ADMINISTRATION OF MISS FRENCH.
Miss French was a graduate of '57, and save one or two brief absences, had been teaching at the seminary from that time. It was not without hesitation that she accepted a -position so responsible and laborious, her health being never firm; but her two associates were specially commissioned to stay up her hands, and relieve her whenever she might be, compelled to go away for rest. The journal, in alluding to her appointment, adds in Scripture phrase, "The hearts of the teachers do safely trust in her. . . . She is unquestionably called to this work, and with such helpers as Miss Ellis and Miss Ward, the burdens will not be overwhelming."
For two years, Miss French had conducted the morning devotions, and the trustees requested her to continue this service, leaving a part of the general business to her associates, both of whom had much experience. Miss Ellis was of the class of '55, while Miss Ward was a classmate of Miss French.
The term opened with a good attendance, and the newly finished extension of the south wing was occupied for the first time. This was destined to be an eventful year; and though not without its trials, it is memorable chiefly for its special blessings.
Though the private apartments were comfortable, each with its coal stove, the long halls and public rooms were often cold. In winter weather, whenever one left her room there was a sudden transition to a low temperature, and exposure to chilling draughts sweeping through the halls. As the new gymnasium was warmed by steam, it was natural to think of advances in that line. The question was discussed at table and elsewhere with ever growing interest and hope. At first the trustees doubted whether in a building so extensive and so complicated as this bad become, steam-heating would succeed, except perhaps in the public rooms and halls. Moreover, there was already a debt, and no spare funds. Yet since the need was pressing, and the courage of the ladies equal to a great effort in raising money, it was decided to look into the matter. The story of the enterprise is told in the following passages from private letters noting its daily progress:-
"November 20, 1867. - The engineers report that ten thousand dollars will cover the expense for putting steam in every room, and we teachers and scholars have resolved to try to raise the money ourselves. There is great enthusiasm on the subject. Hundreds of letters have been written within a week, asking aid from graduates and others. Most of us mean to see what we can do personally in vacation. We do not intend to refuse any sum, from ten cents to a thousand dollars! . . . Yesterday the mercury stood at fourteen degrees below zero."
The season continued unusually severe, and the day of return from vacation - December 11th - was bitterly cold. Every one was impatient to hear how much of the ten thousand had been secured.
"Thursday, December 12. - A teachers' meeting was called
to-day to report success. Each stated the amount on hand, and also the
amount definitely promised. Most of us had not yet heard from our letters.
There was only one who had received nothing, and I
came next. But no one knows how rich I feel with my silver quarter, the voluntary offering of a boy friend [silver money was a curiosity then], and my thirty unanswered letters. The amount in hand was over six hundred dollars; that promised, over three hundred, besides an indefinite amount expected. Miss French, with a graduate, gave two days to soliciting in Brattleboro', and received one hundred and eighty dollars. One man, passing over a two dollar bill, said he had not much to give, but he 'would not miss having a part in the prayers of those girls.' The mail this afternoon brought more money, so that the total received or promised to us teachers is nearly a thousand dollars. We took a similar report from the young ladies, and find that in all nearly two thousand has been received, and five hundred more pledged. . . . If our zeal wavers, we have only to pass a little way through these freezing halls to get fresh impetus."
"December 13. - Letters received by teachers to-day inclose eighty dollars."
"December 18. - The amounts pledged during vacation are now coming in. The mails f or a few days have brought an average of one hundred dollars daily."
"December 19. - To-night just one hundred dollars. Last night it was only sixty-five."
One friend offered a barrel of apples instead of money. The gift was gladly accepted; and at a social gathering on the evening of New Year's day, the apples were retailed to a crowd of merry purchasers, clearing twenty dollars.
"January 15, 1868. - Last evening we received one hundred dollars from Mr. Durant, - the first gift above fifty, though a few hundred-dollar donations are promised. To-night came the largest amount yet brought by one mail-one hundred and seventy-one dollars."
The receipts varied greatly from day to day; but something for steam
never failed to arrive, by every mail, for fifteen successive weeks. On
Saturday of this week came two hundred and seventy-seven dollars; on
Monday following only a dollar and a half. Every evening the teachers whose duty it was to record donations used to sit at the receipt of steam money. "Last night," says the record of January 30, "they waited and waited, but nobody came. Rather than close the book without an entry, they resolved to solicit something from the teachers, especially as the fourth thousand would be complete if they had only sixteen dollars more. While on this errand, news came of an overlooked letter containing twenty-five dollars." The winter term closed with a bank account of $4,680 for steam; and at anniversary, it amounted to $5,450.22.
