2. East Side, West Side: A Tale of Two Cities

Chapter  2.
East Side, West Side: A Tale of Two Cities

For whom was [Barnard]  intended and from what class of women is it to draw its students?
— Rev. Arthur Brooks, 1894[1]


     The haste with which Barnard College came into being made  its early going tenuous.  A rented brownstone  on a crowded urban thoroughfare  suggested  impermanence. So did  a non-existent endowment and the absence of a principal benefactor. Nor could the sufferance of the Columbia College authorities be counted on to secure safe passage should difficulties be encountered in the early going. At best,  Barnard  was in for a shaky start; at worst,  a failure to launch.

Who’s In Charge Here?

Barnard opened its doors in the fall of 1889 without a full-time administrative head.  Instead of a president or dean,  one of the younger women trustees, Ella Weed, was designated   “chairman of the Academic Committee”  and handed  the day-to-day operations of the college.  None of the original  male trustees showed interest in the job, while among the women trustees, Weed, 34, single, and headmistress of  the fashionable Miss Annie Brown’s School, at 5th Avenue and 55th Street, was a plausible  choice.  A Vassar graduate and professional  educator, she made  a respectable local spokesperson for the cause of women’s higher education. The plan was for her to split her workday shuttling the ten blocks between the two schools, mornings at Miss Brown’s  and  afternoons at  Barnard.  She received a salary of $1,200 and, beginning in 1890, had the assistance of a  full-time staffer, Mrs. N. W. Liggett, another Vassar graduate, as College Registrar. Liggett  became the face of the College when Weed was away at her morning job or,  as increasingly became the case, when she was absent  due to illness. [2]

[Figure 2.1 Ella Weed — around here]

However devoted to Barnard, Weed was  neither a charismatic nor forceful an academic leader in the mold of  Wellesley’s Alice Freeman  Palmer or Bryn Mawr’s  M. Carey Thomas. Before illness sidelined her in the fall of 1893, she quietly saw to the admission of four classes and to the College’s first graduation earlier  that spring. She had  one notable success as a fundraiser, an early gift of $5,000 from J. P. Morgan, but otherwise her tenure left the viability of Barnard still in doubt. She died on January 10, 1894, at 41. [3]

        Weed’s job  included hiring staff to teach the curriculum  prescribed by Columbia College. Her first year’s hires consisted of 7 officers of instruction, all young men (average age 28) affiliated with Columbia College, a couple of whom already impressively credentialed.  Of the seven, the classicists Mortimer Earle and Nelson McCrae continued moonlighting at Barnard through the 1890s, while Thomas S.  Fiske in mathematics and William H. Carpenter in Germanic languages soon acquired permanent places at Columbia. The English Assistant,  Henry Wasson,  later entered the ministry  and the French Assistant, Guiliarme  Scribner, dropped from sight. But it was the botanist Nathaniel Britton, the most senior of the first group of instructors who taught for only one year before returning to Columbia and later to the directorship of the New York Botanical Garden,  who had the most important impact on the College. He did so  by securing as his replacement in 1890  Barnard’s first female instructor, Emily L. Gregory. [4]
[Figure 2.2 – Emily Gregory here]
An 1878  graduate of Cornell University, the 49-year-old Gregory earned her PhD in botany at the University of Zurich (1886), the first woman to do so. Prior to  Barnard, she taught at Smith (1881-83), the Harvard Annex (1884-86),  and jointly at the University of Pennsylvania and Bryn Mawr College (1886-88), where she was a colleague of Professor E. B. Wilson, who subsequently moved to Columbia where he achieved  international notoriety for his pioneering work in genetics. Gregory was well known to New York City’s botany community through her publications in the Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society.  Her initial  appointment at Barnard was that of Lecturer and Director of the Barnard Botany Laboratory, then located on the third floor of 343 Madison. Independently wealthy, she taught without a salary, alternating her summers in Europe purchasing equipment and conducting research at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Although an elective, botany under Gregory became one of the College’s most heavily subscribed courses among degree candidates and “specials” alike. She died in 1897, at the age of 56, the author of 55 papers and Barnard’s first “scholar-teacher.” [5]

Weed’s subsequent hiring forays yielded no other women and only one other officer  of instruction who stuck.  Charles Knapp came in 1891 as a 23-year-old  instructor of Latin and stayed on until retirement in 1937.  Several  of Weed’s  subsequent hires later made careers at Columbia, among them   Benjamin Woodward in German literature, George Rice Carpenter in American literature and William T. Hallock in  physics. Woodward was  23 and Hallock 24 when they first taught at Barnard. [6]

Miss Weed seems not to have consulted with Columbia authorities in making her instructional  appointments.  The  turnstile nature of the process and its resultant instability sufficiently disturbed Columbia president Seth Low that, following Weed’s death and he found it necessary to  interject himself into Barnard’s  faculty-hiring process. In doing so, he gave the as-yet-to-be-so designated Barnard faculty its first semblance of continuity.

