Mary Caroline Crawford.

The college girl of America and the institutions which make her what she is online

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God bless you, Randolph-Macon ! here's a student's love for



To the casual visitor who encounters book-bur-
dened girls on the Brown campus, or who, perhaps,
looking into a Brown classroom, sees young women
there beside young men, conditions at this university
appear at first blush very like pure coeducation. Yet
this college is of the type described as coordinate,
rather than coeducational, inasmuch as the life of
its students, its undergraduate courses, its class-day
exercises, and all its social activities are separate —
and this in spite of the fact that the library and the
laboratories are always freely opened to girls, and
on the day when Brown's degrees are conferred in
the beautiful old Baptist meeting-house (which dates
back to 1775, and declares itself "built for the
worship of Almighty God, and to hold Commence-
ments in"), girls in caps and gowns are on hand,
just as men are.

Lectures for the body of the women students, how-
ever, are given altogether in Pembroke Hall, a

substantial modern building after the old English


i64 The College Girl of America

university style of the fifteenth century, erected by
the Rhode Island Society for the Collegiate Educa-
tion of Women, and by them presented to Brown
University. Organized in 1895 and incorporated in
1896, this society for the purpose of aiding and
promoting the higher education of women in Brown
had from the beginning the cordial cooperation of
President Andrews, then the head of that college,
who, as early as 1891, admitted women to Brown
courses, and worked with such devotion for the
girls of Rhode Island as to make it very fitting
that the Alumnge Association of the women's col-
lege now bears his name. The name Pembroke
Hall came from that of Roger Williams College in
England, pictures of which are appropriately prom-
inent to-day in the office of the capable and very
charming dean who acts as the head of the girls'
part of Brown. The other executive officers of the
woman's college are those members of the univer-
sity faculty who are most intimately connected with
the work at Pembroke Hall. But what is, perhaps,
of greatest importance tO' the woman's department
of the university, is the warm interest and support
which the best people in Rhode Island have given to
this laudable endeavour to provide for the girls of
their State the highest educational facilities. Nor has
the attitude of Brown itself been any less generous

Woman's College in Brown University 165

and fine. At first, to be sure, the women were
merely tolerated; but now they are cordially wel-
comed. They have won their place.

Thus far one dormitory has proved quite suffi-
cient for the needs of Pembroke girls, as a very large
number of them are able to live at home while
attending college. Their residence-hall is Slater
Memorial Homestead, a singularly beautiful build-
ing, with not a little of the old-time charm to be
noted in many of the best Rhode Island mansions.
Furnished by Mrs. Horatio Slater's daughter, Mrs.
Washburn, it is very liberally supplied with such
pictures, books, and tasteful rugs as conduce to that
refined atmosphere so important for college girls.
Nor is this an expensive place of residence; the
charge for rooms and board averages only six dol-
lars and a half a week. Tuition at Brown, it should
be said, is one hundred and five dollars a year.

With the exception of a Classical Club, founded
in honour of Albert Harkness, professor emeritus,
which meets five or six times a year on Saturday
afternoons in the homes of faculty members, and
to which both the men and women students of
Brown belong, all the clubs open to girls are indi-
vidual organizations. Of these, besides the Greek
Letter fraternities, there are the Komians, a dramatic
body, which, in the spring of 1903, gave " Pyg-

i66 The College Girl of America

malion and Galatea " with great success, and has
usually some worthy drama or other in rehearsal;
the Glee Club, which gives one big concert a year
in the college and a few recitals in near-by towns;
and the Athletic Association, which embraces the
sporting interests of the college.

A very efficient body at Pembroke is the Young
Women's Christian Association. This conducts each
fall a large reception, in the course of which the
freshmen are welcomed to college. All girls are at
once urged to belong to the Association, and half the
students in the college accept this invitation, the
result being that the Christian Association is a very
important factor in the college life. Each May it
gives a festival with a theatrical and bazaar attach-
ment, for the purpose of raising funds to send dele-
gates to the Silver Bay Conference.

