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- STORY OF WELLESLEY - 2/33 -


brings to bear upon our educational problems her individual experience and ideals. Wellesley, for example, with her women-presidents, and the heads of her departments all women but three,--the professors of Music, Education, and French,--has her peculiar testimony to offer concerning the administrative and executive powers of women as educators, their capacity for initiative and organization.

This is why a general history of the movement for the higher education of women, although of value, cannot tell us all we need to know, since of necessity it approaches the subject from the outside. The women's colleges must speak as individuals; each one must tell her own story, and tell it soon. The bright, experimental days are definitely past--except in the sense in which all education, alike for men and women, is perennially an experiment--and if the romance of those days is to quicken the imaginations of college girls one hundred, two hundred, five hundred years hence, the women who were the experiment and who lived the romance must write it down.

For Wellesley in particular this consciousness of standing at the threshold of a new epoch is especially poignant. Inevitably those forty years before the fire of 1914 will go down in her history as a period apart. Already for her freshmen the old college hall is a mythical labyrinth of memory and custom to which they have no clue. New happiness will come to the hill above the lake, new beauty will crown it, new memories will hallow it, but--they will all be new. And if the coming generations of students are to realize that the new Wellesley is what she is because her ideals, though purged as by fire, are still the old ideals; if they are to understand the continuity of Wellesley's tradition, we who have come through the fire must tell them the story.

II.

On Wednesday, November 25, 1914, the workmen who were digging among the fire-scarred ruins at the extreme northeast corner of old College Hall unearthed a buried treasure. To the ordinary treasure seeker it would have been a thing of little worth,--a rough bowlder of irregular shape and commonplace proportions,--but Wellesley eyes saw the symbol. It was the first stone laid in the foundations of Wellesley College. There was no ceremony when it was laid, and there were no guests. Mr. and Mrs. Henry Fowle Durant came up the hill on a summer morning--Friday, August 18, 1871, was the day--and with the help of the workmen set the stone in place.

A month later, on the afternoon of Thursday, September 14, I871, the corner stone was laid, by Mrs. Durant, at the northwest corner of the building, under the dining-room wing; it is significant that from the foundations up through the growth and expansion of all the years, women have had a hand in the making of Wellesley. In September, as in August, there were no guests invited, but at the laying of the corner stone there was a simple ceremony; each workman was given a Bible, by Mr. Durant, and a Bible was placed in the corner stone. On December 18, 1914, this stone was uncovered, and the Bible was found in a tin box in a hollow of the stone. As most of the members of the college had scattered for the Christmas vacation, only a little group of people gathered about the place where, forty-three years before, Mrs. Durant had laid the stone. Mrs. Durant was too ill to be present, but her cousin, Miss Fannie Massie, lifted the tin box out of its hollow and handed it to President Pendleton who opened the Bible and read aloud the inscription:

"This building is humbly dedicated to our Heavenly Father with the hope and prayer that He may always be first in everything in this institution; that His word may be faithfully taught here; and that He will use it as a means of leading precious souls to the Lord Jesus Christ."

There followed, also in Mrs. Durant's handwriting, two passages from the Scriptures: II Chronicles, 29: 11-16, and the phrase from the one hundred twenty-seventh Psalm: "Except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that build it."

This stone is now the corner stone of the new building which rises on College Hill, and another, the keystone of the arch above the north door of old College Hall, will be set above the doorway of the new administration building, where its deep-graven I.H.S. will daily remind those who pass beneath it of Wellesley's unbroken tradition of Christian scholarship and service.

But we must go back to the days before one stone was laid upon another, if we are to begin at the beginning of Wellesley's story. It was in 1855, the year after his marriage, that Mr. Durant bought land in Wellesley village, then a part of Needham, and planned to make the place his summer home. Every one who knew him speaks of his passion for beauty, and he gave that passion free play when he chose, all unwittingly, the future site for his college. There is no fairer region around Boston than this wooded, hilly country near Natick--"the place of hills"--with its little lakes, its tranquil, winding river, its hallowed memories of John Eliot and his Christian Indian chieftains, Waban and Pegan, its treasured literary associations with Harriet Beecher Stowe. Chief Waban gave his name, "Wind" or "Breath", to the college lake; on Pegan Hill, from which so many Wellesley girls have looked out over the blue distances of Massachusetts, Chief Pegan's efficient and time-saving squaw used to knit his stockings without heels, because "He handsome foot, and he shapes it hisself"; and Natick is the Old Town of Mrs. Stowe's "Old Town Folks."