Dean Emily James Smith
Four months passed between Ella Weed’s death in January 1894  and the installation of her successor, Emily James Smith. A member of Bryn Mawr’s first graduating class of 1889, Smith  went on to Girton College, Cambridge,  where she was one of the first women to do graduate work in Ancient Greek. From there she proceeded to the Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn, where she taught Greek for two years. In 1892 she was awarded a graduate fellowship at the newly opened University of Chicago. A Barnard trustee  familiar with her success at Packer, longtime Brooklynite, Ann Wroe Scollay Low, likely suggested her as Weed’s successor. On May 11, 1894,  Smith became Barnard’s second administrative leader and first to be designated “Dean of Barnard College.” She was all of 29. [7]
[Figure 2.3 – Emily James Smith — here]
Eight months later, in January 1895, President Low presented the Barnard trustees a proposal for  making three outside appointments of senior scholars who would divide their teaching between Barnard and one of Columbia’s three newly created graduate faculties. Their salaries for the first three years were to  be paid from a $36,000 anonymous gift from Low on the condition that the Barnard trustees assume responsibility for their salaries thereafter. While we “fully appreciate the necessity of permanence,” board chair Arthur Brooks could only tell  the president that Barnard “will make every effort” to do so. Undeterred by this non-assurance,   Low and the newly installed Dean Smith announced three appointments, each selected in consultation with the respective Columbia graduate school dean and department: in history, from Amherst, the American colonial historian Herbert Levi Osgood; in economics, from Johns Hopkins and the current president of the American Economic Association, John Bates Clark; in mathematics, from Michigan, Frank N. Cole. On the occasion of these professorial appointments, Low wrote to Dean Smith that “in regard to Dr. Gregory’s position, it seems to me only just to make her under the circumstances that she should enjoy the title of  ‘Professor of Botany at Barnard College.’” [8]

The way these professorships worked in practice was as inventive as the idea. For every course   Osgood, Clark, and Cole  taught at Columbia, Barnard was provided a substitute of comparable rank. This meant that Barnard students were regularly taught by, in addition to Osgood, Clark and Cole, several of their equally distinguished departmental colleagues, among them the historian James Harvey Robinson, a future president of the American Historical Association, the economist E.R.A. Seligman, a future president of the American Economic Association, and the mathematician Edward Kasner, a future member of the National Academy of Science. No turn-of-the-century American college offered a more celebrated  lineup of professors. These joint appointments also established a precedent for faculty-sharing between Columbia and Barnard that has continued with differing intensity ever since. [9]

While Dean Smith’s role in the creation of the three Barnard professorships at the outset of her deanship is unclear, her subsequent cooperative dealings with Columbia president Seth Low set a standard for all future Barnard administrators. In 1898 she took a lead in persuading Low of the wisdom of setting aside a place on the Barnard board for an alumnae-elected member, a practice the Columbia board took another decade to adopt.  In January 1900 she and President Low presented the Barnard board with the intercorporate agreement formalizing the relationship between Columbia and Barnard that remains in force today. Its key provision was the establishment of a separate and free-standing Barnard faculty, discussed in Chapter 3. [10]

The 1900 intercorporate agreement was  the climactic  act of the Smith deanship. Having married the New York publisher, Civil War veteran  and widower George Haven Putnam in early 1899,  and some months later becoming  pregnant, she chose the signing of the agreement in January 1900 to announce her departure.  “The adoption of the agreement with Columbia puts my conscience at rest as regards any inconvenience to the college from my resignation.” Her departure was especially felt by Barnard students, who related to a dean only a decade older than they, and who brought Greek alive by bringing Homer to freshmen and Plato to sophomores.  The now Mrs. Putnam remained a New Yorker and returned to Barnard in 1914 as a part-time and unremunerated instructor of Greek, continuing in that role until she retired in 1930 upon the death of her husband. If too briefly in place to be viewed as one of the great Barnard administrations, her deanship  of active leadership and effective collaboration with Columbia, stood in stark  contrast to that of her successor.[11]

 3. Fools and Angels

When Jacob Schiff accepted the invitation of Annie Nathan Meyer to join the Barnard board of trustees in the spring of 1889, he also reluctantly agreed to become College treasurer. He did the first  out of a sense of duty as a leader the City’s German-Jewish community, and the second because of his reputation for financial probity as head of Kuhn, Loeb, one of the nation’s two largest merchant banking  firms. But one look at what served as the College’s business plan at the first meeting of the Board’s finance committee in the summer of 1889  gave him second thoughts.  It assumed that once four classes were enrolled, the College could subsist on the continuing income from tuition and fees, plus the occasional outright  gift. With tuition for degree candidates set at $150, and “specials” charged $50 per course,  tuition income was expected to  grow from around $3,000 the first year to $12,000 in 1893 and thereafter. During the four-year ramp-up phase,  annual pledges  of $100 annually from 35 or 40 or 54  “Associates” (their number varies with the teller) were figured to yield an additional  $4,000, with one-time gifts projected to  produce another $6,000. [12]

Upon seeing these numbers, Schiff urged the committee to hold off opening the college for a year until more capital could  be raised. To no avail,  as a majority of the committee voted to proceed with the fall 1889 opening. “Those who were less versed in finance were braver,” Meyer blithely recalled the decision 46 years later. “It was a good deal the case of the old adage concerning fools and angels.” [13]

Schiff stayed on as treasurer for four years, during which time he made donations of $4,500 and two additional loans of $6,000. He often absented himself from board meetings and increasingly left the College’s day-to-day financial affairs of the College to a younger member of the finance committee, the bookman George A. Plimpton.   When in attendance he regularly objected to the practice of annual deficits being made up by dunning individual trustees and having them go hat-in-hand to  Barnard’s early  subscribers. At the board meeting of May 12, 1893,  which Schiff made a point of attending, his dissatisfaction became all too apparent.[14]]