Meanwhile another movement was in progress whose results were even more important. During the war, the enormous advance in prices, together with the cost of completing the gymnasium, - begun by contributions of friends, - and the purchase a little later of a lot on the north border of the grounds, had originated a debt, now over twenty-five thousand dollars. In 1864, aid had for the first time been asked from the state. The legislative committee reported to the senate April 15, 1864, their opinion "that the Mount Holyoke Seminary is eminently worthy of legislative recognition, and of the patronage of the state, in a grant of money from any funds that can be applied to educational purposes of this character; that in propriety and strength of claim it falls not below those institutions of learning which have been the recipients of material assistance from the state."* Yet the grant was not obtained, probably because of the demands for the war, and the uncertainty of public affairs. In 1866, Dr. Kirk renewed the effort, but, though the committee reported favorably, the bill did not pass.
At the session of 1868, the trustees asked for a grant of forty thousand dollars, having in view not only the
*The report instanced the grants in 1859, of 950,000 to Tufts College, and $25,000 each to Amherst and Williams Colleges and Wilbraham Academy; also $10,000 to the Massachusetts Agricultural College was voted in 1865.
liquidation of the debt, but also other needs. An able lawyer was employed to present the case before the legislative committees. The progress of the matter was watched with the deepest interest by the seminary family. On the twelfth of March , the newspapers stated that "the petitioners had leave to withdraw." But a few days later, Miss French was summoned to Boston to meet the committee on education. This looked hopeful. She was accompanied by Miss Evans, - who had been a leader in the effort for steam-heating, - and also by Deacon Porter, the treasurer. The committee made many inquiries regarding the special features and work of the institution. Their report shows that they were much impressed by several points thus brought out; among them, the inexpensiveness of education; the high standard of scholarship and character; the great number of teachers trained; and the value of the household work, not only in honoring labor, but also in forming habits of system, promptness, and self-help. A month later, the committee of finance made similar inquiries of Miss French and Miss Shattuck, with a like result. Both committees reported unanimously in favor of the grant. Even then, there were legislators who demurred at aiding institutions for women, but they were in the minority. On May 14th, the journal says, "At supper, Miss French read letters from friends in Boston announcing that the bill had passed." There was no doubt what Governor Bullock would do with it; and that evening there was a joyful illumination of the building from basement to cupola. The hundreds of happy girls who went out to see a sight so inspiring added their songs; and at length, gathering beneath the principal's window, they closed with the words, "Praise God, from whom all blessings flow."
The first thing that came of this forty thousand dollars was deliverance
from the debt. From that day, the institution has been free. The wise management
of its trustees and teachers keeps its ordinary expenses
within its ordinary income;* and, unless in circumstances as exceptional as in this instance, it is not expected that another debt will arise. Next, it was made certain that the rest of the ten thousand for steam would not be lacking. And finally, there was the new library. It had been stated to the legislature that "a friend of the institution" - Mrs. Henry F. Durant - had offered ten thousand dollars for books, provided a suitable fire-proof building should be erected within three years. The appropriation made this possible; and thus secured a gift great in itself, and leading the way to other acquisitions of which at that time even the most sanguine hardly dared to dream.
At a special meeting of the trustees June 5th, the treasurer was authorized to receive the forty thousand dollars from the treasurer of the Commonwealth. It was voted to introduce steam, and to accept with thanks the generous offer of Mrs. Durant. Messrs. Durant, Kingman, Tyler, and Greene were appointed a committee on the plan, location, and estimates for the library building. Before the annual meeting in July, the contract had been made for the introduction of steam. The work was not entirely completed when the fall term opened, and the stoves still remained in the rooms; yet "it was a comfort," says the journal, "as we built our temporary fires, the day being chilly, to know that three and a half miles of steam-pipes had been put in during vacation." All was soon in working order. Coming back from a winter vacation was quite a different thing now. However cold the weather, one found a summer warmth pervading the building which made her quickly forget the chilly drive from the station. That first year, it is true, the steam had a way of announcing itself sometimes with a tremendous thumping and rattling, here and there ' as if quite too sensible of its importance. Like a mischievous sprite,
*In July 1867, the price per year for board and tuition was fixed at $150; fuel, lights, and lectures being additional. Since 1874, the charge has been $175, which covers the whole.
it would choose the most inopportune moments for its astonishing pranks. The next summer, however, some changes were made by which these annoyances were removed.
It was decided to erect the new library a little north of the main edifice, on the border of the lot purchased a few years before. The plans were drawn by Hammett Billings, afterward the architect of Wellesley College. The foundation was begun June 15, 1869.
At the next session of the legislature after the state grant was received, an act was passed, dated March 11, 1869, authorizing the trustees of Mount Holyoke Seminary "to hold real and personal estate to the amount of four hundred thousand dollars, in addition to the amount which they are now authorized to hold."
At the annual meeting of the trustees, the treasurer had the pleasure of announcing the receipt of four thousand dollars from four gentlemen, who shared equally in the gift. Thousand-dollar donations had hitherto been so rare that this was no less surprising than welcome.