The most important organization among the
Brown women is that which is devoted to student
government. This has worked remarkably well,
though it is of quite recent origin. Under its super-
vision, attendance at recitation and at chapel, as
well as talking in the halls, and various other phases
of college life, are regulated. Chapel is held every
day except Saturday at a quarter before nine, in the
one large room at the top of Pembroke Hall avail-
able for assembly purposes. The dean, in academic

Woman's College in Brown University 167

robes, conducts the service, reading not only from
the Bible, but also from one or another of the
beautiful poets whose works are justly famous.
This last rather original form of worship is espe-
cially enjoyed by the students.

Of course the girls at Pembroke Hall have their
good times, as do all other college girls. At a
recent Hallowe'en party, there was a jolly informal
dance in a hall decorated with Jack-o'-lanterns cut
out of real pumpkins. The programmes of paper
Jack-o'-lanterns opened to show the dance-order. If
one may judge, too, from the life as reflected in that
admirable college magazine, the Sepiad (a kind of
play on the word Brown), published four times a
year, there is quite enough variety and colour in
the undergraduate days at Pembroke. None the less,
the general tenor of life here may, properly enough,
be called academic. The girls have the appearance
of young women to whom student opportunities
mean very much. They like to remember that the
president of Wellesley had the advantage of Brown
courses, and they are justly proud of the fact that
the first woman to take a Brown degree is now
president of Mt. Holyoke College.

Inasmuch as the college is so largely used by day
students, it is decidedly important to know what
provision has been made for the comfort of the girls

i68 The College Girl of America

who go home at night. Pembroke Hall may certainly
be dubbed superlatively kind in this direction. Its
beautiful library, with classic frieze, and its spa-
cious reading-room (supplied by the Andrews
Association with all the magazines and with one
or two good daily papers), are good for the eye as
well as for the mind; they also have chairs that
rest the back.

Though the women of Brown University receive,
with the men, a Brown degree on Brown's Com-
mencement Day, they have their own class exercises
out-of-doors the Tuesday preceding Commence-
ment. For this a canopy is erected over the " one
tenth of a mile " campus at the back of Pembroke
Hall, and here, comfortably shaded from the sun,
the friends of the students are in waiting when the
graduating girls in caps and gowns march out in
the aisle of laurel for their interesting ivy exer-
cises. The programme opens with a welcome by
the president of the senior class. This is followed
by a speech from Dean Emery, after which one of
the seniors addresses an inspiring talk to the under-
graduates. President Faunce, too, has a share in
the day's entertainment. But the real interest comes
when the seniors leave the campus and plant their
ivy at the side of Pembroke Hall. The trowel, after
being used, is presented to a junior, who receives it

Woman's College in Brown University 169

with appreciative remarks. And then, to the music
of the '' Old Oaken Bucket," comes this song, dear
to all Sons and Daughters of Brown:

" Alma Mater, we hail thee with loyal devotion
And bring to thine altars our off'ring of praise.
Our hearts swell within us with joyful emotion
As the name of Old Brown in loud chorus we raise.
The happiest moments of youth's fleeting hours
We've passed 'neath the shade of these time-honoured walls ;
And sorrows as transient as April's brief showers
Have clouded our life in Brunonia's halls.

" And when life's golden autumn with winter is blending,
And brows now so radiant are furrowed with care ;
When the blightings of age on our heads are descending,
With no early friends all our sorrows to share,
Oh, then, as in memory backward we wander,
And roam the long vista of past years adown,
On the scenes of our student life often we'll ponder
And smile as we murmur the name of Old Brown."


Elmira College has a unique claim to the atten-
tion of college girls, inasmuch as it seems to have
been the first institution in this country to confer
the Bachelor's degree upon women. The story of
the founding of this institution, often called " The
Mother of Colleges," is of singular interest.

The initiative mental conception that finally

materialized in Elmira College is credited to a

woman of keen intellect and noble soul, who lived in

England in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. She

afterward became one of the pilgrims to Holland,

later emigrating in the MayHozver to New England.