Four converging considerations made this moment in the College’s history critical. With Barnard’s first class set to graduate, the annual subscription fund that had provided a quarter of the College’s budgeted revenue for four years was at an end. Recent efforts to meet operating deficits with individual solicitations had met increasing instances of what latter day fund raisers would call “donor fatigue.” Furthermore, Columbia’s  just announced plans to move its campus to the City’s upper west side, on Morningside Heights, meant  physically severing ties with Barnard unless its trustees could come up with the resources  to accompany Columbia across town. Finally and perhaps most pressing,  in response  to Columbia’s announced move, an anonymous donor (later acknowledged to be Mary E. Brinckerhoff, the widow of the merchant  Van Wyck Brinckerhoff) in 1892 had offered Barnard $100,000 for the construction of a  building  if Barnard could raise  an estimated $140,000 for a site adjacent to the planned Columbia campus. When, a year after the offer had been made and the Barnard board had yet to respond, Mrs. Brinckerhoff’s lawyer  (and later Barnard trustee), Frederick S. Wait,   inquired of Plimpton: “I trust the College is not in deep water.” [15]

Treasurer Schiff’s response to this cascading bad news was to resign. Upon doing so, he offered  to forgive his loans, thus allowing the College to close. Other trustees were less despairing, but even the most upbeat could not dismiss  the financial judgment of one of the City’s leading bankers. Only a gift of $5,000 from J. P. Morgan  the following month solicited by Ella Weed allowed the College to eliminate its projected annual deficit and end the 1892-1893 budget  year free from debt.  “What should we have done if it had not been for that five thousand from Mr. Morgan?,” Plimpton wrote to Miss Weed upon its receipt. “I certainly don’t know. You deserve no end of credit.”    Even with this gift,  Barnard remained five years into its history, as Plimpton later acknowledged, “an institution on the verge of bankruptcy.” [16]

Upon Schiff’s resignation as treasurer, trustee George A. Plimpton became the Barnard board’s acting treasurer. At 39, with  a young family, already  heavily involved in the affairs of his own alma mater, Amherst, and  regularly on the road as  Ginn & Company’s principal textbook salesman, he at first declined to become treasurer. Effective persuasion came from President Low, who told him that “no one can do as much as you can for Barnard College.” Once committed, Plimpton became not only treasurer but for more than four decades Barnard’s  principal fundraiser. Of all the men who have contributed to Barnard’s financial well-being,  George A. Plimpton  stands second to none. [17]

Plimpton’s first act as treasurer was to publish a four-year financial statement that,  while demonstrating Barnard’s continuing needs, acknowledged by name and amount the support of the  dozens of New York families that had  contributed to Barnard since 1889. It specifically mentioned four benefactors who had matched J.P. Morgan’s lead gift of $5,000 by designating Morgan and all future givers at that level the honorific title of “Founder.” He then  launched a “site fund” to raise the $140,000 needed to acquire property on Morningside and match the Brinckerhoff  building gift. When Plimpton began making calls on potential donors, he found he enjoyed asking for money,  particularly  in amounts greater than his prospects were prepared to give, and soon acquired a reputation as one the City’s great fundraisers. “When your drag-net is thrown out,” one $5,000 donor told him, “the fish give up: no use trying to fight.” [18]

The socially prominent trustee Caroline Dutcher Choate introduced Plimpton to the first of Barnard’s major donors.  Elizabeth Milbank Anderson was joint-heir with her brother Joseph to the estate of their father Jeremiah Milbank, a successful merchant and founder of the Borden Evaporated Milk Company. At her father’s death, Elizabeth, who was married to the artist and rancher Abraham Archibald Anderson, received half of his estate estimated at $32,000,000.  Choate knew  Anderson socially and through their respective involvements in the founding of two East Side private schools for girls, the Brearley School, which Choate  help found in 1880, and the Spence School , which  Anderson helped finance in 1892.  The occasion in early 1894 for bringing Anderson and Plimpton together followed on the decision of the trustees of Roosevelt Hospital to decline a proposed gift from  Anderson of $100,000 for a maternity ward.  The meeting produced a gift of $10,000 from her to the Barnard site fund.  An announcement followed shortly and on May 11, 1894  Anderson joined the Barnard board. [19]

[Figure 2.4  Elizabeth Milbank Anderson here]

In the spring of 1896, with  the site fund fully subscribed, the Barnard trustees acquired the vacant city block between 119th and 120th Streets directly across Broadway from the planned Columbia campus.  This met the terms of the Brinckerhoff Building gift and allowed plans for construction to begin. Anderson then announced a second gift, initially for $100,000 and later raised to $170,000, to pay for the construction of a second building on the site. This was followed a year later by a gift  of $140,000 for a third building from Mrs. Josiah M. Fiske, a friend and parishioner of the recently deceased  board chairman Arthur Brooks.  Plans were drawn at Anderson’s direction by her architect Charles Rich of the firm Lamb & Rich, wherein Milbank Hall was to face south, with Brinckerhoff attached  at the 120th St. end on the east and Fiske on the west. A courtyard enclosed on three sides opened to the south.  [20]
[Figure 2.4 – Milbank with Grant’s Tomb behind – here]
Even as the Milbank and Brinckerhoff parts of impressive brick and limestone complex opened in the fall of 1897 (Fiske opened in 1898), Plimpton  secured the offer of a gift of $10,000 for the College from John D. Rockefeller Sr. to establish an endowment conditioned on  Barnard raising $90,000 from other sources.   Although it  took Barnard longer to make the match than the two years  stipulated, Rockefeller  was sufficiently impressed by the number of contributors Plimpton had secured that when the match was made in 1901 he increased his gift to $25,000.   Though still financially shaky, Barnard entered the twentieth century with a treasurer  of the bullish view  that he shared with Fiske’s estate lawyer: “There is no question in my mind that ultimately Barnard College will have a great deal of money; it cannot be otherwise.” [21]  [what explains his optimism?]

