I. M. E. (Isabella Margaret Elizabeth) Blandin.

History of higher education of women in the South prior to 1860. online

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is very agreeable."

The welcome given by Father Beaubois and the re-
ception of the nuns is thus described in the " Ursu-
lines in Louisiana " (p. 12) :

" The delight of Father Beaubois on the arrival of
the nuns, whom he had given up as lost, cannot be de-
scribed. When the first greetings were over he con-
ducted them to the poor church, to thank God for
having rescued them from the dangers of the deep,
and thence to his own house, where they sat down to a
comfortable breakfast at u o'clock. Whether they
walked processionally or were conveyed in the car-
riages of the commandant does not appear. But,
breakfast over, they were anxious to be conducted, as
soon as convenient, to their own house. The monas-
tery the Company of the Indies was building was far
from completion, but the best house in the colony,
Bienville's country house, was offered for their tem-
porary abode. This, then, into which they entered
on the evening of August 7, 1727, was the first con-
vent on the delta of the Mississippi, the oldest, indeed,
from St. Lawrence to the Gulf, by some seventy years.
It was situated in the square now bounded by Bien-
ville, Chartres, Douane (custom-house), and Decatur
streets. It was two stories high; the flat roof could
be used as a belvedere or gallery. Six doors gave
air and entrance to the apartments of the ground floor.
There were many windows, but instead of glass the
sashes were covered with fine, thin linen, which let
in as much light as glass and more air. The ground
about the house was cleared : it had a garden in front
and a poultry yard in the rear, but the whole estab-
lishment was in the depth of the forest; the streets,
marked by the surveyor some years before, had not
yet been cut through as far as Bienville street, on
which the nuns' garden opened: on all sides were
forest trees of prodigious height and size. From the
roof the nuns could look abroad on a scene of weird


and solemn splendor. The surrounding wilderness,
with its spreading live oaks and ghastly cypresses,
cut up by glassy, meandering bayous, was the refuge
and home of reptiles, wild beasts, vultures, herons, and
many wondrous specimens of the fauna of Louisiana."

Almost immediately our good nuns began to teach
the children, to instruct the Indian and the negro
races, and to care for the sick. The Governor wished
them to add a Magdalen asylum to their good works;
but it is doubtful if they were able to undertake this
work of mercy for the abandoned women of the col-
ony. They received under their protection the or-
phans of the Frenchmen recently massacred by the
Natchez, and the " filles-a-la-cassete " (girls with
trunks or caskets), several installments of whom the
King sent out as wives for his soldiers. And later
these good nuns received large numbers of the exiled
Acadians. ("Ursulines in Louisiana," p. 13.)

The instruction of the children was allotted to
Soeur Madeleine Mahieu de St. Francis Xavier. She
was the first woman engaged in the systematic in-
struction of girls in the colony, and the first of the
company of nuns to be called to her reward (July 6.
1728). In a circular letter issued in her honor the
mother superior makes the following statement : " She
solicited me many times that she might have the care
of instructing savages and negresses, but that being
already promised to another sister I granted her the
instruction of the day pupils (externes). She took
delight in them, and nothing contented her more than
to see their number increase, and the more ignorant
these children were the more devoted she was to

The boarding department was under the supervision
of Soeur Marguerite Judde. She died on the I4th of
August, 1731, and she is thus characterized by the
superior : " Her love for poverty was so great that she
never wished to keep for herself any of the boarding
money, or the payments parents made her." (" Tran-


chepain de St. Augustine," p. 43.) Some idea of the
extent of her duties may be gained from the statement
in May, 1728, less than a year after the arrival of the
Ursulines, the nuns had twenty boarders, among them
girls of fifteen who never had heard mass and whom
they took great pains to instruct, that when they went
home they might establish religion in their families.
("Ursulines in Louisiana," p. 12.)

