Mature Rochester ladies

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The University "offers to young women of Rochester and vicinity," re an official announcement published in the Croceus , yearbook of the women undergraduates at the U. A great deal had been written and said about the physical and intellectual inability of women to profit from collegiate training and the folly of diverting them from preparation for household responsibilities--woman's, proper sphere--to book-learning. Opponents of collegiate coeducation quoted approvingly a French proverb: "A chicken that crows, a priest who dances, and a woman, who speaks Latin are all headed for trouble.

Advanced education, it was also argued, would somehow rob women of feminine charm and gentleness, coarsen or even destroy the finer sensibilities of the gentler sex. Like so much else in the texture of the American way of life, conventions inherited from Europe shaped attitudes on mature learning for women. Higher education had emerged and progressed when teachers were men in holy orders, when cloisters were the places of instruction, and when the philosophy prevailed that preservation of purity required separation of the sexes in the area of learning.

Nonetheless, in , medieval traditions and rooted convictions along with deep-seated prejudices were surmounted in winning admission of women to the U. It was a broadly--though not a universally--approved victory for the general cause of feminism, a bright and shining hallmark of western society in the last century. Sympathetic imagination and mutual understanding had brought about considerable adjustments, a mellower posture, little by little, in masculine mental habits.

British influences touched off a feminist commotion in the United States in the 's, awakened a few spirited ladies and sophisticated men to the inequity--yes, the absurdity--of withholding from women rights and advantages accorded to males. At the time, women were underprivileged in law and in fact unequal in a country that gloried in being the land of equal opportunity.

Even in well-to-do families, education for girls, beyond dancing, the cultivation of the social graces, and inculcation of moral virtues, was regarded as superfluous. A modest impetus to reform was imparted by a Women's Rights Convention, the first of its kind in history, which met on July 19, , at Seneca Falls, New York, only fifty miles away from Rochester. Crusading feminists drafted there a "Declaration of Sentiments," imitative of the celebrated document of Among the major grievances listed were the limitations upon higher educational opportunities for the gentler sex; and it was stridently demanded that the handicaps should be speedily removed.

Forward-looking American women educators, it is true, had established several superior schools or "seminaries" for girls. At Troy, New York, for instance, Emma Willard founded in a renowned female seminary, and in diminutive Mary Lyon started at South Hadley, Massachusetts, an institution that in the fullness of time grew into Mount Holyoke College. Before the outbreak of the Civil War, some three score American schools of this sort were offering instruction to girls. On a more mature level, Oberlin College from its beginnings in the 's welcomed women on the basis of equality with males--in the preparatory department in and four years later in the college course.

Several young ladies from the Rochester area who studied at Oberlin in its first decades developed into earnest advocates of feminine emancipation. Other Ohio institutions straightway copied the revolutionary Oberlin experiment in "t education. Coeducation there, it was presently announced, had proved an "incitement to every virtue. Before the Civil War, too, colleges exclusively for women had been organized, one at Elmira, New York, chartered in originally for Auburn , claiming priority.

At LeRoy, New York--thirty miles from Rochester--an interesting Ingham University evolved as a women's college in out of a regional seminary opened twenty years earlier. A full course of study in the 's lasted four years and degrees were granted, but the record of this first "university" for women only was chequered, and in it folded up.

After , Vassar with which officers of the U. Curricula in the main slavishly paralleled the traditional classical offerings in colleges for men. No doubt, the role that women played during the Civil War as farm workers and teachers on the home front, as cooks, laundresses, spies, couriers, would-be Joans of Arc, but especially as nurses, accelerated the progress of the feminist interest as a whole and of higher education for women in particular. Increasingly, though slowly, influential leaders of thought concerned with the promotion of the general welfare and with "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind" took to heart an admonition of Abigail Adams.

Anthony, in an address on the Ithaca campus prophesied that if and when women were allowed to enroll equally with men future generations would celebrate the event as fervently as they commemorated the Fourth of July or the birth of Christ. The Cornell authorities set up a college for women , but male students for more than a quarter of a century frankly resented the presence of the fair sex and tended to hold aloof from them. As early as a woman matriculated in the Cornell school of engineering--Miss Kate Gleason, of Rochester, who subsequently shared in the operation of her family's industrial plant in the Flower City.

At Syracuse University, too, which was coeducational from its beginning , the "superior sex" responded with less than courtly gentility to their female counterparts. Although ificant hostility persisted for years, by the mid's "snuggling" and no little lovemaking become fashionable on the campus of the Salt City institution. Raymond, John N. Morgan issued a prospectus appealing for subscriptions, now in our archives, containing the following statement: "The want of suitable endowments not only prevents the multiplication of female seminaries of the highest grade, but also precludes them from bearing any comparison with our colleges and universities.

There is no good reason why female education should not be as thorough, as systematic, and also as cheap as it is in our colleges; or why female seminaries should not bear with them a favorable comparison. The only way to build up such institutions, and to make them instruments of widespread usefulness is to secure to them large, liberal, and permanent endowments. For a brief, a very brief period the bold venture flourished, yet it came to grief, apparently because of financial stringencies.

However that may be, the Barleywood records end abruptly in , and the Boody property was then given, it may be recalled, to the U. The enlightened enterprise "Was neither too little nor too late, but too radical and too soon. Coeducation would necessitate undesirable curricular changes, it was contended, impose limitations on professorial freedom of expression in the classroom, and distract males from serious academic work. The presence of women students, moreover, would not elevate the moral tone of the institution.