Meanwhile, the board’s first chairman, the Rev. Arthur Brooks, a transplanted New Englander and rector of the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation,  died on shipboard returning to New York from a European vacation in the summer of 1894. By agreeing to head the board, he had given the College  an added measure of respectability among the City’s other leading churchmen and Episcopal laity, and his  untimely death came as a blow. Fortunately, an even more widely acknowledged  member of the City’s cultural leadership, and  certified Knickerbocker to boot, the 76-year-old Abram Hewitt, agreed in 1897 to join the board as its second chairman. A Columbia graduate and active alumnus, as well as a generous backer of Cooper Union, Hewitt served for seven  years until turning the chairmanship over to Silas Brown Brownell, one of the original trustees and a leading member of the New York bar. Whatever Barnard’s early problems, attracting members of the City’s professional and cultural elite to its board was not one of them.[22]

  1. Small World

Three members of the original board of trustees, Laura Spelman Rockefeller,  Francis Lynde Stetson,   J.P. Morgan’s personal attorney, and the Rev. Henry Van Dyke, rector of Brick Presbyterian Church,  resigned after only one year of service. But they were the exception. The average tenure of the 22 original board members and the 31 subsequently elected  trustees between 1890 and 1914 was 18 years.  Three  original trustees —  Annie Nathan Meyer (1889-1951), George A. Plimpton (1889-1936), and Caroline Spurgeon Choate  (1889-1929) —  served respectively 62, 48 and 41 years. [23]
Throughout the board’s first quarter century,  the original gender balance was scrupulously maintained, even after the change in membership rules that reserved for an alumna a four-year term on the board. Similarly, the original religious ecumenism persisted, except in the instance of Schiff’s resignation in 1896  which left the board without a member of the City’s German-Jewish community until Sarah Straus Hess (BC 1900) was elected an alumnae trustee in 1919. Meanwhile, the board’s original contingent of Knickerbockers and  transplanted New Englanders increased, assuring a continued predominance of Episcopalians and Presbyterians. Coudert’s resignation in  1902 to accept a position on the Columbia board was followed in 1906 by the election of another Catholic, the retailer Charles Stuart Smith. Collegiate origins remained predominantly Ivy League and leading women’s colleges, with Columbia and Barnard graduates, beginning with the election of Florence Colgate Speranza (Barnard 1893) in 1898 as the first designated alumna member of the board, having a larger presence. Among the male trustees, lawyers increased their already substantial representation. [24] [I think this demographic portrait is interesting and helpful but is it worth putting it more in the context of NYC’s history at this time? Did it reflect the city’s changing demographics among the elite?]

Most of the New Yorkers  Annie Nathan Meyer approached to  serve on the original Barnard board were persons of wealth, but not all. Three of the women  elected to the board — Ella Weed, Helen Dawes Brown and Alice Williams   — were  single and educators with college credentials but no known  independent incomes.  Nor did Meyer herself, her husband’s medical practice notwithstanding,  have access to substantial wealth. That said, the rest of the early trustees, including three of the first four alumnae-elected trustees  had inherited  wealth or had  accumulated fortunes on their own by the time they joined the board.  Included were several of the City’s richest families,    including the Rockefellers, the Choates, the Harrimans , the Milbanks, and the Schiffs. [25]

If not themselves  persons of wealth on this monumental scale, several  board members  enjoyed  privileged access to other people’s money. These included  the estate attorneys  Frederick Wait  and  George W. Smith,  plus  the early board’s four ministers, Arthur Brooks,  Henry Van Dyke, Roderick Terry  and  William Grosvenor, along with the husband of Mrs. Henry Sanders, each the spiritual adviser to one of the five richest congregations in America. Even before he became wealthy himself, Plimpton socialized with people of wealth and felt comfortable  asking the likes of Andrew Carnegie and Joseph Pulitzer to send some  Barnard’s way. [26]

One rough quantitative measure of the wealth of Barnard’s early trustees was the number of live-in household servants they employed. Of the 53 early trustees, 39 have been located in state and federal census records which show they enjoyed the services of an average of 4 live-in servants. The Schiffs had 10, the Choates, 8.[27]

Of the City’s  turn-of-the-century  monied  and culturally favored tribes, five had places on the early Barnard board. In order of their arrival to the city:

