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- STORY OF WELLESLEY - 10/33 -


These ideals of scholarship and hospitality the Wellesley College Library never forgets. Her Plimpton collection of Italian manuscripts is a treasure-house for students of the Italy of the Middle Ages and Renaissance; and her alumnae, as well as scholars from other colleges and other lands, are given every facility for study.

In 1887, two dormitories were added to the college: Freeman Cottage, the gift of Mrs. Durant, and the Eliot, the joint gift of Mrs. Durant and Mr. H. H. Hunnewell. Originally the Eliot had been used as a boarding-house for the young women working in a shoe factory at that time running in Wellesley village, but after Mrs. Durant had enlarged and refurnished it, students who wished to pay a part of their expenses by working their way through college were boarded there. Some years later it was again enlarged, and used as a village-house for freshmen.

In December, 1887, Miss Freeman resigned from Wellesley to marry Professor George Herbert Palmer of Harvard; but her interest in the college did not flag, and during her lifetime she continued to be a member of the Board of Trustees. From 1892 to 1895 she held the office of Dean of Women of the University of Chicago; and Radcliffe, Bradford Academy, and the International Institute for Girls, in Spain, can all claim a share in her fostering interest. From 1889 until the end of her life, she was a member of the Massachusetts Board of Education, having been appointed by Governor Ames and reappointed by Governor Greenhalge and Governor Crane.

In addition to the degree of Ph.D. received from Michigan in 1882, Miss Freeman received the honorary degree of Litt.D. from Columbia in 1887, and in 1895 the honorary degree of LL.D., from Union University.

What she meant to the women who were her comrades at Wellesley in those early days--the women who held up her hands--is expressed in an address by Professor Whiting at the memorial service held in the chapel in December, 1903:

"I think of her in her office, which was also her private parlor, with not even a skilled secretary at first, toiling with all the correspondence, seeing individual girls on academic and social matters, setting them right in cases of discipline, interviewing members of the faculty on necessary plans. The work was overwhelming and sometimes her one assistant would urge her, late in the evening, to nibble a bite from a tray which, to save time, had been sent in to her room at the dinner hour, only to remain untouched.... No wonder that professors often left their lectures to be written in the wee small hours, to help in uncongenial administrative work, which was not in the scope of their recognized duties."

The pathos of her death in Paris, in December, 1902, came as a shock to hundreds of people whose lives had been brightened by her eager kindliness; and her memory will always be especially cherished by the college to which she gave her youth. The beautiful memorial in the college chapel will speak to generations of Wellesley girls of this lovable and ardent pioneer.

III.

Wellesley's debt to her third president, Helen A. Shafer, is nowhere better defined than in the words of a distinguished alumna, Sophonisba P. Breckenridge, writing on Miss Shafer's administration, in the Wellesley College News of November 2, 1901. Miss Breckenridge says:

It is said that in a great city on the shore of a western lake the discovery was made one day that the surface of the water had gradually risen and that stately buildings on the lake front designed for the lower level had been found both misplaced and inadequate to the pressure of the high level. They were fair without, well proportioned and inviting; but they were unsteady and their collapse was feared. To take them down seemed a great loss: to leave them standing as they were was to expose to certain perils those who came and went within them. They proved to be the great opportunity of the engineer. He first, without interrupting their use, or disturbing those who worked within, made them safe and sure and steady, able to meet the increased pressure of the higher level, and then, likewise without interfering with the day's work of any man, by skillful hidden work, adapted them to the new conditions by raising their level in corresponding measure. The story told of that engineer's great achievement in the mechanical world has always seemed applicable to the service rendered by Miss Shafer to the intellectual structure of Wellesley.