It is claimed that she had fast in her mind the idea

which eventually grew to the dignity of a purpose

— that provision should be made for the education

of women on an equal basis with men. In May,

1783, her great-great-granddaughter, Phebe Allen

Hinsdale, who inherited the idea, was born, and, as

she grew in years, her desire to start a woman's

college increased proportionately. Her name should

stand among the first, therefore, on the honour-page



Elmira College 171

of the history of colleges for women. What Mary
Lyon was to a later period, Phebe Allen Hinsdale
was to an earlier — as Mary Lyon's highest ideal
was a seminary for girls, Phebe Allen Hinsdale's
was a college for women.

It was through her son, Samuel Robbins Brown,
that the purpose so long unfulfilled was to be real-
ized. This son, born June 16, 18 10, became, in
time, a graduate from Yale and from Union Sem-
inary, New York. In childhood, in youth, in young
manhood, his mother had faithfully inspired in him,
along with other exalted ideals, that having to do
with a college for women. Thus, when he became
pastor of the Reformed Dutch Church at Owasco,
near Auburn, New York, he determined to put into
action his long-slumbering desire for a woman's col-
lege. A meeting was called, accordingly, in 1851,
in the consistory rooms of the Second Reformed
Dutch Church of Albany, and to those present
Doctor Brown explained his desire and outlined his
plan to establish, exclusively for women, a college
which should be of the same grade as colleges for

The task was undertaken with a will. Auburn
being selected as the place of location and Doctor
Brown elected chairman of the committee on organ-
ization. But, just at the time that this movement

172 The College Girl of America

was being so vigorously pushed forward in one
New York town, there lived in the village of
Elmira, not far away, a man of strong mind and
warm heart, Simeon Benjamin by name, who, hear-
ing of the project, was fired with an ambition to
have the new college established in his own comi-
munity. This man (an elder in the First Presby-
terian Church) wrote of his wish to Doctor Brown,
who was by this time tremendously perplexed as to
the funds for his splendid undertaking, that if the col-
lege were located in Elmira, he, Simeon Benjamin,
would give eighty thousand dollars toward it. Be-
lieving that a liberal initial equipment was a neces-
sity, the college authorities accepted Mr. Benjamin's
offer, and at once put up the necessary first building
on the fine site where it still stands. The college
was opened for students in September, 1855,
and the following year the Rev. Augustus W.
Cowles, D. D., a graduate of Union College in the
class of 184 1, and of the Union Theological Sem-
inary in 1856, became president of the institution,
a position which he held technically until 1889, and
practically until 1897.

The long encumbency of Doctor Cowles may
justly be termed the initiative period of college
education for women. In his earlier years he had
many obstacles to encounter. Prejudices there were



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Elmira College 173

on every side that demanded wisdom and courage
of the highest order to overcome. Among univer-
sity and college men, and also among parents, there
was strong and freely expressed opposition to send-
ing young women to college. That President
Cowles met and dissipated such opposition is seen,
however, in the fact that the institution over which
he presided was, soon after his advent, full of stu-
dents eager for college training, and that within
ten years of the founding of Elmira College Mr.
Vassar of Poughkeepsie wrote to him asking for
instructions how to proceed to the establishment
of a second college for women. These instructions
v/ere given, and in due time there was established
and opened in the city of Poughkeepsie the dis-
tinguished college which Matthew Vassar endowed.
Quite naturally the question may be asked at this
point, " Why, if Elmira is so old and has so hon-
ourable a record, do we not know more of it? Why
has it only some two hundred students to-day, while
Vassar and many another institution of much later
date boasts of a distinctly larger student body?"
Possibly the answer to these questions may be found
in this little paragraph from one of the college
booklets : " It may not be known to this generation
that in 1863 — 64 Elmira College received a shock
which did decided violence to its prospects at that

174 The (Sollege Girl of America

time, and reduced its student body from a number
that overtaxed the capacity of the building to a
very few. A scourge of smallpox overtook the town
to such a degree that the deaths averaged at least
twenty-five daily. The effect of this was that
parents all over the country withdrew their daugh-
ters from the college and sent them to other insti-
tutions. Indeed, it was about this very time that
Vassar College was opened, and large numbers of
students who had come to Elmira went there, so
that the tide was turned in another direction by
circumstances over which no human power had any
control. . . ." In 1896 another species of distress
came to the historic institution, and threatened its
extinction. The trouble this time was financial, but
as a result of it there arose a vigorous movement
to secure subscriptions for one hundred thousand
dollars, which sum has now been obtained.