In those first years after they began to spend their summers at Wellesley, the family lived in a brown house near what is now the college greenhouse, but Mr. Durant meant to build his new house on the hill above the lake, or on the site of Stone Hall, and to found a great estate for his little son. From time to time he bought more land; he laid out avenues and planted them with trees; and then, the little boy for whom all this joy and beauty were destined fell ill of diphtheria and died, July 3, 1863, after a short illness.

The effect upon the grief-stricken father was startling, and to many who knew him and more who did not, it was incomprehensible. In the quaint phraseology of one of his contemporaries, he had "avoided the snares of infidelity" hitherto, but his religion had been of a conventional type. During the child's illness he underwent an old-fashioned religious conversion. The miracle has happened before, to greater men, and the world has always looked askance. Boston in 1863, and later, was no exception.

Mr. Durant's career as a lawyer had been brilliant and worldly; he had rarely lost a case. In an article on "Anglo-American Memories" which appeared in the New York Tribune in 1909, he is described as having "a powerful head, chiseled features, black hair, which he wore rather long, an olive complexion, and eyes which flashed the lightnings of wrath and scorn and irony; then suddenly the soft rays of sweetness and persuasion for the jury. He could coax, intimidate, terrify; and his questions cut like knives." The author of "Bench and Bar in Massachusetts", who was in college with him, says of him: "During the five years of his practice at the Middlesex Bar he underwent such an initiation into the profession as no other county could furnish. Shrewdness, energy, resource, strong nerves and mental muscles were needed to ward off the blows which the trained gladiators of this bar were accustomed to inflict. With the lessons learned at the Middlesex Bar he removed to Boston in 1847, where he became associated with the Honorable Joseph Bell, the brother-in-law of Rufus Choate, and began a career almost phenomenal in its success. His management of cases in court was artistic. So well taken were the preliminary steps, so deeply laid was the foundation, so complete and comprehensive was the preparation of evidence and so adroitly was it brought out, so carefully studied and understood were the characters of jurors,--with their whims and fancies and prejudices,--that he won verdict after verdict in the face of the ablest opponents and placed himself by general consent at the head of the jury lawyers of the Suffolk Bar." Adjectives less ambiguous and more uncomplimentary than "shrewd" were also applied to him, and his manner of dominating his juries did not always call forth praise from his contemporaries. In one of the newspaper obituaries at the time of his death it is admitted that he had been "charged with resorting to tricks unbecoming the dignity of a lawyer," but the writer adds that it is an open question if some, or indeed all of them were not legitimate enough, and might not have been paralleled by the practices of some of the ablest of British and Irish barristers. Both in law and in business--for he had important commercial interests--he had prospered. He was rich and a man of the world. Boston, although critical, had not found it unnatural that he should make himself talked about in his conduct of jury trials; but the conspicuousness of his conversion was of another sort: it offended against good taste, and incurred for him the suspicion of hypocrisy.

For, with that ardor and impetuosity which seem always to have made half measures impossible to him, Mr. Durant declared that so far as he was concerned, the Law and the Gospel were irreconcilable, and gave up his legal practice. A case which he had already undertaken for Edward Everett, and from which Mr. Everett was unwilling to release him, is said to be the last one he conducted; and he pleaded in public for the last time in a hearing at the State House in Boston, some years later, when he won for the college the right to confer degrees, a privilege which had not been specifically included in the original charter.

His zeal in conducting religious meetings also offended conventional people. It was unusual, and therefore unsuitable, for a layman to preach sermons in public. St. Francis and his preaching friars had established no precedent in Boston of the 'sixties and 'seventies, and indeed Mr. Durant's evangelical protestantism might not have relished the parallel. Boston seems, for the most part, to have averted its eyes from the spectacle of the brilliant, possibly unscrupulous, some said tricky, lawyer bringing souls to Christ. But he did bring them. We are told that "The halls and churches where he spoke were crowded. The training and experience which had made him so successful a pleader before judge and jury, now, when he was fired with zeal for Christ's cause, made him almost irresistible as a preacher. Very many were led by him to confess the Christian faith. Henry Wilson, then senator, afterwards vice president, was among them. The influence of the meetings was wonderful and far-reaching." We are assured that he "would go nowhere unless the Evangelical Christians of the place united in an invitation and the ministers were ready to cooperate." But the whole affair was of course intensely distasteful to unemotional people; the very fact that a man could be converted argued his instability; and it is unquestionably true that Boston's attitude toward Mr. Durant was reflected for many years in her attitude toward the college which he founded.

But over against this picture we can set another, more intimate,


STORY OF WELLESLEY - 2/33

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