Under the devoted and watchful supervision of the founders, and under the brilliant direction of Miss Freeman, brave plans had been drawn, honest foundations laid and stately walls erected. The level from which the measurements were taken was no low level. It was the level of the standard of scholarship for women as it was seen by those who designed the whole beautiful structure. To its spacious shelter were tempted women who had to do with scholarly pursuits and girls who would be fitted for a life upon that plane. But during those first years that level itself was rising, and by its rising the very structure was threatened with instability if not collapse. And then she came. Much of the work of her short and unfinished administration was quietly done; making safe unsafe places, bringing stability where instability was shown, requires hidden, delicate, sure labor and absorbed attention. That labor and that attention she gave. It required exact knowledge of the danger, exact fitting of the brace to the rift. That she accomplished until the structure was again fit. And then, by fine mechanical devices, well adapted to their uses, patiently but boldly used, she undertook to raise the level of the whole, that under the new claims upon women Wellesley might have as commanding a position as it had assumed under the earlier circumstances. It was a very definite undertaking to which she put her hand, which she was not allowed to complete. So clearly was it outlined in her mind, so definitely planned, that in the autumn of 1893, she thought if she were allowed four years more she would feel that her task was done and be justified in asking to surrender to other hands the leadership. After the time at which this estimate was made, she was allowed three months, and the hands were stilled. But the hands had been so sure, the work so skillful, the plans so intelligent and the purpose so wise that the essence of the task was accomplished. The peril of collapse had been averted and the level of the whole had been forever raised. The time allowed was five short years, of which one was wholly claimed by the demands of the frail body; the situation presented many difficulties. The service, too, was in many respects of the kind whose glory is in its inconspicuousness and obscure character, a structure that would stand when builders were gone, a device that would serve its end when its inventor was no more.--These are her contribution. And because that contribution was so well made, it has been ever since taken for granted. Her administration is little known and this is as she would have it--since it means that the extent to which her services were needed is likewise little realized. But to those who do know and who do realize, it is a glorious memory and a glorious aspiration.

Rare delicacy of perception, keen sympathy, exquisite honesty, scholarly attainment of a very high order, humility of that kind which enables one to sit without mortification among the lowly, without self-consciousness among the great--these are some of the gifts which enabled her to do just the work she did, at the time when just that contribution to the permanence and dignity of Wellesley was so essential.

Miss Freeman's work we may characterize as, in its nature, extensive. Miss Shafer's was intensive. The scholar and the administrator were united in her personality, but the scholar led. The crowning achievement of her administration was what was then called "the new curriculum."

In the college calendars from 1876 to 1879, we find as many as seven courses of study outlined. There was a General Course for which the degree of B.A. was granted, with summa cum laude for special distinction in scholarship. There were the courses for Honors, in Classics, Mathematics, Modern Languages, and Science; and students doing suitable work in them could be recommended for the degree. These elective courses made a good showing on paper; but it seems to have been possible to complete them by a minimum of study. There were also courses in Music and Art, extending over a period of five years instead of the ordinary four allotted to the General Course. Under Miss Freeman, the courses for Honors disappeared, and instead of the General Course there were substituted the Classical Course, with Greek as an entrance requirement and the degree of B.A. as its goal; and the Scientific Course, in which knowledge of French or German was substituted for Greek at entrance, and Mathematics was required through the sophomore year. The student who completed this course received the degree of B.S.

The "new curriculum" substituted for the two courses, Classical and Scientific, hitherto offered, a single course leading to the degree of B.A. As Miss Shafer explains in her report to the trustees for the year 1892-1893: "Thus we cease to confer the B.S. for a course not essentially scientific, and incapable of becoming scientific under existing circumstances, and we offer a course broad and strong, containing, as we believe, all the elements, educational and disciplinary, which should pertain to a course in liberal arts."

Further modifications of the elective system were introduced in a later administration, but the "new curriculum" continues to be the basis of Wellesley's academic instruction.

Time and labor were required to bring about these readjustments. The requirements for admission had to be altered to correspond with the new system, and the Academic Council spent three years in perfecting the curriculum in its new form.

Miss Shafer's own department, Mathematics, had already been brought up to a very high standard, and at one time the requirements for admission to Wellesley were higher in Mathematics than those for Harvard. Under Miss Shafer also, the work in English Composition was placed on a new basis; elective courses were offered to seniors and juniors in the Bible Department; a course in Pedagogy, begun toward the end of Miss Freeman's residency, was encouraged and increased; the laboratory of Physiological Psychology, the first in a woman's college and one of the earliest in any college, was opened in 1891 with Professor Calkins at its head. In all, sixty-seven new courses were opened to the students in these five


STORY OF WELLESLEY - 10/33

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