The nuns were first domiciled in Bienville's country
house, but they did not remain there long. The fol-
lowing account of their change of location is given in
" Ursulines in Louisiana " (p. 14) :

" Tradition asserts that the nuns did not remain
long in Bienville's house. A plantation and some
slaves had been given to them by the Indian Com-
pany, to which they removed, probably, as soon as
they were able to erect a temporary dwelling. Bien-
ville's house, though the largest in the colony, soon
became too small for the numbers placed under their
charge. Not a stone upon a stone remains of these
two oldest convents on the delta. The first fell a
prey to a conflagration which spread from the house
of a Spaniard on Good Friday, 1788, to nearly 900
houses, leaving thousands homeless. What the second
was like it has not been possible to ascertain, but its
site was on a short street, flanked by cotton presses, and
opening on the levee, called Nun street, in commem-
oration of the nuns who once prayed and taught within
its limits. A long, straggling street, thickly fringed
with very unpretentious houses, runs through the old
Ursuline plantation, and recalls its ancient owners
by its title, Religious street. Time has not left the
slightest vestige of these old monasteries or the
fine old trees and well-kept gardens that surrounded

The third convent of Louisiana stands quite within
the ancient city limits of the capital, on the square
bounded by Chartres, Ursuline, Hospital, and Old
Levee streets, on a line with the first, Bienville's


house, but at the opposite end of the city. It was be-
gun in 1727 and finished in 1734, and is to-day the
oldest house in the Mississippi Valley, and perhaps the
strongest. Built of the very best materials, in the Tus-
can composite style, its walls are several feet thick;
the beams and rafters, which the saw never touched,
seem as strong as when they left the forest ; the shut-
ters are of iron, and the bolts and bars and hinges are
not surpassed for size and strength by those of any
prison. The builders made it strong enough to stand
a siege, for in those days an attack from the Indians
or the English was by no means improbable.

The Ursulines made another removal in 1824. In
1831 their old convent became, for a brief time, the
statehouse, and in 1834 was granted by them for the
perpetual use of the archbishop, and since that time
it has been his seat. (Cable, " The Creoles of Louisi-

The writer of " The Ursulines in Louisiana " con-
cludes the narrative as follows :

" From the beginning the Ursulines were treated
with the greatest kindness by the mother country and
the colonists, and their wants were most liberally sup-
plied. In 1740 they figure in the budget of the colony
for 12,000 livres for the support of twelve religious
and their orphans. Most of the ladies of the colony
were educated at the Ursuline Convent (few went to
Europe to be educated after its establishment), and
their domestic virtues have won the warmest en-
comiums. As daughters, wives, and mothers the Cre-
oles did honor to their rearing. Their sweetness, mod-
esty, grace, and industry were appreciated by the
strangers who came hither to govern their country
and had seen all of grace and beauty that Europe could
show. To these matrons of Gallic blood the modesty
and charm of maidenhood seemed to cling ; and their
daughters were not unworthy of such mothers. Most
of the Governors who came to the colony bore off
Creole brides.


" The Ursuline schools always maintained a high de-
gree of excellence. It is uncertain whether the schools
of Boston, New York, or Philadelphia of those days
were nearly so well provided with educational facili-
ties as New Orleans while under the sway of France
and Spain. Indeed, in sending out teachers these coun-
tries gave the colony of their best. I have read with
delight the letters of the first mother superior of the
Ursulines, and those of her young disciple, Madeleine
Hachard, and can testify that these ladies wrote their
native language with a grace and elegance which few
of the ' teachers ' who expatiate on the ' benighted '
times of old can equal. And no better evidence of
the scholarship of the first teachers that enlightened the
youth of Louisiana, and ameliorated the lot of the
savage and the slave, by teaching them of a heaven
prepared for them, of a Father who loves them, of
a Saviour who redeemed them, rescuing them from
the bondage of Satan, and imparting to them, for
Christ's sake, that blessed freedom wherewith He
hath made them free, can be found than the characters
of the pupils trained in the Ursuline Convent."

When Louisiana was transferred from the dominion
of France to that of Spain the Ursulines were much
disturbed and very apprehensive as to their future.
The Spanish Governor hastened to allay these fears,
and pledged the protection and favor of the govern-
ment. ' You will assist the government in laboring
for the preservation of morals, and the government
will uphold you." When Louisiana became a part of
the United States the Ursulines were much alarmed
lest a Protestant government, one supposedly hostile
and intolerant toward Catholics, would close their
house. This transfer necessitated a change in church
jurisdiction. Louisiana was transferred from the ju-
risdiction of the Bishop of Cuba to that of the Bishop
of Maryland, Rev. John Carroll.

