George Birkbeck Norman Hill.

Harvard college, by an Oxonian; online

. (page 21 of 26)
Online LibraryGeorge Birkbeck Norman HillHarvard college, by an Oxonian; → online text (page 21 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


tion Extension Lectures, the men form a tenth part of the
whole number. The work done at Harvard spreads over a
much longer time and is more serious. There is nothing of a
literary picnic about these Summer Courses. The teaching is
mainly done by " the younger instructors and assistants who
have become familiar with the ground covered during their
regular labours in term-time under the guidance of the older
teachers in the same department. A few Assistant- Professors
take part in the work ; but no Professors — except perhaps by
giving a few lectures during the progress of some course in which
they are interested." Some of the instruction given is of a
high order. Thus in history this year one of the Courses " is
open only to experienced teachers and students already well
prepared in American History. They will do daily work in
the Library on a special subject under the direction of the In-
structor." The ordinary fee for each Course is twenty dollars
(^4. I. 8.), but for one or two of the subjects so much as thirty
or even thirty-five dollars {£(i. 2. 6. ; £-]. 3. o.) is chargcd.*

1 Of the 3t;4 names in the Catalnt^te, 249 are those of men and 105 of
women, pjght are inserted in more tlian one list. I have assumed that
of these eight six were men and two women. Catalogtte, pp. 446, 538.

2 Annual Reports, 1891-92, p. 39 ; Catalogue, pp. 1 18, 401, 445.



270 HARVARD COLLEGE. chap.

Harvard, in her eagerness to promote learning, freely receives
students who for want of means or time cannot go through the
ordinary four years' course, but who, nevertheless, wish to pursue
some particular study at a university. These men are known
as Special Students. Before admittance they must give proof
that they have learning enough to profit by the teaching. In
their work they are under the control of the Committee of
Advisers, and in respect to discipline they are on the same
footing as the ordinary undergraduates. A watchful eye has to
be kept over this department lest it should be used by those
who look upon a university as a great and glorious play-ground.
Idlers are sent away. To those who do well Certificates of
Proficiency are given on Commencement Day. This year there
are one hundred and sixty-two of these students.^ I hope that
the day will shortly come when in our English Universities also
we shall freely admit in every department the eager learner,
however great may be his ignorance of certain subjects. When
I consider the scores and scores of young men who throng the
Colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, who are no more fit to be
in a university than a cow is fit to be in a garden, I am amazed
at the care which is taken to bar out many a promising student.
This barrier is raised by those who have never looked upon a
university but as a place where a degree is earned, and on a
degree but as a distinction inseparably connected with some
knowledge of Greek and Latin. In their eyes education is
nothing but a narrow and well-beaten track which all men have
followed or ought to have followed. Those who have travelled
along it, whether freely or cudgelled at every step, are alone fit
for the liberal studies of a university. They may be dull, gross,
lazy, haters of knowledge, scorners of learned men ; their chief

1 Catalogue, pp. 187, 207; Annual Reports, 1891-92, p. 75.



XV. HARVARD COLLEGE. 271

delight may be in the strength of their own or of other men's
legs ; they may, unless under compulsion, read nothing but the
sporting newspapers ; they may be ever startling the studious
cloisters by their boisterous ignorance ; " flown with insolence
and wine," they may do shameful wrong to ancient seats of
learning, nevertheless before them the barriers have been
rightly lowered, because in the ten long years spent at school
they have been birched into Greek and Latin enough to carry
them, with the help of the " crammer," through their examina-
tions. While such men not only disgrace the university but
lower the general standard, others are shut out who would have
brought to it new interests and modes of life and fresh thoughts.
How often does it happen that a young man who, like Gold-
smith, flowers late, suddenly wakens up to all the delight and
hopefulness of knowledge! Some one study above all he longs
to pursue. He seeks such aid as he can get, and learns all that
he can from books and chance instructors. The time comes
when he feels the need of all the means of learning which a
great university alone can give. He strives to enter, but he is
coldly repulsed. He is told that if in his ignorance of Greek or
Latin, or perchance of our English arithmetic with its ridiculous
tables of weight and measures, he were let in, a blow would be
struck at the whole system of public education, over which the
University presumes to watch with all the conceit of a hen over
a brood of ducklings. Surely it will be time enough to exclude
those who only wish to learn something and not ever)-thing
when all have been excluded who so far from wishing to learn
everything learn nothing. I^t every one who wishes to enter
the University satisfy the Faculty of any single department that
he has knowledge and capacity enough to profit by the teaching,
the door should at once be flung open to him. If he shows him-



