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BOSTON, 1912



WHILE there are many recorded instances of
friendship between author and publisher, to few
firms is given the peculiarly vital relationship that
it was our privilege to hold with Mrs. Richards.

Our existence as a firm is due to her belief in
the need for specialized service in the literature
of Home Economics. Our first publications were
her books. Through seven years of development our
best business asset was her good will.

The constant and innumerable kindnesses for
which we are indebted to Mrs. Richards throughout
those years cannot be told. To publish her life is
therefore a fulfillment.





I. CHILDHOOD ..... 1

II. GIRLHOOD . . . . . 16

III. AT COLLEGE ..... 36

IV. AT COLLEGE (continued) ... 59













Ellen H. Richards .... Frontispiece

The Swallow Homestead .... 2

Mr. and Mrs. Swallow . . 6

Ellen Swallow ..... 10

The Prize Handkerchief . . . 12

Ellen Swallow ....... 22

The Store at Littleton ..... 26

Ellen Swallow . | . . . . . 28

"The Lodge," Vassar College .... 36

The Willows, Vassar College . . . .50

The Observatory, Vassar College .... 62

Facsimile of Diary, 1870 . . . .68

Class Picture, Vassar 1870 78

Massachusetts Institute of Technology ... 88

The Water Laboratory 102

Mrs. Richards at Her Desk . . . .108

The Porch at 32 Eliot Street . . . .118
The Dining Room . .120

The Vine-Covered Dining Room . .122

Woman's Chemical Laboratory . . 136

Executive Committee, Naples Table Association . 212
The New England Kitchen 218

The Rumford Kitchen 224

The Balsams

Lake Placid Club *59
At Lake Placid 264


Groups of Home Economics Workers . . 286

Academic Portrait of Mrs. Richards . . . 810

Professor and Mrs. Richards .... 320

Facsimile of a Letter ...... 324

Pen and Ink Drawings by
George H. Bartlett and Mws Ethel U. Bartlett


ON the evening of the second of April, nineteen
hundred and eleven, a group of friends and co-
workers of Mrs. Richards, several of whom had
come from fa.r distant places to attend her funeral,
met at the College Club in Boston.

Gathered together under the shadow of their great
sorrow, they told each other what Mrs. Richards
had done for them. Each had a characteristic say-
ing of hers to repeat, or an anecdote illustrating
her unfailing helpfulness to relate, but chiefly they
spoke of how her call to them had always been in
the direction of the large outgiving life.

Strangely enough the outlook even at that time,
so soon after her death, was not backward, but for-
ward. They asked even then what they could do to
carry on the work that she had laid down. As the
evening wore on, the suggestion was made that one
way of doing this would be by giving permanent
form to what had been said there so informally, and
the hope was expressed that they and others who
had known the inspiration of her personal influence
might have an opportunity to show her to the world
as they had seen her.

Professor Richards, hearing of this conference,


asked to have a committee of persons representing
Mrs. Richards's various interests formed for the
purpose of advising with him about the preparation
of a memorial volume. The committee was formed
with Miss Isabel F. Hyams as chairman, to whom,
because of "a daily companionship of twenty years
which had sustained hands that were often weary,"
Mrs. Richards had dedicated her last book. Other
members were Mrs. Mary Hinman Abel, editor of
the Journal of Home Economics; Miss Isabel Bevier,
who succeeded Mrs. Richards as president of the
American Home Economics Association ; Miss Anna
Barrows, of Teachers College; Miss Florence Gush-
ing, who represented the Associate Alumnae of Vassar
College and the Association of Collegiate Alumnae,
and who had been a student in the Woman's Labo-
ratory; Mr. James P. Munroe, of the Corporation
of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology;
Miss Frances Stern, who had been Mrs. Richards's
secretary; Miss Lillian Jameson, also secretary to
Mrs. Richards ; Miss Jean Swain, to whom the steno-
graphic work was to be intrusted, and myself.