The superioress wrote to Bishop Carroll, stating
her apprehensions. Bishop Carroll sent the letter to


President Jefferson, who answered it with the fol-
lowing letter:

"Washington, May 15, 1804.

"To the Sister Therese de St. Xavier Farjon, Su-
perioress, and to Nuns of the Order of St. Ursula
at New Orleans :

" I have received, Holy Sisters, the letter you have
written me, wherein you express anxiety for the prop-
erty invested in your Institution by the former Govern-
ment of Louisiana. The principles of the Constitution
and Government of the United States are a sure guar-
antee that it will be preserved to you sacred and in-
violate, and that your Institution will be permitted to
govern itself according to its own voluntary rules,
without any interference from the civil authority.

" Whatever diversity of shade may appear in the re-
ligious opinions of our fellow-citizens, the charitable
objects of your Institution cannot be indifferent to
any: and its furtherance of the wholesome purpose
of society, by training up its younger members in the
way they should go, cannot fail to insure it the pat-
ronage of the government it is under. Be assured it
will meet with all the protection which my office can
give it.

" I salute you, Holy Sisters, with friendship and re-


This autograph letter and one from President Madi-
son, and many interesting documents, are carefully
preserved in the archives of the Convent. In 1803
the number of Sisters was 1 1 and the number of board-
ing pupils 170.

After remaining in their third home, the Arch-
bishop's palace, for 100 years, the Ursulines removed
in 1824 to their present location. This convent is
situated on an extensive plantation about two miles
below New Orleans. The establishment is so very
large that many have affirmed that had they not visited


it they could not have formed a just estimate of its
vastness, or of the various advantages it possesses for
educational purposes.

The main building and each of the two wings in
the rear are laid off into three stories, two of which
are surrounded by broad galleries, where the pupils
can take out-door exercise when the weather does not
permit of recreation in the play-grounds or in the park.
The lawn is bordered with beautiful crape myrtle,
and the park is shaded by majestic pecan trees, over
a century old. In front of the main building is a
flower garden, and farther on, to the right and left,
is an orange grove. A variety of other fruit and
shade trees are also on the grounds. The milk and
vegetables, etc., consumed in the establishment, being
produced on the plantation, it is found easy to supply
the pupils with an abundance of wholesome food.

The various apartments are spacious, well venti-
lated, and commodious, and great attention is paid to
the rules of hygiene. It is a fact worthy of note that
even during the terrible epidemic of 1878 there
was not a single case of yellow fever within the

A suite of bathing rooms, twenty-five in number,
is attached to the establishment. Each room is pri-
vate, and is furnished with an abundant supply of hot
and cold water.

The program of studies in this institution has
been modified as often as required, to correspond to
the progress of the times and the demand of society.
At present it embraces French and English grammar,
rhetoric, literature, logic, ancient and modern history,
geography, astronomy, arithmetic, algebra, geometry,
trigonometry, book-keeping, physics, botany, geology,
physiology and chemistry. Lessons in penmanship,
reading and elocution are daily given.

The Academy possesses a library containing over
four thousand volumes, philosophical and chemical
apparatus, a telescope, a large assortment of the most


improved globes and maps, and a fine collection of
minerals, etc.

The musical and art departments are well equipped
and under competent supervision.

Equal attention is paid to the French and English
languages, both being taught by theory and practice.
The recreation hours are alternately superintended
by American and French " religious " ; and during
these hours the pupils are required to converse in the
language of the sister who presides. Consequently,
the young ladies who observe this point of their rule,
and follow the course of grammar and literature
adopted in the establishment, acquire a thorough
knowledge of both languages, and speak them with
fluency and elegance.

The old-fashioned custom of training girls in cor-
rect and polite behavior still prevails in this estab-
lishment. Wreaths and gold and silver medals are
awarded for polite and amiable conduct and neatness.