  1. Knickerbockers – a mix of seventeenth-century Dutch, Huguenot  and pre-Revolutionary English families; originally Dutch Reformed and Anglican  and following the Revolution increasingly Episcopalian; took  a proprietary interest in Columbia College and Trinity Church and, of course, the Holland Society and the Knickerbocker Club.  Of  this tribe, the early Barnard board could boast  Henry Van Dyke, Abram Hewitt, William M. Grosvenor, and George Rives.2. “Grandees”  – a small number of Jewish families who first arrived in New Amsterdam in the 1650s from Spain and Portugal by way of the West Indies; they included the Cardozos, the Nathans, the Lazuruses;  Sephardic Jews proud of their American pre-Revolutionary origins  kept a social distance from both the more recently arrived and often wealthier  German-speaking Jews and even more from the Eastern European and Russian Jews arriving in the 1880s. Board “Grandees” included Annie Nathan Meyer.3. Transplanted Yankees – New Englanders  who came to New York in the nineteenth century  but laid claim to American lineages dating back to the seventeenth century; possessed multi-generational ties to New England colleges such as Harvard, Yale, Williams, and Amherst. “Transplanted Yankees” enjoyed a clear plurality on the early Barnard board and  came in three denominational types:  Unitarians – Augusta Foote Arnold, Caroline Choate and George Hoadley;  Episcopalians —  Arthur Brooks,  Anne Scollay Low, Mary Harriman Rumsey and  Lucretia Osborn; Presbyterians —  Silas Brown Brownell, George A. Plimpton and Roderick Terry.  Both Brownell and Terry, as well as Lucretia Perry Osborn,  claimed Mayflower descendants, while George Plimpton and Mary Harriman Rumsey traced their family lineage to the Puritan migrations of the 1630s. [28]

    4. “Our Crowd” – German Jews who came to New York after the Civil War, having left Germany and Austria for America from the 1840s onwards; acquired prominence in finance, retailing and publishing; worshipped at the reform synagogue Temple Emanu-El  on Fifth Avenue; sent their children to Dr. Sacks School  or to Ethical Culture. These included the Altschuls, Goldmans,  Goodharts, Guggenheims, Lehmans,  Seligmans,  Speyers, and Warburgs. Their representative on the early Barnard board was  Jacob H. Schiff, and later, Sarah Straus Hess.

    5. Outsiders-with-New-Money – Recently arrived families headed by fabulously rich self-made men whose early business successes were achieved elsewhere but who were drawn to New York as the nation’s corporate capital and for its cultural attractions. Often  evangelical Protestants, they included the Baptists Laura Spelman Rockefeller and Elizabeth Milbank Anderson.

Another indicator of the Barnard board’s class homogeneity was residential propinquity.  At the time of the consolidation in 1897, New York City was even more physically segregated by class and ethnicity, national origins, race, and religion than it is today. The outer boroughs of Queens and the Bronx were fast becoming  home to new arrivals from Eastern Europe. Brooklyn was  a mix of old families and newcomers.  Parts of Manhattan had become ethnic and religious enclaves  – the Lower East Side being home to recently arrived  Italians  and East European Jews; the West Side around Five Points, a largely Irish neighborhood; the far East Side, Germantown.  Harlem was  Jewish-on-the-way-to-becoming-Black.  Staten Island and the upper reaches of Manhattan awaited future development, which in the case of the latter,  came with the opening of the IRT subway in 1904. [29]

[Figure 2.5 – Trustee residences map  here]

All  but one of the  53 early Barnard trustees lived in Manhattan. The  exception,  Clara C. Stranahan, lived in Brooklyn, a condition  dictated by the fact that her husband James S. T. Stranahan had  represented that city for two terms in Congress, helped with the development of Prospect Park,  and was called  “Brooklyn’s First Citizen.” Of the Manhattanites, all but five lived on the East Side, home to both the City’s old  money  and to the socially ambitious  new arrivals, including the families of German Jews. This so-called “silk stocking district” encompassed  a two-mile long and  one-mile wide quadrant  of the 33-square-mile island,  between  24th and 75th Streets,  which defined the  south-north boundaries of  the homes of the City’s “arrived.” Below 59th Street, the favored east-west boundary  extended  two blocks west of 5th Avenue to 6th Avenue, while above 59th it extended east from 5th Avenue  along the lower Central Park over to  Lexington Avenue. Thus, in a city of five boroughs covering 300 square miles, and in the single borough of Manhattan, encompassing 34 square miles, all but a half-dozen of the 53 early Barnard trustees lived within walking distance of each other. [30]

They had their reasons. Manhattan’s East Side included the City’s wealthiest religious institutions, from the Madison Avenue Baptist Church at 35th Street, where the Rockefellers worshipped,  the Presbyterian Brick Church on Park Avenue, favored by the Plimptons,  the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation, where Barnard chair Arthur Brooks served as rector and the birthright Baptist Elizabeth Anderson Milbank attended.  Temple Emanu-el  was located at  5th Avenue and 43rd St., where the Schiff family attended Reform services.   Here, too, on 5th Avenue and 48th St., was St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where the Couderts and the Charles Stewart Smiths worshiped. And here as well were the City’s most socially exclusive private day schools, including Columbia Grammar School, on 51st Street near Madison Avenue, and  its two newest and most fashionable private girls schools,  Brearley, at 6 East 45th St.,  and in 1892, Spence, at 6 West 48th St. [31]

[Figure 2.6 map of East Side’s cultural instns here]

The minutes of the Board of Trustees in 1897, following the College’s move from the East Side to Morningside,  inadvertently  confirm the members’ residential propinquity. The first board meetings had been held at  343 Madison and 44th St., within easy walking  distance from most of the  trustees‘ homes, but the move to Morningside Heights now entailed a considerable trek north and west  across town.  When attendance fell off and trustees  complained about the inconvenience, it was agreed that future board meetings would be held at the home of board chairman Abram Hewitt, on Madison and  34th Street, and following Hewitt’s death at the homes or offices of various East Side trustees. Board meetings on the Morningside campus did not resume until the 1920s. [32]