The result of the conference of this committee
with Professor Richards, and of his earnest desire
to smooth out all financial difficulties of the under-
taking in order that he might share with others the
life-giving influence which had been his for nearly
forty years, was a determination to prepare this



In response to a request for material which might
be of service, many letters written by Mrs. Richards
were received, and also many records and personal
testimonies. For all of these we who have been more
closely concerned in the preparation of the book
wish to acknowledge our indebtedness. We hesitate,
however, to express our thanks, because we feel that
all, near and far, have been working together for
one end, and that what others have done has been
not for us but for her. We hesitate, too, to name
any of these who have assisted us because of the
hopelessness of naming all. A few, however, must be
mentioned here.

We are indebted to Miss Anna A. Swallow and to
other relatives of Mrs. Richards for the record of
her early life; to Mrs. Laura E. Richards and
Miss Rosalind Richards for facts about her personal
and home life ; to her classmates, Mrs. Flora Hughes
and Miss Anna Mineah, and other college friends for
a large number of valuable letters ; to the Woman's
Education Association of Boston for permission to
examine its early records; to Miss Margaret E. Dodd
for bringing to light many facts about the Studies
at Home; to Dean Marion Talbot for the story of
her connection with the Association of Collegiate
Alumna?; to Dr. C. F. Langworthy for information
about her connection with the work of the Depart-
ment of Agriculture; to many graduates of the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology and many of


the faculty for facts concerning her connection with
that institution; to Miss Margaret Maltby for many
letters written by Mrs. Richards during her later
years ; to Miss Louisa P. Hewins, of Jamaica Plain,
a friend whom circumstances made the companion of
her leisure rather than of her labors, for the story
of many of her lighter moments. These are but a
few of those who have helped ; how far we have fallen
short of acknowledging our full indebtedness the
text will indicate by showing the breadth of her
activities and how far our researches have necessarily

Editors, revisers, stenographer, publishers, illus-
trator, printer, all of whom came under her influ-
ence, have worked together to prepare this book as
a memorial to her. If it is lacking in unity because
of this wide cooperation, it must surely approach
more nearly to completeness.





THE unseen and the untried have ever lured
adventurous and courageous spirits, calling forth
in every age explorers, who have this in common
that they set forth with glad feet and expectant
faces toward that which lies beyond the knowledge
or experience of their times. But that which they
seek, whether it shall be an undiscovered country,
a new field of knowledge, or an untried way of
living, is determined by inner impulses and outward
circumstances. These unite to create multiple forms
of the exploring type.

The girl-child of adventurous spirit born to rural
New England during the middle of the nineteenth
century naturally chose as her field of exploration
new modes of helpfulness and of service. This choice
was almost inevitable at that time in that region,
for earnestness, conscientiousness, and unyielding
devotion to duty were breathed in with the air of
puritan New England, and self-sacrifice was de-
manded of women both by tradition and by public
opinion. But many of the older forms of labor
which had been women's contribution to family and



community life were being rendered unnecessary,
while at the same time enlarging means of communi-
cation and widening educational opportunities were
opening to them a whole new world, and were sug-
gesting to those who happened to be of adventurous
spirit the presence of fresh fields of usefulness lying
beyond the vision and waiting to be explored. Inner
impulses toward pioneering, as well as those toward
helpfulness, were likely in rural New England seventy
years ago to be quickened by the outward conditions
of life.

Into these changing social conditions Ellen Swallow
was born on a New England farm at a time not far
from the middle of the last century. As she grew,
her two most marked physical characteristics, a
steadfast look from large, thoughtful gray eyes, and
a quickness of motion and of speech, came to be the
outward evidences of the two great passions of her
life a longing for usefulness and a love of pioneer-
ing. These passions her early life in an isolated
community and among profoundly religious people
doubtless tended to strengthen and intensify. She
was destined to give herself for others, but to do it
in unique ways, and after the fashion of explorers,
joyously and enthusiastically, so that the record of
her life and labors is the story of happy excursions
into fresh fields of service.