On April 24, 1900, about one hundred ladies, in-
cluding representatives from the graduating classes
as far back as 1835, 1847, 1850, etc., assembled in
the chapel of the convent to organize an alumnae
association. The meeting was opened with prayer by
the Rev. Father Denoyal, chaplain of the Ursuline
Convent, who also later delivered an eloquent address.
After prayer the meeting was called to order by the
superioress of the Convent, Rev. Mother St. Stanis-

(The latter part of this sketch was prepared from
the catalogue of Ursuline Academy for 1901-1902,
and the Ursuline Alumnae, both kindly furnished by
the mother superioress.)



Salem Academy, Winston-Salem, North Carolina,

IN 1752 a party of Moravian settlers entered the
" Old North State," having received a liberal offer
from Lord Granville if they would settle upon his
estates in the " New World/' The tract which they
settled was around the spot now occupied by the
flourishing city of Winston-Salem, at that time an
unbroken wilderness. The first settlement was lo-
cated about six miles north of what is now Winston-

The Moravians, since the days of John Huss, have
paid much attention to education. A prominent ar-
ticle of their faith is that in order to make good men
and women it is necessary to begin work upon the
children, and that, too, at a very early age. Hence,
as soon as they build a church they build a school-
house. Fifty years elapsed before they could put
their faith into practice in North Carolina. However,
in 1802 they founded Salem Academy, a school for
girls. It is one of the five institutions of higher learn-
ing in the United States which are the property of
the American Moravian Church and are conducted
under the supervision of the executive boards of its
provinces North and South.

The European system of grading now being widely
used by American schools was the original basis of
the system of the Academy. The scholastic work was
divided into three departments : preparatory, requiring
four years; academic, occupying four years, and the
post-graduate course, whose length depends upon the
pursuits of the pupil.


The curriculum, from the organization, has included
music and art, and industrial art, which embraced
lessons in cooking and housewifery, plain sewing, em-
broidery, lace-making, and drawn work. During the
early period of the school the course in music con-
sisted of lessons on the piano and singing lessons in
class; the work in art was confined to drawing, and
painting in water-colors.

Primitive as this may seem now, it was very valu-
able in those days, and many a plain, unpretentious
home in the Southland was adorned with these sketches
made at Salem, and the monotony of work relieved
by the daughter's simple ballads.

From time to time the curriculum has been extended
to meet the demands of the time, until now it em-
braces the regular academic and collegiate courses,
comprehensive courses in music and art, departments
of elocution and languages, and commercial and in-
dustrial departments.

Buildings have also been added, until there are ten
large buildings, which are situated in a very beautiful
park of thirty acres.

" No effort could accurately portray the permanent
role which the Salem Academy for girls and women
has played in the educational development, not only of
North Carolina and the South, but of the whole coun-
try. Thousands of alumnae sent out since its in-
ception, representing the ablest educators, the most
refined and cultivated women noble and grand in
purpose bless nearly every community in America.
The Salem Academy has ever stood paramount with
the higher education of the country, and its aim has
always been to afford a broad and liberal culture for
women: to furnish to young women an education in
classics, mathematics, and sciences equal to that ob-
tained in our best colleges for young men, and to
add to these a special training in social culture, music,
art, and conversation which shall better qualify her
to enjoy and do well her life-work. The aim has


been, not only to give the broadest and highest moral,
intellectual, and physical culture, but also to preserve
and perfect every characteristic of complete woman-
hood." (From a sketch written by Rev. J. H. Clewell,
published in " The City of Winston-Salem.")

The Academy was not established, nor is it now
conducted, for purposes of gain, but as a means of
Christian usefulness. The principal has no pecuniary
interest in the school, being simply the agent of the
church, by the authorities of which he is selected for
this department of its activity; and while this institu-
tion is under the auspices of the Moravian Church,
the strictest adherence to non-sectarian principles is

The charges for board and tuition have always been
so moderate that the advantages offered by the Acad-
emy have been placed within the reach of thousands of
girls whose limited means would have debarred them
from collegiate training.

