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Association, 1 ; Brethren, 1 ; Church of God, 1 ; New Church, 1; Protestant Episcopal, 1.
At the present time one frequently hears people deprecate the effort to maintain so large a number of colleges. It is asserted truly that the distribution of patronage among so many, necessarily prevents any from attaining commanding influence. Especially do the advocates of non-sectarian education recommend that the weaker institutions be closed, that their properties be sold, and that effort be concentrated upon the few stronger ones. The arguments by which this recommendation is sustained are sound.
If the financial support, the love, the loyalty, the ambition, and the students that are distributed among the thirty-one colleges of Liberal Arts in the State of Ohio, could be united in the support of any one of the number, the fortunate recipient might soon rank with the great universities of our country, nay, of the world. But however desirable such a concentration of patronage ultimately may be, one cannot read the history of the educational work of the churches, without feeling that “ Wisdom is justified of her children.”
It is true that many of these colleges were founded in the interests of sectarian theology, rather than of liberal culture; that they were all in some degree, some of them in very large degree, regarded and used by their supporters as the most available instruments in the labor of securing proselytes to the particular school of Christian faith in whose name they were planted. In the degree to which these institutions have nurtured sectarian zeal, emphasized distinctions in minor points of doctrine, and strengthened the barriers between denominations, it must be conceded that their influence has been benumbing and narrowing ; and in this degree they have tended from instead of toward culture, whose mission is to broaden and quicken instead of to narrow and benumb.
In spite of this limitation upon the work of denominational colleges, they merit the profoundest respect and gratitude of the public. A large proportion of these institutions were established when the wilderness was being cleared and settled.
It is related by its historian that the site of Ripon College was chosen by two enthusiasts in the cause of higher education, in the year 1850, when the State of Wisconsin was but two years old, when “there were but fourteen rude buildings in the village of Ripon," and when but a single year had elapsed since the first clearing on the village site had been made. At once these brave men applied for a charter for a college ; and the purpose of the corporation was declared to be, “To found, establish, and maintain at Ripon, in the county of Fond du Lac, an institution of learning of the highest order, enibracing also a department for preparatory instruction.”
This is hardly an exceptional, but a typical instance.
The people were few, scattered, and poor. Communication between places remote from each other was slow and uncertain. Means of travel and transportation were limited to the pack horse, the private wagon, the stage coach, and the flat-boat. If poverty had not rendered it impossible for the pioneers to incur the expense of sending their children on long and slow journeys, to distant colleges, the time consumed in such journeys, and the anxiety incident to separation, in the absence of any means of frequent and speedy communication, would have prohibited it.
Forty years ago, in all of the territory covered by the twentyone States and Territories under consideration, twenty-five years ago in most of it, and so lately as ten years ago in much of it, the time, fatigue, and expense which a dweller in a remote corner of a county incurred in traveling to its county seat, was more than he will now expend to reach the State capital. Under such conditions the question with the pioneer was not whether he should send his children to a near or to a distant college, but whether he should send them to the near college or to none.
The influence of these 165 colleges upon the life of the Western States cannot be measured by the number of their graduates, nor by adding to this number those who have attended the col. leges one or more terms.
The presence of a college, with its educated faculty, in any community, modifies the tone of its intellectual and social life. The colleges have been centers of leavening influence in the new States. While recognizing this with gratitude, one can also see that the conditions which justified and demanded the multiplication of these small colleges have ceased to exist, and that the different conditions which now prevail counsel denominations to consolidate their weak institutions, and to concentrate their dissipated forces upon a few strong ones. The present means of speedy and certain communication and transit enable a strong college, with high standards and an able faculty, to bring its influence to bear upon all parts of a State and to command the patronage of its remotest corner.
That the tendency is toward concentration of effort is indi. cated by the Year Books of the denominations for 1888–89.
In studying the educational work of the churches, one cannot fail to discern the results of creeds and habits of worship.
In a sketch of this character it would be unjust to withhold the fact that the colleges under Methodist control have been generally first and most generous in opening their opportunities to women; and that they are also conspicuous among the colleges that include women in their faculties and in their boards of trustees.
The progressiveness of Methodists in regard to the education of women is evinced not only in their co-educational colleges, but also in institutions founded by them for the exclusive education of women.
The latest report of the United States Commissioner of Education contains over two hundred institutions for the superior education of women. The list includes colleges and seminaries entitled to confer degrees, and a few seminaries, whose work is of equal merit, which do not give degrees. Of these more than two hundred institutions for the education of women exclusively, only 47 are situated within the territory here discussed. Of these 47, but 30 are chartered with authority to confer degrees. Of these 30, 7 are non-sectarian ; the remainder are distributed among the denominations as follows:
Presbyterian, 7 ; Methodist Episcopal, 5 ; Baptist, 3 ; Christian, 2 ; Protestant Episcopal, 1; Congregational, 1.
