Archive(WOMEN'S Early College EDUCATlON). (PENNSYLVANIA). BELL, REV. A[DIE] K. Two ALSs to Brother Martin Concerning the Female Institute at Bucknell University. Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. _March 15, 1856, 8 x 1 O inches, folded in half, 4 pp., no cover. May 6, 1857, 10 x 16 inches, folded 1n half, 2 pp. No cover, watermarked paper ink. Very good condition.
"Prior to the American Civil War few colleges admitted women. Oberlin College, founded in 1833, was the first college to accept women and African Americans as students. Other early coeducational schools included Hillsdale College founded as Michigan Central College in Spring Arbor, Michigan in 1844, and Antioch College founded by noted educator Horace Mann in 1852 in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Hollins University, founded as Valley Union Seminary in Roanoke, Virginia, in 1842 as a co-educational institution but became all-female in 1852. " (From wikipedia) 1855: The University of Iowa becomes the first coeducational public or state university in the United States and 1858: Mary Fellows became the first woman west of the Mississippi River to receive a baccalaureate degree.
The Reverend Adie Kyle Bell (1815-1888), was a Baptist clergyman in Pennsylvania. A graduate of Washington and Jefferson College, Bell was also associated with the building of the Female Institute (1856-7) at Cornell, which was founded as a Baptist institution. He was also the author of several books including the 1849: Christian Baptism Defended, in its action and subjects: in public debate. In the March 1856 letter he writes of the apparently difficult situation at the Institute: "I have received but few subscriptions lately. The general feeling among the Philad. friends is that Lewisburg should complete the buildings and I think so also. If the thing hangs much longer I should not be surprised to see an effort made to remove the whole affair ... I believe even now a removal could be effected giving us buildings completed, a better location, and a large endowment with scarce any trouble. I would rather, however, as we have remained here, if things can be made to work and yet I am almost tired of the selfish & mercenary spirit of the place, tired of this deep rooted hate of the Institution. The life of the place and spending some $45,000 in its midst every year, still a constant war is kept up in almost every form. If I mistake not they will come to their senses ... "
The May 1857 letter: We are pushing the Institute buildings, yet where the money is to come from to pay all I scarcely know. I ag,reed with bro. Wattson if he would advance the money to furnish it when ready say some $1500 I would find money to complete the building & it is all bearing interest yet it will not all be due in time to meet promptly our agreements." He also mentions a missionary lunch; "If we get the Seminary building sufficiently up so that I can leave it, I will go."
The Bucknell.edu website includes the following information concerning the new Institute: "Practically all mingling of the two sexes was forbidden, except that men students might make formal calls on Friday evening in the Institute parlors - where teachers prowled watchfully. For years after the Institute was moved to the campus, a high board fence surrounded the Institute building, with a thick hedge of arbor vitae within, to prevent men from even seeing the Institute building; and the lower halves of first floor windows in the building were whitened so that girls could not even catch a glimpse of a passing male. Women students were not permitted to go into town alone, even at midday. One of the early suggestions of the Principal of the Institute to the Board was that they pass a rule that when women students went into town they must be accompanied by a woman teacher who had had at least six years experience in handling girls! The trustees passed the rule."
Women's colleges proliferated in the mid- to late- 19th century to fill the void created by their exclusion from most institutions of higher education. The prevailing notion that women were too delicate for a rigorous academic education was openly challenged when Elizabeth Cady Stanton spoke at the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, "Man's intellectual superiority cannot be a question until woman has had a fair trial…When we shall have had our colleges, our professions, our trades, for a century, a comparison then may be justly instituted." Young women were quick to step up to the challenge; as quickly as female colleges opened, they filled up. This document dates less than 2 years after Seneca Falls.