At the same meeting, leave of absence for a year in Europe was granted to Miss Ellis. She went abroad in July, accompanied by Miss Shattuck, who returned in the autumn.
Toward the close of 1870, the library was completed. The exterior is unpretentious, yet tasteful and pleasing. It is forty-eight feet by thirty-three, with bay windows on the east and west. A corridor forty-five feet long leads from the main building to the entrance, which is protected by fire-proof doors. On entering, one finds a delightful room, well supplied with choice books; the ceiling is high, the well-lighted alcoves offer cozy nooks for readers, the furniture is of carved black walnut, and the floor inlaid. Steam-heated air is admitted from below. The cost was about eighteen thousand dollars.
librarian - Miss Mary 0. Nutting - having been appointed some months before. The method adopted was essentially that of the Boston Public Library. During the winter and spring, three thousand five hundred volumes previously in the library, and two thousand six hundred new ones, were catalogued. There were received from Mrs. Durant's donation about five thousand volumes in all; these were arriving from time to time during three or four years, mostly from Europe. Mr. Durant bestowed such care on their selection as only a genuine lover of good books could give. Occasional donations from other friends, and judicious purchases from year to year, have maintained a steady though moderate growth.
The new library at once became a constant resort. All day long, eager students were busy in consulting the authorities to which they had been referred. It furnished a perpetual stimulus to research. Everywhere the impulse was felt, and especially in the departments of history and literature.
More time was secured for English literature by requiring for admission
some of the work previously taken in the first year. The study of ancient
literature became henceforth the study, not so much of accounts of great
works, as of the works themselves. Other tokens of progress deserve notice,
including certain changes of text-books, and important additions to apparatus.
The beginning of laboratory work by students is traced to this period.
After a course of lectures on zology in 1868, a natural history society
was formed, including both teachers and pupils, whose zeal in collecting
specimens deserves remembrance. Courses of lectures in astronomy from this
time were regularly given by Prof. Charles A. Young, then of Dartmouth,
who also lectured in physics. Prof. Charles H. Hitchcock, of Dartmouth,
became the geological lecturer, thus continuing a work laid down by his
honored father years before. Courses in elocution were given by Professor
Churchill, of Andover, and Professor Bailey, of New Haven.
Early in 1868, some casual circumstance raised the question what
proportion of all the graduates had deceased. Thirty classes had then completed
the course. The memorandum catalogue, class letters, and other sources
of information furnished the data; it was ascertained that the mortality
for the whole period was between ten. and eleven per cent. The triennial
catalogues of colleges supplied the material for extending the investigation.
In every case the period included was thirty years, ending about 1867.
The result is shown in the following table:-
As these statistics were prepared so soon after the close of the period embraced, there were doubtless among graduates of each college a few instances of mortality not ascertained, which the next triennial included. The Holyoke percentage, as revised two or three years later, was 11.46, and that of Amherst 12.63. As the entire table was not revised, it is given as made out at first. It appeared at the time in newspaper articles by Dr. Nathan Allen, of Lowell, and Dr. Edward Hitchcock, of Amherst; and was afterwards incorporated in a paper prepared by request for Miss Brackett's book on "The Education of American Girls." It was also quoted in the Westminster Review of October, 1874.
"Our attention as teachers," says the journal in June, 1870, "has
of late been called to the question, 'What are the peculiar features of
Mount Holyoke Seminary?' The inquiry comes from Dr. Kirk and others who
trustees for the establishment of Wellesley College. Its founder proposes to make another Mount Holyoke, modified only in unessential particulars." The charter had already been obtained, and Mr. Durant was devoting much thought to the shaping of his plans. In regard to one of the points considered the journal remarks: "Perhaps we have all been surprised to find how much of the home-like character of the school, and the benevolent spirit as well as the aptness and efficiency of those trained here, may be traced to the domestic system. It was pleasant to have our views corroborated by the almost universal testimony of the senior class, each giving in writing her opinion as to the results."
In regard to the religious history of this period, there were many hopeful conversions every year, and evident spiritual growth of Christians. In October, 1867, a private letter says: "We have felt for some time that there was an under-current of special religious interest. One day Mr. Moody and Mr. Durant spent a few hours at the seminary; the latter spoke chiefly to the impenitent, the former to Christians. The hall was very still. We felt that the Holy Spirit was present in power. At the close, Mr. Durant invited all who were not Christians to meet in the south wing parlor, expressing the hope that they would go with the intention of consecrating themselves to the Lord. Of nearly fifty included in this class, thirty-two went. Much depth of f e0ling was manifest, and many offered prayer. Then they joined in repeating a prayer of consecration." That day and the days which followed, the hush of the Spirit's presence was felt through the family, and a new life was begun in many hearts.