The Swallow homestead, where she was born, was
situated near the village of Dunstable, which is part


of a town of the same name in Northern Massachu-
setts, on the New Hampshire line. From the place
where the old home once stood one may look out
over the fields to a small burying ground where
Ensign John Swallow, who died in
the year 1776, lies buried. ^,.
"Ensign John," as

The Swallow Homestead

his descendants fondly call him, was the first of the
Swallow name to find his way to the little settlement
of Dunstable, in whose records his name frequently
appears. He was the grandson of Ambrose Swallow,
who was born in England, but who was living in
Massachusetts as early as 1666. There is a tradition
that the Swallow family had earlier married into a
French family named Larnard. If this be true, and


T ii* fact tfcat *n*nl of




to tfe dbj


. . . . -^7^.



proceed with the building of the meeting house. In
that generation affairs of the spirit were considered
to be the concern of the whole community.

But troublous times were in store for the little
band of settlers in Dunstable, for the town, having
been cut from a wilderness and lying at the farthest
point which the tide of immigration following the
Merrimac River had reached, was in an exposed posi-
tion, and the inhabitants were continually attacked,
not only by Indians, but also by wild beasts. We
read that in 1688 Samuel Gould was appointed dog
whipper for the meeting house, an office which was
indispensable because the settlers were obliged to
take their dogs to church with them for protection.
So fierce were the attacks of the Indians that the
population was at one time reduced to a single per-
son, the remainder having been killed or having fled
to places of safety. But the pioneers were not to be
vanquished. Those who had fled speedily returned,
and having fortified their houses brought back their
families. From that time on the population steadily
increased ; not very rapidly, however, for by the year
1753, when Ensign John cast his lot with the town,
its inhabitants numbered only two hundred and fifty.
But though few in number they were great in spirit,
for in winning the wilderness and converting it into
fertile farms, in removing the bowlders with which
the fields were strewn, and which an early history of
the town says "were doubtless placed there by a


Titanic force for a beneficent purpose," and in ward-
ing off attacks of their enemies, they had grown a
sturdy and courageous people.

Ensign John's desire to see the gospel well settled
in Dunstable was evidently taken seriously, for he
was almost immediately appointed a member of a
committee to complete the meeting house by supply-
ing it with "26 windows, 23 of sd windows to Be
24 squares of glass in Each window, the 2 gavel End
windows to Be 15 squairs Each & the pulpit window
to be Left to the Descretion of the parish committe."
It was he, too, who in 1757 built the house which
was the birthplace of successive generations of the
Swallow family. This house stood until 1882, when
it was burned to the ground and replaced by another
on nearly the same site, which is still occupied by
one branch of the family. Ensign John's son, Peter,
was one of a little band of men which Dunstable gave
out of her poverty to serve in the War of Independ-
ence. He had a son Archelaus, and Archelaus's son,
Peter, was the father of Ellen.

Peter Swallow, the second, was born on June 27,
1813, the oldest child of Archelaus and Susanna
Kendall Swallow. Having scholarly tastes, he early
began to look about him for an education, and by
good fortune he was led to the academy at New
Ipswich, New Hampshire. The good fortune was his
and also the world's, for it was in New Ipswich that
he found his future wife, Fanny Gould Taylor, and

o 5


there the two families from which Ellen Swallow
was to draw her strength and power were united.
Mr. Swallow and Miss Taylor were married on
May 9, 1839, and on December 3, 1842, their only
child, Ellen Henrietta, was born.

Before as well as after graduating from the
academy, Mr. Swallow taught in the neighboring
towns of Pepperell, Tyngsborough, and Nashua, and
one certificate of fitness to teach shows that when
nineteen years old he traveled as far from home as
Western Ohio. After his marriage he made his home
in one end of his father's house, and in 1845 his
father deeded to him half the farm and half the
house. For ten or twelve years he followed the
double occupation of teaching and farming, occupa-
tions which demanded his time during most of the
year, but left leisure in the early spring. The month
of March was often spent by him and his family
in trips to New Hampshire, Vermont, or Maine for
the purpose of visiting relatives. These journeys
were made by team, and as they were taken at the
time of year when the roads were likely to be worst,
they were full of adventure. Fifty years afterwards
his daughter wrote: "One of my earliest recollections
is of my father's reply to my mother's anxiety lest
we should get overturned in the sleigh on the snow-
drifted country roads 'Where any one else has
been, there I can go.' " "This," she continued, "is
not a bad working motto, but adventurous spirits



go beyond this and do what has never been done
before," which expresses well the quality of adven-
turesomeness and love of exploration which in the
daughter was added to the will and courage inherited
from her father.