272 HARVARD COLLEGE. chap. xv.

self unworthy of his great opportunities, let him be quickly sent
packing. When once he is inside, mixing with men of great
and varied knowledge, he will see his sky widening on all sides
and will find fresh longings for knowledge springing up in him.
He should be placed on the same footing as the other under-
graduates — entitled to enjoy the same privileges and advant-
ages, and subject to the same discipline. If the course of
studies that he pursues is too narrow, let no degree be con-
ferred upon him. Nevertheless, as at Harvard, he should re-
ceive a certificate of proficiency, which should testify, not only
that he has acquired a certain amount of knowledge, but
— which is of scarcely less importance — that he has acquired
it during his residence in a learned society.



CHAPTER XVI.

Radcliffe College. — The Harvard Annex.

ON April 23, 1849, Longfellow recorded in his Journal:
" We have had at Faculty meeting an ai)plication from
a young lady to enter College as a regular student." ' Who
she was, and what answer was sent to her request, we are not
told. In some remote day the antiquary will search the
archives of the College in the hope of discovering her applica-
tion, and of making known to the world the name of the girl,
who, a full half century in advance of her time, took this
daring step. Even now, much as has been done, no woman
can enter Harvard as a regular student. This young lady will
be looked on as the Pilgrim Mother of Radcliffe College, or
rather, perhaps, as one of the daring adventurers from Norway,
who first tried to settle on the inhospitable shores of New Eng-
land. Nearly thirty years later a second young lady came to
Cambridge, and was fortunate enough to get instruction in
Greek, Latin, and English from three sound scholars, Professors
Goodwin, Greenough, and Child. " By her ability and enthusi-
asm for learning, she aroused in her teachers great interest in
the whole subject of woman's education." - By Mr. .Arthur
Gilman, neither a teacher nor a graduate of ILarvard, the sug-

1 Life of II. iV. Longfellow, II. 138.

2 See an article on " RadclifTe College " in the Harvard Graduntts'
Magazine for March, 1894, of which I have made much use in writing
this chapter.

T 273



274 HARVARD COLLEGE. chap.

gestion was thereupon made " that instruction should be sys-
tematically and publicly, though unofficially, offered to women
by the College teachers." He was supported in his proposal
by the example which had been recently set in England by the
foundation of Girton College. To the English Cambridge
the New England Cambridge once more turned her eyes.
"The proposition," we are told, "might well have seemed
impracticable, but it was not without the countenance of foreign
example." A second College for women was soon founded on
the banks of the Cam, and Oxford quickly followed with her
two Halls. Not to be left behind in the race, a few ladies of
the New England Cambridge published a circular in which
they unfolded their plan for the " Private Collegiate Instruction
of Women." A sum of fifteen thousand dollars {;£z^^(>)y
far too small to found a College, but large enough to try a
great experiment in education, was subscribed by a few friends.
The instruction that was offered was not to be " of a lower
grade than that given to the College," and the entrance exami-
nation was to be the same as that through which the under-
graduates had to pass. The teaching of the two sexes was
to be kept apart. "Thirty-seven Professors and Instructors
offered courses, and among them many of the most distin-
guished teachers of the University." In September, 1S79,
twenty-seven students began their work in rooms hired in a
dwelling-house on the Appian Way. " An extra room was pro-
vided where students could spend the intervals between reci-
tations, and in that room some of the Instructors left books
of reference for their use."