The record of 1868-9 says: "There were at the beginning of the year
forty-five not professing hope in Christ, - a smaller number than almost
ever before. At the close, thirty-two of these classed themselves among
Christians; they were led to the Saviour one by one."
In 1870, there was an interesting revival near the close of the winter term. It was preceded by weeks of earnest prayer. "We had had the promise of it," says the journal, "in the unusually fervent prayers of Christians, in the growing seriousness of the impenitent, in the thoughtful hush of the atmosphere; but it was on the day when multitudes throughout the Christian world were praying for us, that God's presence was manifest." Mr. Durant and Rev. H. M. Parsons, now ,of Toronto, conducted the public services and conversed privately with inquirers. "There was less opportunity than usual," continues the journal, "for prayer meetings; yet never was there more emphatically a day of prayer. Every one knew that the Holy Spirit was here. When one after another tremblingly or joyfully told of her new found love, we blessed the Master who had so abundantly fulfilled his promise. As was this day, so have been all the days since, except that we have attended to our usual school duties. The Lord has sent one and another to minister to us, each with a special message. . . . Among our two hundred and sixty pupils, only ten manifest no interest."
While Miss French was principal, four valued teachers left to engage in foreign missionary work. The first, Miss Olive L. Parmelee, of the class of '61, went in 1868 to teach at Mardin, Turkey. In 1869, Miss Elizabeth D. Ballantine, of the class of '57, married Rev. Charles Harding, of the Mahratta Mission, and returned to the land of her birth to carry on the work which her parents had left. In 1871, Miss Alice W. Gordon, a graduate of '67, and for two years a teacher at the seminary, went as the wife of Rev. William H. Gulick to a missionary work in Spain. Miss Fannie E. Washburn, of the class of '69, went in 1873 to be associated with Miss Fritcher in. Marsovan, Turkey.
Near the close of 1869, the weekly Bible recitations, which had
previously taken the place of morning devotions on Monday, were transferred
to Sabbath afternoon at four o'clock. As attendance at church was no longer
required in the afternoon, this change gave more time for the Bible classes. It soon became the custom at devotions on Monday morning, to devote the time for remarks to foreign missions, and other forms of Christian work. It has ever since been found helpful thus to glance at the great field, when about to begin the week-day routine.
It remains to speak briefly of some intimately connected with the seminary who in these years finished their course. Mrs. A. W. Porter died at Monson, December 16, 1869, after a long illness, aged seventy-two years. What she had been to Miss Lyon and to the seminary, in the early years, can never be fully told. She shared in the labors of seven revivals, and was always deeply interested in the spiritual prosperity of the school. She used to know the young ladies personally, and often visited them in their rooms. In her last illness, she desired the society of her seminary daughters. "Much of the time," says the journal, "we have gladly spared one, and often two, of our teachers to be with her. It was a sad pleasure to minister to her wants, and to treasure up in our hearts the lessons of love and patience taught by her sweet example." To the young ladies she sent as her last message, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." "It was delightful," continues the journal, "to see that even when her mind wandered, her thoughts were in heaven. In the intense suffering of the last twenty-four hours, she several times repeated 'Let me go, for the day breaketh!' and once, in a transient respite from distress, her face brightened with a light borrowed from scenes invisible to other eyes, as she exclaimed, 'Beautiful! beautiful!' Her countenance - always delicate and refined - was very lovely in its last repose. A large group of her seminary daughters were among the mourners at her funeral."
attack of paralysis closed his long life of eighty-two years, on Sunday, April 10, 1870, at the house of his brother, in Goshen, Massachusetts. It was fitting that, according to his own request, his grave should be in South Hadley. His body was brought to the seminary, attended by his daughter, Mrs. Putnam, and other relatives. The services at the church were conducted by the pastor, Rev. J. M. Greene. His text was, "In singleness of heart, fearing God," words aptly epitomizing the character and life of this friend. In the visit of Mr. Hawks to the seminary a few months before, it was beautiful to see that although his days of active labor were over, his devotion to Christ in all its fullness still remained. At the close of the service, the long procession followed the remains to the newly opened cemetery a quarter of a mile west of the church. The young ladies gathered around the grave and sang "Rest for the toiling hand," and then the venerable form was laid down to its peaceful repose.
At the next meeting of the trustees, they recorded the following tribute to the memory of Mr. Hawks and Mr. Southworth, another of the board, who died in December, 1869:-
release her, still hoping that another year of rest would restore her strength, - a result earnestly desired by all. During most of the year 1871-2, Miss Ward also was obliged to be away, so that the administration devolved almost entirely upon Miss Ellis. Miss Spofford, a former associate principal, assisted her by conducting the morning devotions. It soon became evident that the health of Miss French, impaired not only by overwork, but also by repeated family bereavements would never permit her to resume a position so laborious. In July, 1872, the board reluctantly accepted her resignation, and passed the following vote:-