Mr. Swallow remained on the farm until 1859,

when for the purpose of giving his daughter an

I academy education he moved to the neighboring

I town of Westford and opened a store. From that

time until his sudden death in 1871, he was engaged

in one form or another of trade ; but whether because

his interests were in books rather than in business,

or for some other reason, he seems never to have

been very successful.

The following extract from a letter written by
Ellen Swallow to her mother while she was at Vassar
gives a clew to one of her father's characteristics :

"I think father would be delighted to see Miss
Mitchell lecturing me, as she did this morning,
because I ignored the one one-hundredth of a second
in an astronomical calculation. 'While you are
doing it, you might as well do it to a nicety.' ' It
\ is said that no household task in the Swallow family
i was ever performed with such nicety as to meet with
the father's unreserved approval. And yet this in-
terest in details seems not to have been associated
in him, as it often is, with narrowness of vision, for
he was his daughter's most ardent supporter in her
efforts to gain a college education and a scientific


training at a time when such education and training
were almost unknown among women.

Ellen Swallow's mother, Fanny Gould Taylor, was
born in New Ipswich on April 9, 1817, the fourth
daughter and sixth child of Samuel Taylor and
Persis Jones. She was descended on her father's side
from William Taylor, who came to this country from
England about 1640, and after prospecting a little
settled in Concord, Massachusetts, where several
generations of his descendants tilled the soil. It was
her grandfather, Thaddeus Taylor, who first came
to New Ipswich. In the middle of the winter of
1776, with his wife, Bridget Walton, and four small
children, he moved into an unfinished house on a hill
in the southwestern part of the town. Here the
family endured great hardship while the home was
being finished and the "rough and rocky farm
subdued." In this house "over the mountains,"
as it was described in a history of New Ipswich,
Mrs. Swallow was born.

The Taylor family and many of the families into
which it married showed a remarkable tendency
toward longevity. Mrs. Swallow's father lived to
be eighty-one and her mother to be eighty-eight.
Thaddeus Taylor, the grandfather, was eighty-one
when he died and his wife eighty-five. The ages of
six of their nine children averaged over ninety years
at the time of death, and one son, Oliver Swain
Taylor, lived to be four months over one hundred


years of age. Lydia Treadway, the grandmother
of Mrs. Swallow's mother, lived to be ninety-four
and to gather about her two hundred and thirty-
three descendants. It may be that this tendency
toward long life was in some way transmuted into
that wonderful physical endurance which carried
Ellen Swallow through a delicate childhood, and later
made it seem as if she were living the lives of ten
people and incidentally doing their work.

Deft and dainty were the adjectives most often
applied to Mrs. Swallow. To her dexterity, which
was shown in all traditionally feminine occupations,
may doubtless be traced the carefulness of manipu-
lation which helped to make her daughter successful
in one of the most exacting of all forms of chemical
work, water analysis. The mother's daintiness in
dress impressed all who saw her, even in later
years, when sickness and suffering would have made
carelessness excusable.

From references to Ellen in letters received by
her father and mother during her childhood, we may
infer that she was one of those active yet dainty
little creatures upon whose quick, quiet motions it is
always a delight for grown people to look. "How
is little Ellen?" one cousin wrote. "I often think of
her; what a pretty, interesting, amusing little thing
she is." And another: "I wish she were here; I
should like no better plaything."