In the second year the number of students rose to forty-
seven; by the third year the Managers felt that they were
strong enough to form themselves into a Corporation under



XVI. HARVARD COLLEGE. 275

the title of the Society for the Collegiate Instruction of Women.
Mr. Oilman was appointed Secretary, and Mrs. Agassiz, the
widow of the great naturalist, President. To their wise zeal,
kept at the same even height from year to year, the success of
this great cause is largely due. It was not by the long name
which the Society had chosen for itself that the institution was
to be known. A nickname sprang up, as nicknames always do
spring up where brevity has been neglected. The Society for
the Collegiate Instruction of Women, and the building in
which its work is done, have long been everywhere known as
the Harvard Annex, or more briefly as the Annex. By the
end of the first four years three of the students had finished
the complete undergraduate course "parallel to that of the
College, directed by the same teachers, and tested by identical
examinations. They received, instead of degrees, the certifi-
cates of the Society, which stated that the holder ' has pur-
sued a course of study equivalent in amount and quality to
that for which the degree of Bachelor of Arts is conferred in
Harvard College, and has passed in a satisfactory manner
examinations on that course, corresponding to the College
examinations.' The graduate certificate has ever since been
in that form."

By this time the Society had successfully gone through its
first period of probation, and could now appeal for support to
the country at large. The appeal should have met with a
liberal reply, for the need of a higher education of women
ought to be more strongly felt in the United States than per-
haps in any other country of the world. The great majority
of American teachers are women ; in the larger cities, in every
hundred scarcely ten are men. It is, no doubt, not a little
owing to this fact, and to the imperfect education which



276 HARVARD COLLEGE. chap.

women have hitherto received, that the American schoolboy is
behind the schoolboys of England, France, and Germany in
book-learning. In answer to the appeal, not more than sixty-
seven thousand dollars (^13,700) was raised — a small sum
compared with the splendid donations made year after year to
Harvard for the education of men. Donors and bequeathers
follow the general fashion and move in one long rut ; giving
and bequeathing where gifts and bequests have always been
made. May some millionaire, for once, be touched with orig-
inality, and make his great gift to this College for Women !

The students soon became too numerous for the few hired
rooms in which their work was done. In 1885 an old mansion
was bought, facing the pleasant Common and close to the
Washington Elm. Washington's Birthday had been the date of
the first circular issued six years earlier by the Managers. In
one of the rooms of this house the poet of the two hundredth
anniversary of the College had written his Fair Harvard.
Hitherto the students had had no Hfe in common ; they had
come together to be taught, and had separated when once the
lesson was over. In their new home, with the great additions
which before long were made, they were to have an accommo-
dation not unworthy of a small college. They were still, how-
ever, to lodge as before, scattered about in private families.
Their number has grown in fifteen years from twenty-seven to
two hundred and fifty ; of whom one hundred are taking the
full undergraduate course of four years. The Academic Board
is composed of eight of the principal Professors of Harvard,
together with the President and Secretary of the Society. The
work of instruction is done by sixty-nine of the Harvard
teachers, of whom twenty-one are full Professors and fifteen
Assistant- Professors .



XVI. HARVARD COLLEGE. ni

Much as the University has done, it is a pity that it has not
had the courage to do still more. From all the lecture-rooms,
from almost all the Laboratories, and from the Medical School
the women are still excluded. The exclusion from the lecture-
rooms tells not only against the pupil but against the teacher,
who has felt the weariness of repeating before a class of young
women the lecture which perhaps that same morning he had
delivered before a class of young men. Harvard has not even
the timid courage which the Managers of our Oxford Halls
showed from the first. They allowed their girls to enter the
lecture-rooms of the University Professors and of the College
Tutors, so long as each set was accompanied by a chaperon.
It was not the University of Oxford which made this regulation,
though it is still sometimes enforced by nervous Professors.
The University, as such, had no fear of its young men as the
Corporation and Overseers of Harvard apparently have of theirs.
It was the young women who were watched over, and watched
mainly by the anxious Boards of their own Halls. To the
Laboratories in the Oxford Museum they have gone unat-
tended. This indulgence, I conjecture, was granted because
no chaperon could be found for love or any reasonable sum of
money, who would sit patiently in unbroken silence for three or
four hours together by the side of a young enthusiast, while
under a microscope she examined the leg of a frog. In the
last two years there has been a relaxation in these niles, at all
events in one of the Halls. Two girls or more can now attend
a lecture without a chaperon. It is only for solitary students
that a companion must be provided. The need of such com-
panionship is far greater in Oxford where the lecture-room often
opens out of the same staircase as the rooms of undergraduates.
In University College, London, the girls go unchaperoned to the