The years which have witnessed this last-men-
tioned growth in power and endowment have been
years during which the Rev. Alexander Cameron
MacKenzie, D. D., has been serving Elmira as pres-
ident. When Doctor MacKenzie assumed the of^ce,
he determined on several special lines of effort.
Fi^st, to advance the entrance requirements, which
are now in substantial accord with those of all the
best colleges in the East; secondly, to enrich the

Elmira College 175

course leading to a degree, which has been done
to such an extent as to gain the commendation of
the Regents of the State of New York, and the
respect of the college world in general; thirdly, to
attract students in increased numbers, which has
resulted in doubling the entering classes during the
past four years ; fourthly, to fill each vacancy oc-
curring in the faculty with professors of experience
and advanced scholarship, who have not only taken
the A. B. degree, but who have besides a doctor's
degree acquired from some of the great universities.
Doctor MacKenzie is further working, now, for a
semicentennial fund of half a million dollars, and it
is hoped that his efforts will be crowned with entire
success when the college celebrates its fiftieth anni-
versary in 1905.

That Elmira College has all along the way been
limited in its means cannot be regarded as altogether
unfortunate, however. For this very thing has
caused the institution to offer, as its most important
attraction, exceeding excellence of instruction and
the best possible training for the personal character
of the student. In its situation, too, the college
has many advantages; its elevation commands a
view of the surrounding country for many miles,
and on its campus are ample accommodations for

176 The College Girl of America

the tennis-courts and the basket-ball fields so neces-
sary to the outdoor life of girl students.

As would be expected, Elmira has stood all
through its history for the belief that no intellectual
culture can ever compensate for the atrophy of
the religious nature. It conceives that the charge
of the past to the present is to see to it that this
college shall become to an ever-widening degree the
nursery of strong, free, and gentle spirits able to
shape the future, and to face life with courage and
joy. Students are expected to attend the chapel
service held each morning at nine o'clock, as well as
to be regular at some church on Sunday. The
college course offers systematic instruction in biblical
literature and Christian sociology. The charges at
this college, it may be said in passing, are very
reasonable, it being quite possible for a girl to live
here at an expense of only a little over three hundred
dollars a year, including tuition. There are numer-
ous scholarship helps, also, for the worthy.

Elmira College is not so serious, however, nof
so inordinately devoted to thoughts of possible en-
dowment and certain deserts, that its students neglect
to have a good time. If one may judge from the
appearance of the girls themselves, and from their
life as reflected in that clever little college magazine,
the Sibylj or that very impressive annual, the Iris,

Elmira College 1*77

there is no more delightful social life anywhere.
Not because it is poetry (for it isn't), but because
it reflects characteristic reverence for that first col-
lege class, I reprint from the current Iris some
rhymes addressed to the Girls of Fifty-five:

" Your picture hangs on the chapel wall,
Ringlets, brooches, hoopskirts and all
The finery you donned, to be
The first girls to gain a man's degree.

" What fun did you have so long ago ?
Were you allowed to skate and row ?
Play tennis, golf, and basket-ball.
Did you have proms or dances at all ?

" Often we tell the story with pride,
How fifty years ago you tried,
In spite of scoffs and jeers, to be
Sharers with men of that prized A. B.

" Half a century parts us from you,
Yet your victory helps us, too ;
So here's to the girl of fifty-five,
Who first showed us how to work and strive."