As she grew, she came perilously near being a


iluyueiveotyfn' ink, n <tl,nt


tomboy, if, in fact, she did not quite step over the
line. This was a sore trial to her mother, who
wished to train the little feet to walk demurely,
and the hands to love indoor and feminine occupa-
tions. But fortunately there came along a wise
physician, who, noticing the frailty of the child,
said that if she were to grow to womanhood she
must be allowed to run freely in the open air; and
from that time forward she followed her natural
bent, spending most of her time out of doors with
her father and her uncles on the farm. She rode
the horses, drove the cows to pasture, and pitched
hay. Two little stone posts still standing mark the
gateway of her own garden, which she made and
tended. In after years she used to say that there
was one form of farm work only which she had
never done. To her great sorrow her mother would
not permit her to milk the cows, for fear her hands
would grow large and unbeautiful.

Mrs. Swallow, like her husband, had been educated
at the academy in New Ipswich. Between her and
her daughter there must have been a keen intellectual
sympathy, for when in college Ellen painstakingly
outlined for her mother at home books which she
had read and lectures and sermons to which she had
listened. But there was also a fundamental differ-
ence of opinion as to what came within a woman's
sphere. In one of the letters written from college,
Ellen told of an address made by a student on


Founder's Day. This brought forth a vigorous
protest from the mother, in spite of the fact that
she had been assured that the audience consisted
exclusively of faculty and fellow-students, and that
the description of the youthful orator, "dressed in
black with a lavender bow, her hair dressed plainly,
and wearing white kid gloves," made a picture of
preeminent feminine propriety.

Notwithstanding the fact that Ellen's predilections
were for outdoor life and strenuous pursuits, house-
hold tasks were not neglected. By the age of thirteen
she had, under the tutelage of her mother, mastered
the housekeeping arts which in later years she valued
so highly that she sought to have them embodied in
the curricula of the schools. The sheets and pillow-
cases of a toy bed daintily hemstitched, a pair of
silk stockings, and a beautifully embroidered hand-
kerchief for which she took a prize at a country
fair, when she was only thirteen years old, still
testify to her skill; while a china vase, which was a
prize offered at the same fair for the best loaf of
bread, bears silent witness to her early accomplish-
ments as a cook.

Her father and mother, both well educated for
the times, and both having been teachers, were
extremely critical of the incumbents of the village
school, and except upon rare occasions they in-
structed the child themselves. Her early years,
therefore, were passed chiefly within her home, varied


"By tin- ant- of th'n-ti-i-n /,> Inn! i,u,xt<-ml the housekeeping arts,
in l,,t,;- IWOTJ ! ,-/,-// .s-o highly Hint she sought to have
them embodied in the curricula of the schools"


by occasional visits at the farm of her uncle, Still-
man Swallow, in Nashua, whose daughter Annie was
her most intimate associate during her girlhood and
young womanhood. Here, besides enjoying the
companionship of a large family of children, she
took great delight in the high-bred horses with
which the farm was stocked.

Her love of animals and her sympathy with them
must have begun very early in life. In fact, some
of the first outpourings of her generous and helpful
spirit seem to have been toward pets. One of the
products of her mother's skillful fingers were little
white cotton rabbits, which found their way into
many homes to the delight of children. When Ellen
was four years old she broke her arm. After it had
been put into splints, her mother found her out
upon the grass one day, supporting herself upon
her uninjured arm and painfully pulling grass for
the cotton rabbits with the other.

Dunstable, during the time of Ellen Swallow's
childhood, had a population of about five hundred
and fifty, scattered over a territory of sixteen and
a half miles, not more than one hundred of them
living in the near-by village. It had no railway until
1850. Then the Worcester and Nashua cut across
its western portion, but made no stop within the
town. It was not until long after she left that rail-
way connection was established with other parts of
New England. In this isolated place she grew up,


among an industrious and religious people. It was
a fortunate childhood in many ways, for while her
body was being gradually strengthened by out-of-
door life, her mind was being stimulated by her home

She was sixteen years old when her father sold

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Online LibraryCaroline Louisa HuntThe life of Ellen H. Richards → online text (page 1 of 19)