing drastic legislation to keep out the women; man still the almoner of education, and woman his dependent. From all these hampering probabilities the women's colleges save us to-day. This is what constitutes their negative value to education.
Their positive contribution cannot be summarized so briefly; its scattered chronicle must be sought in the minutes of trustees' meetings, where it modestly evades the public eye, in the academic formalities of presidents' reports and the journalistic naivete of college periodicals; in the diaries of early graduates; in newspaper clippings and magazine "write-ups"; in historical sketches to commemorate the decennial or the quarter-century; and from the lips of the pioneers,--teacher and student. For, in the words of the graduate thesis, "we are still in the period of the sources." The would-be historian of a woman's college to-day is in much the same relation to her material as the Venerable Bede was to his when he set out to write his Ecclesiastical History. The thought brings us its own inspiration. If we sift our miracles with as much discrimination as he sifted his, we shall be doing well. We shall discover, among other things, that in addition to the composite influence which these colleges all together exert, each one also
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