That Elmira girls have not forgotten how to
" work and strive " is shown by a recent editorial
in the Sibyl. At the beginning of the college year,
this explains, one of the problems which confronted
the Editorial Board was that which has caused
much thought in other colleges, i. e., the best way

178 The College Girl of America

to obtain material from the students, and of ascer-
taining who can write. To do this a seemingly
simple plan was adopted, but one which was so suc-
cessful that it might be of interest and perhaps of
use to other Boards who have felt the same need.
At the issue of the first Sibyl, the announcement
was made that a prize would be given to the class
which submitted the greatest number of acceptable
articles in a given time. No restrictions were placed
on the nature of the material, whether essay, story,
or poetry, this being left to the student. The prize
was this : That the Sibyl Board would entertain
the successful class. Among the students this an-
nouncement caused a ripple of excitement, " which
ripple spread until it became a great wave." At
first the senior class held the front place, then the
freshmen came up and passed the seniors. Where-
upon the sophomores renewed their efforts, and for
a time seemed certain of success. But the freshmen
could not let the victory slip thus away, and one
night " while their companions slept," several of the
literary among them gathered in secret, and, having
obtained permission to keep the light on, wrote far
into the night for the Sibyl and the honour of the
class. Of course these gallant freshmen won.

The round of festivals at Elmira is a thoroughly
delightful one. Early in November comes the

Elmira College 179

formal opening of the prettily furnished senior
parlours, which, during the academic year now just
closing, were made especially attractive by reason
of some valuable and very beautiful china and linen,
sent to Elmira by Mrs. Lowder of Japan. A tea
is given this " first night " for the " sister classes,"
followed in the evening by a reading. Last year
Stephen Phillips's " Herod " furnished the enter-
tainment. Then comes Thanksgiving Day, with
the tables arranged in the form of a cross, decorated
with evergreens, and having for a centrepiece a
large pile of pumpkins, beets, squashes, and ears
of corn. After the typical Thanksgiving dinner is
eaten, all adjourn to the college parlours, where
coffee is served.

The Junior Prom is one of the most delightful
of Elmira affairs. The decorations last year on this
occasion were all Japanese, red, the class colour,
being most prominent. The pillars were wound in
red, and over the organ was hung a large red ban-
ner, upon which were the class numerals " 1905."
Japanese lanterns were over all the lights, and in
the centre of the ceiling was a huge Japanese um-
brella. Another delightful function of last year
for the juniors was that of Friday, March i8th.
On this occasion, too, red was everywhere, great
bunches of American beauty roses making the air

i8o The College Girl of America

sweet with their fragrance. The tables for this
banquet formed a hollow square, whose centre was
filled with palms. At every place lay a red rose,
the name cards themselves being hand-painted red
roses. The favours were red leather card-cases,
with silver initials, in which were the toast and
menu cards. During the evening an orchestra
played constantly, making the time pass so quickly
that when the punch was brought in for the toast-
mistress, it seemed as if the feast had just begun
instead of being nearly over. Each toast had a
flower for its title, and in this way a very charm-
ing wreath was woven. Many of the speeches were,
of course, facetious, but in one of them, made by a
member of the faculty, the key-note of the evening
was struck with marked nobility. What she said
is so much to the point that it is here repeated:
'* This college, though small and unpretentious, has
had the reputation of sending its graduates out
equipped with a modest, but thorough, education.
And I use this word education not in its restricted
sense of erudition, but in its root-meaning, pre-
served still in French, good upbringing — good
breeding. George Eliot, in speaking of one of her
characters, says : * She had the essential attributes
of a lady — high veracity, delicate honour in her
dealings, deference to others, and refined personal

Elmira College i8i

habits.' These are the quahties possessed by the
flower of ladyhood — the flower which is indigenous
to Elmira College."

The culture that comes from dramatic perform-
ances is by no means neglected at Elmira. The Fra-
ternity of Thespis, an association for the study and
presentation of classic dramatic literature, wel-
comes to its numbers all girls who, besides possess-
ing dramatic ability, have high standing in their
class. At the Commencement season of 1903, these
maidens gave their first out-of-door play, presenting
*' As You Like It " on the Elmira campus. A band
stationed on the slope just above the lake rendered
music between the acts, and, what with the lights,
the quaint Shakespearian costumes, and the moon
shining through the trees, the scene was one long
to be remembered. The acting was especially well
done, the characters being interpreted with no little
understanding. The groups of old trees, too, made
a very realistic forest of Arden, for the accommo-
dation of the banished duke and his lords and for the

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Online LibraryMary Caroline CrawfordThe college girl of America and the institutions which make her what she is → online text (page 10 of 18)