The religious affiliations of the remaining four have not been ascertained.
The extent to which the higher education of women is in the West identified with co-education, can be seen by comparing the two statements above given. Of the total 212 higher institutions receiving women, and of the total 195 such institutions which conter the regular degrees in arts, science, and letters, upon their graduates, 165 are co-educational. Almost necessarily, therefore, the most important discussion in this article will be that of co-education.
Before approaching it, however, some space must be devoted to women's colleges in the West. Almost without exception they include preparatory departments ; very generally the attendance in the preparatory department exceeds that in the collegiate ; frequently members of the faculty divide their attention between preparatory and collegiate classes ; generally the courses of study offered are less numerous and less complete than those offered in colleges of liberal arts for men; most of these institutions have paltry or no endowments.
With all these limitations, some of them do much creditable work ; but, at present, they occupy a rather vague, indefinite position between “the ladies' seminary” of thirty years ago and the modern college. Quoting from the United States Commissioner of Education (Report for 1887-88): “The adjustment of studies is evidence of a double purpose in these institutions. On the one hand they have endeavored to meet the general demand with respect to woman's education. On the other they have sought to maintain that higher ideal which would appropriate for women as well as for men the advantages of the kind of instruction and training approved, by wise effort and long experience, as the best for mental discipline and culture."
A double purpose, when its parts are, as in this instance, to a degree contradictory, imposes impossible tasks. A process of sifting is now going on among these institutions. Some of the weaker will doubtless be absorbed by stronger ones having the same denominational support. Some, whose strength is chiefly in their preparatory departments, will find their ultimate place in the lists of secondary schools; and, ceasing to compete with colleges, will do an important and much needed work in preparing students to enter college. Others, already strongest in their collegiate departments, pledged by a noble past to achieve a corresponding future, will persist in emphasizing their real collegiate side until at last they secure an absolute separation between their preparatory and their collegiate work, and can take rank with genuine colleges of liberal arts.
In this sketch it is impossible to give the history of all these institutions ; but among colleges characterized from birth by a liberal and progressive spirit may be mentioned “The Cincinnati Wesleyan Woman's College.” This institution was chartered in 1842, and claims to be “the first liberal collegiate institution in the world for the exclusive education of women.” This claim sounds somewhat boastful, but a perusal of the discussions which were called forth by the establishment of this college, will convince one that its undertaking was novel and quite foreign to the thought of its public, if not, indeed, quite unprecedented in the world's history. Dr. Charles Eliot, the editor of the Western Christian Advocate, heroically defended the project against the attacks of both the secular and the religious press. Rev. P. B. Wilber was elected president, and his wife, Mary Cole Wilber, was made principal.
The broad claim made by these enthusiastic educators was " that women need equal culture of mind and heart with men, in their homes, in the church, and in the state.” The enterprise was accused of "being counter to delicacy and to custom, as it was to orthodoxy.” Mrs. Wilber, who is still living (in 1890), writes that those who had upheld the college “were convinced that a higher intellectual and moral education for women was indispensable to the continued prosperity and existence of civilization, especially under our form of government. They believed it would be a powerful influence for good in the home, in social life, and in all benevolences and philanthropies. They believed in the elevation of women through education, which is development ; through labor, which is salvation ; and through legal rights, which should give freedom to serve and to save." These sentiments do not seem antiquated in 1890, and must have seemed not merely advanced but dangerous in 1842.
Violations of precedent continued to keep the watchful eye of the public on the college. The college professed to give to women the same instruction which secured for young men the degree of A.B., and it obtained from the Legislature authority “ to confer the degrees of A.B. and B.S." The college held public commencement exercises, at which the graduates read their own productions, a performance that was the occasion of much scandal.
September 25, 1844, “ The Young Ladies' Lyceum ” was organized in the college. This was a literary society, at the meetings of which debates upon current public questions were conducted and essays were read. Cuttings from contemporary newspapers show that this lyceum created no small stir.
In 1852 the graduates of the college organized an alumnæ association, which is claimed to be the first organization of the kind in this country. The preamble to the constitution adopted by this body begins thus :
“ The undersigned, graduates of the Wesleyan Female College of Cincinnati, believing that as educated American women, society and the world at large have peculiar claims upon them, which they can neither gainsay nor resist,” etc.
The association at once decided to publish an annual which should contain only original articles from the pens of its members; and Article VII. of the constitution says : “ The immediate object of this publication shall be to afford an op. portunity for continued mental effort and improvement to members; and its ultimate aim shall be the elevation of woman." Rachel L. Bodley, so long dean of the Woman's