278 HARVARD COLLEGE. chap.

ordinary classes. Three years ago I attended a few of the
lectures in the University of Geneva, and found the young men
and women studying together and sitting on the same benches.
I did not notice the slightest indication of giddiness on the part
of a single student. What is refused at Harvard with one hand
is often given with the other. To the College Library the
women have no admittance ; nevertheless, they have brought
to the Annex any book which they may need. From the work
of the Graduate School they are too much cut off; in some
departments, however, provision has been made for them.
" The attitude of the students of Harvard College towards the
Annex students, and of the latter towards the former, appears,"
we are told, " to be that of unconcern." Whatever unconcern
there may be in the attitude of the young people, and however
admirable this unconcern may be, I trust that the unconcern of
the Overseers and Corporation and of every member of the
Faculty will before long entirely disappear, and that 'the whole
of the noble foundation will be thrown open to men and women
alike. Above all, may the women be admitted to the Medical
School, from which, by an il liberality unworthy of the age, they
seem to be entirely shut out !

A great advance has this year been made — an advance
which before long must sweep away all these idle distinctions.
Hitherto the Annex has in no way been officially recognized by
the University. No mention of it is made in the Catalogue ;
none even in those two pamphlets on life at Harvard by the
late Secretary to the University, from which I have frequently
quoted. The President and the Deans of the Faculties know
nothing of it in their Reports. The good they do, they do by
stealth and blush to have it fame. Henceforth the Annex is
openly and avowedly to be attached to the University, though



XVI. HARVARD COLLEGE. 279

by a bond somewhat loose in appearance, but which will most
certainly gradually tighten and be made indissoluble. It will
be a corporation in itself, thus holding the same position as one
of our Oxford or Cambridge Colleges, It will have the entire
control of its funds and of the discipline of its students. The
instruction, the examinations, and the conferring of degrees will
be in the hands of the President and Fellows of the University.
They will be " the Visitors of the Corporation. No instructor
or examiner will be appointed, employed, or retained with-
out their approval." The diplomas of the degrees that are
conferred will be the diplomas of the Corporation, approved of
by the Corporation of Harvard, countersigned by the President
with the seal of the University affixed. It is not avowedly the
University degree that the Corporation and Overseers are yet
prepared to offer. They have not been able to screw their
courage up to that point ; but they are much more than half-
way across the stream, and onwards they must go. There is
fear, we are told, that the full Harvard degree would attract so
large a number of women that the new College would be over-
whelmed. I am reminded how nearly sixty years ago our
Postmaster-General opposed the scheme of penny postage be-
cause the number of letters would be so large that the walls
of the Post-Office would burst. The letters, he seemed to think,
should be kept down to the size of the building, and not the
building enlarged to the number of the letters. In the present
case where can the danger lie? These young women whom
the fearful eye of authority sees flocking in from every State in
the Union would have no power to force admittance. A moder-
ate increase in the difficulty of the entrance examination would,
as effectually even as a pestilence, thin their ranks. No more
need be received each year than the buildings can conveniently