Higher learning, finally, would "impair the grace and delicacy so essential It would be quite wrong, however, to regard U. For instance, the editors of the Interpres dedicated the yearbook "to the editors' best girls with the earnest hope that these humble s may inspire in them a more exalted conception of mankind in general, and especially of that kind of man which is represented by--The Editors. A fresh effort in by Dr. It had been planned in a general way to locate the projected college near the University and to have the same professors teach in both institutions.

Moore declared, presumably with substantial evidence, that Anderson was heartily in sympathy with the undertaking; yet, since the financial pledges were far smaller than needed, the scheme was quickly abandoned. Later, the executive board of the U. The popularity of this innovation, as witnessed by the attendance, prompted an undergraduate editor to write, "By opening its doors to ladies our University would secure what it most needs, more students and more money.

By , four women, two of them from the Lattimore and Quinby faculty families, had registered as special students in chemistry. As already noted, in his will, probated in , Lewis Henry Morgan, a lifelong advocate of higher learning for women in Rochester, bequeathed his residuary estate to that purpose; yet if the bequest whose proceeds, due to legal complications, did not become available for more than a quarter century stirred public discussion, no traces of it have been preserved.

In the mid 'eighties Rochester ladies belonging to the Fortnightly Ignorance Club, whose cherished goal, like that of other feminist societies in the community, was full equality with males, initiated agitation for coeducation at the U.

Probably on financial grounds for the most part, President Anderson frowned upon the movement. Once started, however, the campaign was kept going until the University trustees agreed at last that the University should do its part in educating young women for their multiple roles in the ever-changing American society. The feminist cause as a whole was given a boost in when Wyoming, the first state to grant full suffrage rights to women, was admitted to the Federal Union; neighboring states soon followed the Wyoming precedent.

Yet foes of the principle of the equality of the sexes dismissed what had been done merely as confirmatory evidence of the wildness and woolliness of the West. Miss Susan B. Anthony, Mrs. Mary T. Gannett, wife of the Unitarian minister, and Mrs. Max Landsberg, wife of the rabbi at B'rith Kodesh, marshalled the forces of embattled feminism. At that point, over coeducational colleges existed in the United States, or approximately two out of every three institutions of higher learning in the country. While the University faculty overwhelmingly favored the admission of women and the trustees were reportedly sympathetic, influential alumni voices loudly condemned the very idea of coeducation.

Hill, who as president of the University of Lewisburg later Bucknell had witnessed the admission of women to collegiate status , adopted a somewhat ambiguous posture in Rochester. He ascribed the clamor to parents who could not afford to send their daughters away to study and to the militant disciples of Miss Anthony, of whom he was not overly fond. While unwilling to commit himself on coeducation, the President expressed approval in principle of a coordinate college for women, similar to newly created institutions associated with Harvard Radcliffe and Columbia Barnard.

Yet the trustees would not be willing to embark on a venture of this character, Hill felt sure, unless indispensable funds were first made available. Undaunted, Miss Anthony, ever the optimist, countered that if women were permitted to matriculate, the money needed for a larger faculty and more academic facilities would assuredly flow in.

That query was followed by a petition on coeducation, addressed to the University corporation, which might be ed by interested citizens at several city stores. The petition asked that the U. Since one in six students at American colleges was a woman, "We believe that coeducation is no longer regarded as a doubtful experiment," the document asserted.

About "prominent" Rochesterians, representing all walks of life, attached their names to the petition. The trustees, after examining the proposition, simply resolved to postpone a decision, but the drive by the energetic women's rights organizations went on; a second petition attracted about atures. Undergraduate opinion, as expressed in the Campus , was "hostile to the admission of females to this most sacred institution.

Think of a Professor of Stocking Darning Education of women alongside of men, protested a letter-writer, would tend "to make girls free and bold. What are you going to do with such classes as Juvenal if we have coeducation?

Just get a copy of Juvenal and read it. It required six more stanzas for this rhymster to unburden himself fully. Not to be outdone, a student friendly to the admission of women retorted with an eruption that ran into twenty-one verses, and was entitled "Women Haters.

In October, , some guests, leading University personalities and other influential citizens among them, attended a reception at the Anthony home in honor of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, an earnest woman's rights champion of national repute. Barbed attacks were levelled against the U. Stanton later wrote, "while every girl in that city must go abroad for higher education.

The wife of President Hill of the University had just presented him with twins, a girl and a boy, and he facetiously remarked 'that if the Creator could risk placing sexes in such near relations, he thought they might with safety walk on the same campus and pursue the same curriculum together. Certainly Hill had just become the father of twins and certainly at the Anthony party he gave his blessing to the entry of women, and Professor Lattimore echoed the President. Trustee Edward Mott Moore also endorsed that view, yet he reminded the guests that U.

Loud protests greeted his observation that it was more important to educate men, the breadwinners of families, than women. On an earlier occasion, Moore had shrugged off a suggestion that if the University were opened to women, Rochesterians would contribute more liberally to its support. Responding to the implicit challenge, Rochester women active in the cause of higher education set about gathering subscriptions, but their vision of getting enough money to secure admission of women in the autumn of was frustrated.

At the annual alumni Commencement dinner, Hill expressed himself with uncommon bluntness on the matriculation of young women, calling it "an economical and fruitful measure. I haven't commended coeducation 'as she is taught. No discrimination will be shown. It is my greatest wish that we unite for the realization of this happy dream. Then something startling happened. At the opening of college on September 21, , Helen E. Wilkinson, with the tentative approval of the President, entered the freshman class as a regular student in the classics course. This twenty-two year old young woman had spent two years studying in preparation for college work.

She was in fact "the instrument" with which Miss Anthony and her allies, who paid her expenses, intended to break down the barriers against women students. Hill told the press that Miss Wilkinson would attend classes "the same as the young gentlemen, only she will not be matriculated.

Mature Rochester ladies

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