Two other markers of social standing confirm the early Barnard board’s high social standing.    Of the 47 Barnard trustees residing in New York City in 1901, 40 (85%) were in that year’s New York Social Register.  The seven trustees unlisted included two  elected by the alumnae (Florence Colgate Speranza and Ella Fitzgerald Bryson) and Jacob H. Schiff, who, because the Register included clubs that excluded Jews, refused to be listed and insisted his extended family and partners do likewise.  A  publication that competed with the Social Register, but  of men,  King’s Notable New Yorkers,  included well over half (25 of 46) of the trustees or their male spouses,  including Schiff. [33]

Male trustees and husbands of female trustees  belonged to all manner of socially exclusive clubs and societies, some related to their occupations, such as the Downtown Club, favored by Morgan-affiliated  bankers,  some to genealogical organizations  like the Holland Society, the Knickerbocker Club, the Order of Cincinnati or Sons of the Colonial Wars, some recreational,  such as the New York Yacht Club and the Automobile Association. Others belonged to the Grolier Club, home of dedicated  bibliophiles.  Women trustees joined the Colony Club upon its opening in 1903 and four years later the Junior League, founded by Barnard Trustee Mary Harriman Rumsey. All these club memberships were by invitation. [34]

Of the clubs the Century Association, founded in 1847 for “Artists, Literary Men, Scientists, Physicians, Officers of the Army and Navy, members of the Bench and Bar, Engineers, Clergymen, Representatives of the Press, Merchants and Men of Leisure,” located at 7 West 43rd Street, had  the widest  appeal for New York’s cultural elite. Of Barnard’s 26 early male trustees, 22 were Centurions  as were 10 trustee spouses.  The Club’s informal proscription of Jews precluded Schiff and Dr. Meyer  from membership, while its liberal beverage policy  kept away Henrietta Talcott’s husband, James Talcott, the founder of the New York Christian Home for Intemperate Men. But for others, especially relative newcomers to the City such as the New England transplant George Plimpton, election in 1894 to the Century Association, fully as much as taking up residence on Park Avenue,  confirmed his transition from  “aspiring” outlander to socially “arrived” Gothamite. [35]

                                                               Tale of Two Cities
Given their own social homogeneity, did  the early trustees envision Barnard serving New Yorkers other than their privileged selves? Put differently, was Barnard  intended primarily as an instrument of class certification and consolidation or  an engine of interclass assimilation? This is not to insist that  Barnard had to be one or the other,  either in the service of Edith Wharton’s “Old New York”  or Jacob Riis’s “The Other Half,” or that it could not be both.  Barnard’s early trustees did engage in efforts of social outreach, among them  the Charity Organization Society and the settlement house movement.   This said, Barnard was not founded as  a charitable outreach to the City’s poor and recently arrived by the City’s  “very earnest, philanthropic, public-spirited class,” but for them as an instrument of class consolidation.

Support for this argument begins with Annie Nathan Meyer’s 1888 letter to The Nation, where she identified four groups of New York women  from which a day college for women  would draw its students. Two of them, those attending college elsewhere for want of a New York women’s college and those “bemoaning their fate because  their parents will not allow them to leave their homes,”  she assumed came from families of economic means and social standing. As for the third group she identified, the 1,600 New York women attending the Normal College, Meyer specifically excluded those “whose parents  could not afford to pay tuition fees,” while laying claim to those with “parents who could easily afford it, and would gladly send their daughters to a private college where a degree could be procured.” The fourth included those girls, like herself, again for family reasons rather than financial constraints, were bound to the City and were limited to either correspondence courses or an “apology for a Collegiate course for women held out by Columbia College.” [36]

Neither in Barnard Beginnings nor in her autobiography,  It’s Been Fun, did Meyer retrospectively suggest  an institutional purpose for Barnard other than  providing New York young women of the comfortable class local access to higher education equal to young men of the same class.  During her 62 years as a trustee,  she occasionally described Barnard  as a meeting place where New York girls from Christian and Jewish families interacted to their mutual benefit, but  she never went beyond commending such intra-class ecumenical mingling to suggest that the College function as a class-dissolving  melting pot. [37]

In  a statement published in 1894 in the Barnard Annual entitled “The Constituency of Barnard College,”  board chairman Rev. Arthur Brooks directly posed the question,  “for whom was [Barnard]  intended and from what class of women is it to draw its students?”  He then proceeded to identify two classes. The first was “the large number of New York women who are not likely to be compelled to earn their own living and whose sphere of life, in all probability, is to lie in the family or in New York society.”  The second were “women dependent upon their own efforts for their support.”  Further on he argued that  “the education which the college offers” was intended for  “no one class of lives, but for every possible position in life.” Still, one can easily imagine this well-born, Harvard-educated Episcopal priest thinking the College’s mission was in the first instance providing a collegiate education for the wealthy and socially connected daughters of the families who made up his East Side  congregation. [38]

Another  attempt to define Barnard’s anticipated clientele, this by  trustee Helen Dawes Brown in a 1891 report to the board from the Students Committee, identified “two classes of girls in New York for whom my sympathies are enlisted: the girls  who are too rich to go to college, and the girls who are too poor.” Brown went on to call for the establishment of a scholarship fund to assist those “hungering for just what this college gives, but without the means  to come here.”  It was seven more years before   Barnard’s first scholarship was established, the funding coming not from the board but a gift from the Daughters of the American Revolution, hardly a champion of social inclusion.  That no Barnard trustee publicly stated the board’s  institutional aspirations for Barnard as plainly as founder  Joseph W. Taylor did for Bryn Mawr —  “The advanced education and care of Young Women or girls of the higher and more refined classes of Society” – does not imply a more expansive social mandate.  In the absence of contrary evidence,  it is at least arguable that Barnard’s founders and early backers expected the College to primarily serve the families of New Yorkers  a Columbia trustees referred to as “our own kind.”  Not New York girls in general and not the poorest or most recent arrivals among them, but their own daughters and nieces, those of their professional colleagues, those with whom they played golf on Saturdays and worshipped on Sundays, and those they hoped to see their sons, grandsons, and nephews marry. [39]

