Four generations of RICHARDSONs 1917

Four generations of RICHARDSONs 1917
William Richardson, Alice Josephine Richardson Dakin, Robert Worthington Richardson, Harry Bogart Richardson

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Life at college for Elizabeth in 1844

It you have been following these blog posts about Elizabeth Radford Evans, you'll recall our surprise to read that she "graduated from Mt. Holyoke College in the class of 1845" reported in a newspaper interview with 88-year old Elizabeth about her long life.  You might also recall that I contacted Mt Holyoke Seminary [now College] and she never graduated, but she did attend for one year from 1844-1845.
“REMINISCENCES," in The Berkshire Courier, 
Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Thursday 20 March 1913, 
volume LXXIX, no. 12, pages 1, 8
























Mt Holyoke Seminary was a new institution, founded in 1837.  Their website has the history for anyone who is interested in what Mary Lyon did as is founder and first "principal" for an institution for women which began during an economic depression.

When its doors finally opened on November 8, 1837, Mount Holyoke Female Seminary embodied two major innovations in women's education. It instituted rigorous academic entrance requirements and a demanding curriculum conspicuously free of instruction of domestic pursuits. And it was endowed, thus ensuring its permanence and securing the principle of higher learning for future generations of women. With this remarkable achievement, Mary Lyon proved herself true to the words she would become renowned for: Go where no one else will go. Do what no one else will do.

So what was life like for a college student in 1844?
What did it take to for a woman to attend college in 1844?

I was going to try to pull out individual examples of the 1844-1845 catalog, but decided to include the whole catalog for those who would like to see who were the 249 students and what it took to get in and what life was like once you arrived as a young woman then.  This catalog was generously provided by Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections.
The college had three levels, starting with the Senior Class, then Middle Class and finally the Junior Class.  If you look closely, they are from New England states and New York.  I did find one student from Ohio and one from Illinois.




The Senior and part of the Middle classes.







The Middle and part of the Junior classes.












Continuing with the Junior class.
































Here are the requirements to enter Mt Holyoke along with a description of curriculum for Junior and Middle class students.  Sounds like they will be busy.  There is a note that sometimes it takes more than one year to master the Junior class's curriculum along with Latin (which is a recommended study, not part of the required studies for Juniors).





























In addition to what the Seniors will study, there is a description of the studies for everyone: composition, reading, calisthenics, vocal music, the New Testament and linear & perspective drawings.  If you already play piano, you can continue with that study.  They list the textbooks to bring -- if  you have-- otherwise you can purchase them at school.

In order to attend, there are admission exams, and in order to join the next class, there are exams.  There is a reminder that the students should be studying Latin if they want to progress to the Middle and Senior classes.

The school year starts 2 October and goes through July -- three terms:  16, 14, and 10 weeks.  There is a 2 week break between terms and an 8 week break between school years.

Tuition and board is $60 a year.  This doesn't sound like a lot of money, EXCEPT, a young woman going to work in the Massachusetts mills in 1845 ("Investigation of Labor Conditions, 1845"  Massachusetts House Documents, no. 50, March, 1845;   http://courses.wcupa.edu/johnson/lowell1845.html) would be paid $16 to $30 per month, exclusive of board.

Everyone, faculty and students live on campus, it is a family structure -- no commuters.  Everyone also contributes to the domestic work of the school, however, they are not there to learn the domestic skills, but only to already have them to use (taught at home).  They are there to develop academic skills.



























Admission is for the whole year.  They must be at least 16 years old and well-prepared in the preparatory skills (see page 11).  The students bring their own towels, bedding, and two spoons.   

There is an expectation of punctuality for classes and attention to studies.  There are regular hours for classes and study and for recreation.  Visitors are encouraged to only visit during recreation on Wednesdays or Tuesday evenings.  If someone is traveling "from abroad" they can call a teacher to arrange a visit at another time, except on the Sabbath.   The students can not leave the school or receive visitors on the Sabbath.

New students are only admitted in October, they must be "young ladies of good degree of mental disciple, and maturity of character."  The first few weeks of school are probationary.


To get to the Seminary, young ladies can take a train to Wilbraham or Springfield or Cabotwille and then take a stage from there to South Hadley.

The examination schedule is given, and the final address (closing the school year) is on 31 July.  
The admission test schedule is included.  The list of what will be on the exam is back on page 11 of this 1844-1845 Catalogue.

















If you recall, one of the requirements was mastery of Adam's New Arithmetic.

If you are interested in the contents of what was considered "arithmetic" in the 1800s, I though I'd include the table of contents.




Elizabeth Radford started Mt Holyoke Seminary when it was a young school -- it had started in 1837, and she attended in 1844-45.  There were high expectations for their students to be capable of learning a rigorous curriculum.  For her farm family to send her was probably a big stretch -- $60 was a lot of money.  Her contemporary women on the farm who "went to the city" to work at that time would probably have gone to Lowell or New Bedford, Massachusetts and earned $23 - $30 a week to send home.  After a year of college, she worked as a teacher for 5 years -- I've not yet identified where.

We know she was corresponding with her cousin Louise Radford who was also thinking about important ideas of the day.  We know Elizabeth loved to play with words in her writing and even in describing her anniversary.  Years later she was reading the contemporary books and following the politics and the local newspaper wrote her up.  It is wonderful that her parents Beers Radford (1784-1876) and Harriet Higgins Radford (1785-1846) saw the value of sending their daughter to Mt Holyoke Seminary for a year.  













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