280 HARVARD COLLEGE. chap.

hold. A second objection is raised that "to make anything
like an impartial sharing of the resources of the University
would cripple the present work for men." The mere act of
conferring the full Harvard degree would not cripple the
resources, neither would they be crippled if the women were
to attend the lectures. Whenever there is not room for them,
in those few cases the lecture would have to be repeated, as
indeed it is repeated for them now. Generally, however, they
would only help to fill empty benches. In the Laboratories
there might be greater difficulties, but in 1892, of which year I
have the Report of the Society, there were but four students in
Chemistry and three in Advanced Zoology. The third objec-
tion has far more force. " It is not clear that the opinion of the
graduates and friends of the University is yet so settled as to
justify this departure from the established constitution of the
University." The Corporation and the Overseers cannot safely
move much faster than is approved of by the general sense of
that part of the community which is most highly educated. If
the country is not yet ripe for the change, the sure course of
events must be patiently awaited. At the same time, in hasten-
ing in the coming of this good time the University should take
the lead. This hitherto she has not done. She is behind many
of the leading American Universities. She is far behind almost
all the countries of the Old World. Even Oxford and Cam-
bridge, weighted as they are with the conservatism of six centu-
ries, have outstripped her. Germany alone is surpassed by her
in her unwillingness to let women enjoy the same opportunities
as men, not only in the great race of life, but in the far nobler
but uncontentious struggle to win that knowledge and those
qualities of the mind which give life its fulness and perfection.
Who can wonder that this new constitution, when it was



XVI. HARVARD COLLEGE. 281

promulgated, met with strong opposition? All those who will
not allow that half a loaf is better than no bread, were in arms.
Petitions were presented to the Legislature of the Common-
wealth of Massachusetts against the bill, by which the new
powers were to be conferred. In the State House, on February
28 of this year, both parties appeared before the Committee on
Education. Happily, in the interval, much had been done by
discussion in the newspapers to show that, though not a little
was left to do, a great advance had been made. The way to
conciliation was opened. Some concession was made, and the
opposition was withdrawn. Woman's reason triumphed over
woman's rights ; with time the rights will be granted to the
last jot. Let those who are still doubtful and unsatisfied,
take courage from the words spoken at the great Harvard Com-
memoration, nearly seven years ago, by a graceful writer, the
late George William Curtis : " Whoever is happy enough to be
here to-day, must acknowledge that to all other good fortunes
must now be added, not only the felicity of coming here to
salute the Mother upon her two hundred and fiftieth anni-
versary, but of finding her two hundred and fifty times fairer
and stronger and more beloved than ever before. Still more,
while he walks about this Zion, telling her towers, marking her
bulwarks, and counting her palaces, if he catches a glimpse of
the modest Annex, he is still happier in knowing that as his
ever-young Mother starts to complete her third century, the
spell of old tradition which commanded her to bring forth
men-children only, is broken forever." ^

For the new College a name had to be sought. The full
title was far too long and the Annex was without dignity. A
friend of mine overheard an argument carried on in a train by

1 Harvard University, z^oth Anniversary, p. 309.



282 HARVARD COLLEGE. chap.

two girls about the merits of Wellesley College and the Annex.
Wellesley College stands in a park of three hundred acres on the
edge of a small lake. When it was opened, its generous founder,
Mr. H. F. Durant, a New England lawyer, said that his three
hundred women students should each one have an acre of
ground to herself to dance on. So rapidly has the College
grown, that with much less than half an acre they would now
have to be content. With all its great superiority of grounds
and buildings, it is at present behind the humble Annex in the
instruction which it imparts. Its teachers, with scarcely an
exception, are women, few of whom can have had the full
advantages of a University education, while the students at
Cambridge are taught by a body of University Professors, who,
for ability, learning, and zeal, are unsurpassed by any in
America. It was not, however, in these matters that the
champion of Wellesley in the train tried to strike the balance.
It was the name of the Annex, that by its lightness turned the
scales as she held them up. She was not going to be " Nico-
demused into nothing." She thought, no doubt, of the
Wellesley " Yell." An Annex " Yell " would be an absurdity.
It would die away in the throat and mock the young enthusiast
who should try to raise it.

Some of the friends of the infant College that was awaiting its
christening would have called it Martha Washington, after the
great Washington's wife. But to a " Yell," INIartha Washing-
ton is not easily harmonized. Moreover, the very name
Martha does not come with the right association of ideas. It
does not awaken the right thoughts and recall the right
memories. It raises before the mind the picture of a College
of Housewifery ; it tells nothing of that good part which the
real student chooses, which shall never be taken away. What



XVI. HARVARD COLLEGE. 283

had Martha Washington to do with learning ? Her skill in


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 21 23 24 25 26

Online LibraryGeorge Birkbeck Norman HillHarvard college, by an Oxonian; → online text (page 21 of 26)