How then to account for the fact that so few of the families of New York’s turn-of-the-century social elite, including those  of trustees, sent their daughters to Barnard?   Trustee and later board chairman Silas Brown Brownell had five daughters. His two older ones (Louise and Matilda) were attending Bryn Mawr when Barnard opened in 1889 and stayed  on there;  his three younger daughters (Sylvia, Eleanor and Grace) all also went to Bryn Mawr. Henry Van Dyke  had three daughters,  Frederick Coudert (1889-1902) and Hamilton Wright Mabie (1889-1905) each  had two college-age daughters,  and Roderick Terry had one, but none attended Barnard. Jacob Schiff had a daughter, Frieda, who attended the Brearley School but did not go to college. Henrietta Talcott had two college-age daughters, one of whom, Edith, attended Barnard briefly before transferring to Oberlin, where her younger sister Grace followed her. Elizabeth Milbank Anderson’s only  daughter, Eleanor,  graduated from  the Spence School in 1896 and proceeded to Bryn Mawr.  Of the 45 families represented among Barnard’s first generation of trustees, only one,  Annie Nathan Meyer’s, had a daughter graduate from Barnard. [40]

Additional evidence attesting to the infrequency with which not only Barnard trustees but the City’s moneyed elite generally sent their daughters to Barnard in those years can be inferred from the college placement patterns of Manhattan’s most socially exclusive private girls schools. The Brearley School opened in 1884 with an explicit purpose to prepare its girls for admission to the newly opened Harvard Annex. Barnard trustee Caroline Choate  was one of its founders and Barnard trustee Alice Williams taught there. The Spence School opened in 1892 on West 45th Street to serve much the same social clientele.  Its founder, Clara Spence, and  major financial backer, Elizabeth Milbank Anderson, were both  Barnard trustees, as was Charlotte Baker, the Spence School headmistress. Despite these links, neither Brearley nor Spence became a significant feeder to Barnard. Both sent most of their college-going graduates to Bryn Mawr or Vassar. One early Brearley graduate who transferred to Barnard from Bryn Mawr  for family reasons later recalled Brearley’s college-selection process: “Nobody ever mentioned Barnard.” [41]  [Why is this? What explains the elites’ reluctance to attend Barnard?]                              

  1. “Not in society exactly; we were professional people”

The evolving social makeup  of the families from which the early  Barnard student body came  was not what Barnard’s founders had expected. Nor was it likely what at least  some of them wanted. The evidence here is  admittedly more qualitative than quantitative, less statistically verifiable than anecdotally inferable. Yet a comparison  of two early graduating classes, separated by a dozen years, suggests a widening gap between the social world of the College’s New York founders and trustees and the social world of its students.  The first such class, that of 1899, the seventh class to graduate and the one that split its four years between the original East Side campus and Barnard’s second home on Morningside Heights, was profiled by Virginia Crocheron  Gildersleeve.  Gildersleeve’s portrait  serves  two  narrative purposes: an early introduction to the single most important person in Barnard’s history; and an  early indication of my abiding ambivalence about  Gildersleeve’s  reliability  and her legacy. [42]

In 1954, seven years after her retirement, Virginia Gildersleeve  published her autobiography,  Many a Good Crusade,  to favorable reviews.  Undertaken in part – as are most instances of the genre – to preempt posthumous scrutiny by telling her story first as she wanted it told, her account of her early life offers a portrait of a privileged  family in the New York society of her youth. It also includes an extended account of her four years as a Barnard student, including  descriptions of her classmates. However compelling her affectionate  rendering of “Old New York,” that of her classmates should be read with a skeptical eye. [43]

Virginia  Crocheron Gildersleeve was born on October 3, 1877, in New York City. Her childhood  passed as  part of a family on both sides socially and economically secure, safely  “arrived.” “We were not in ‘society’ exactly,” her mother early on explained, “we were professional people.” They   resided at 28 West Forty-eighth Street, just off Fifth Avenue, “a very quiet and respectable street in those days.”

Our house was brick with brownstone trim, but practically all the other houses
on both sides of the street were the orthodox brownstone complete, four stories
and basement, high stoop in front. They were inhabited  by solid American families.
I recall the names of the Griswolds, the Whitfields, the Rhinelanders, the Frelinghuysens.
A few of them were more wealthy and more socially prominent than we were.