Early in the century the school became famous,
and girls rode hundreds of miles on horseback to at-
tend school at this academy. When Salem was reached
the horses were sold and the saddles hung in the sad-
dle-room to remain four years. At the end of the
course of study the fathers returned to Salem, pur-
chased horses, the saddles were taken down, and the
company bade farewell to the school-home, and went
forth to encounter the stern realities of life. Many
of these girls filled high social positions; twice pupils
of Salem Academy have presided in the White House,
and almost every gubernatorial mansion in the South
has had a pupil from the Academy as the lady of the
house. Among the wives of distinguished military
men may be noted those of Stonewall Jackson and
General Hill.

Never since the Academy was opened, over one
hundred years ago, have its doors been closed. Dur-
ing the War between the States it was considered a
safe place of refuge, and it was filled to its utmost


capacity all through those dark days. When the hos-
tile armies in turn filled the town, the principal al-
ways secured a guard for the building and its hundreds
of precious young lives.

The patronage has always been good ; at the present
time there are over 400 persons connected with the
school. This patronage is drawn from all sections
of the United States and from foreign countries. The
corps of instructors numbers 35 and the alumnae

Although the school has been so popular, and its
aim has always been to maintain a high standard of
scholarship, it was not incorporated until February 3,
1866; the act of incorporation granted the power to
confer " such degrees, or marks of literary distinc-
tion, or diplomas, as are usually conferred in colleges
and seminaries of learning."

The Academy has had eleven principals, viz:
Messrs. Kranach, Steiner, Reichel, Bleek, Jacobson, E.
De Schweini, Grunet, Zorn, R. De Schweinitz, Rond-
thaler, and Clewell.

" Salem Academy celebrated its centennial in June,
1902. This celebration marks an epoch in the history
of the " Old North State," and it is difficult to ex-
actly estimate its value on succeeding years. Dr.
Kemp J. Battle delivered an address on " North Caro-
lina in 1800 " ; Senator Clarke of Montana, an ad-
dress on "The United States in 1800"; while on
" Alumnae Day " the different alumnae branches
were presented, and several of the old alumnae gave
reminiscences of the old Academy.

" Mrs. Donald McLean of New York, Miss Louisa
B. Poppenheim of Charleston, South Carolina, Mrs.
Pierce of the New York Tribune, and Mrs. Johnson
of New York made addresses.

" The most popular visitors were Governor Chas.
Aycock, known as the " Educational Governor," and
Senator Ransom.

" The day of the Governor's arrival the city


turned out en masse. He was met at the station
by the representative citizens men and women and
escorted through the city; in fact, he was always es-
corted by an admiring crowd. Many prominent ed-
ucators were present, among them President Mclver
of the State Normal College (Greensboro), President
Venable of the University of North Carolina, Dean
Penniman of the University of Pennsylvania, and
several others who showed their appreciation of the

" One evening was given up to a series of tableaux,
representing the principal events in the history of
North Carolina during the past century. There were
many elaborate musical programs, but the most inter-
esting ceremony of the week was the real commence-
ment day, when thirty girls, in their classic white caps
and gowns, marched into the chapel carrying their
daisy chain, and when they had received their diplo-
mas, filed out again under the trees to hear the Gov-
ernor's address and to assist in laying the corner-stone
of the Alumnae Hall.

" The social functions of the week were many
and most elaborate, including balls, receptions,
luncheons, etc., for Winston-Salem is full of refine-
ment and wealth, a most desirable combination. The
alumnae served a luncheon to 500 guests in the Acad-
emy Chapel. During the afternoon several distin-
guished guests were called on for speeches, and there
was an air of ease and grace throughout the enter-
tainment. On Commencement Day Dr. and Mrs.
Clewell entertained about 500 ladies and gentlemen,
including the Governor and his staff, with a similar
feast in the same place." (A sketch by Miss L. B.
Poppenheim, in The Keystone.)

The Ursuline Convent, New Orleans, Louisiana, is
the only other school for girls in the Southern States
that has had a continuous activity for a cen-

(The material for this sketch was obtained from a


sketch by Dr. Clewell, catalogues, and papers sent by
him to the writer.)

Online LibraryI. M. E. (Isabella Margaret Elizabeth) BlandinHistory of higher education of women in the South prior to 1860. → online text (page 2 of 24)