Andrew Carnegie’s future wife, Gildersleeve recalled,  “lived just across the street.” [44]

The autobiography  describes the domestic servants the Gildersleeves employed,  along with a passing assessment of the new New Yorkers then in  service:

They [the Gildersleeves ] had  two maids, — a cook and a chambermaid-waitress – and they
had someone come in to do the washing . The servants were almost invariably Irish.
From my third- story rear bedroom I could often hear fiddles playing Irish jigs as maids in
neighboring kitchens  danced at night. I grew up with the vague and utterly preposterous
idea that domestic servants were the only variety of persons produced by that brilliant race. [45]

Both sides of Virginia’s  family claimed ancient American lineages. The Gildersleeves went  back eight generations to a New England landfall in 1635; the Crocherons were part of the French Huguenot diaspora that came to Staten Island in the 1690s. Such geneaological  credentials  mattered enough to  Gildersleeve to devote 14 pages of her autobiography to them, including a non-judgmental account of the Crocherons’ stake in an Alabama  cotton plantation, with 200 slaves held as disposable property. [46]

While Virginia’s mother and namesake  was depicted as a powerful  force domestically and “loved very dearly,”  the family’s men  garnered most of her  attention. Her father, Henry Alger Gildersleeve, a Civil War veteran, organizer of the American Rifle Association, prominent lawyer and an elected municipal  judge, who later served as a justice  on the Supreme Court of the State of New York, is described as  “spectacularly handsome,”  with a picture of him at 70 to prove it. Of her older brothers, Alger and Harry (two sisters  died before Virginia was born), the younger Harry, seven years her senior,  is depicted as “this radiant figure of my childhood” and “the brilliant member of the family.” Her early childhood, as she wrote, was  one where  “no sorrow had ever touched me,” but tragedy intervened  when Harry,  in 1891, just after completing Columbia law school, contracted typhoid fever and  died. “At that moment,” she wrote, “a black curtain cut my life in two.” [47]

To help with their daughter’s grieving, the Gildersleeves  enrolled   14-year-old  Virginia at the City’s most exclusive girls’ school,  Brearley.  They did so on the recommendation of  Frederick Coudert, a  colleague of Judge Gildersleeve and a fellow member of the Century Club.   In the fall of  her senior year at Brearley, Virginia decided that if she were to go on to college it would be to Bryn Mawr, where most of her college-bound classmates were headed.  Her mother ruled otherwise. “There is a perfectly good college here in New York,” by which she meant Barnard,  she informed her distraught daughter. Barnard  came recommended by Mrs. Choate, Counsellor  Coudert and any number of other Gildersleeve social acquaintances who served on the College’s board. [48] [As I mentioned above, given these recommendations why was Barnard spurned by NYC’s elite?]

The decision  did not sit well with Virginia.   Barnard’s  admission requirements, identical with  Columbia College, still required  knowledge  of Greek, which Brearley did not teach at the time. This  necessitated  a cram course on top of her regular program and produced much anxiety about the entrance exam to be administered in the spring. She passed  the exam and was accepted to Barnard, the only Brearley girl to have applied. On October 3, 1895, her eighteenth birthday, she appeared along with the other  entering 21 members of the Class of 1899 on the steps of the scruffy brownstone at 343 Madison Avenue, by her  own alliterative account,  “shy, snobbish, solemn.”[49]

“All more or less on the same social level.”

A year later,  Virginia  had become a class leader and elected as sophomore class vice president.  What explains this turnabout? Her academic success  made her an early  favorite of her teachers, but her social success among her peers is less easily accounted for. She likely benefitted from her home’s proximity to Barnard, a 10-minute walk,  during Barnard’s  last two years at the Madison Avenue site and by her mother’s hosting student gatherings – she was made an honorary member of the class of 1899 in Virginia’s first year.  [50]

Of the 25 young women who were members of the Class of 1899 at some point,  five are specifically mentioned   in Gildersleeve’s account. Grace Goodale is cited briefly for the novelty of her not coming from New York City but from upstate.   Two other classmates were also  residentially demarcated.  located.  Of Edith Striker:  “gay and laughing and loyal, whose home was in East Orange, New Jersey.”  Alte Stilwell:, “nimble-witted and warmhearted, who lived in a pleasant, dignified Harlem street.”  [51]

[Insert Figure 2.8 – Class of 1899 — around here]

Considerably more attention is given to East Sider Alice Duer, who entered the class as a junior. She was the granddaughter of  William A. Duer, president of Columbia College (1829-42) and great granddaughter of Rufus King, a signer of the United States Constitution and  chairman of the Columbia board of trustees. Her father, James Gore King Duer, was a well-known speculator who went bankrupt  the year his daughter was to be presented in society, leaving the family financially adrift. Alice delayed applying to Barnard until  she was able to  pay her own way through journalism and writing fiction for magazines. Three years older than her classmates and financially on her own, Alice Duer was the class exotic. Five months after graduating  she  married a wealthy New York  broker, William Miller. Her husband’s success on Wall Street  allowed her to devote herself to writing fiction and poetry, and later screen writing for Hollywood. She remained a lifelong friend of Virginia Gildersleeve,  who  more than a half-century after making her acquaintance, recalled Alice as a school girl: “She was beautiful and she was brilliant and she was charming. She brought into our classrooms a glamour from the outer world and her friendship gave me the romance of my youth.” [52]

Another East Sider, Marjorie Jacobi,  also joined the Class of 1899 as a junior and merited extended mention from Gildersleeve. She was the daughter of Dr. Mary Putnam Jacobi, one of the first women physicians in the United States,  and Dr. Abraham Jacobi, professor of pediatrics at the College of Physicians and Surgeons (which had been integrated into Columbia University in 1892) and “the father of American pediatrics.” Shortly after graduation, Marjorie married George McAneny, a wealthy, socially connected New Yorker, who later served as chairman of NYC Board of  Aldermen. Left unmentioned by Gildersleeve were classmates Rosalie Bloomingdale, Ella Seligsberg and Sarah Straus,  all from prominent German-Jewish families residing on the East Side,  Eliza Kupfer, whose parents were Jews from Russia and lived on the West Side, and  Martha Ornstein, whose mother was from Hungary and lived in Brooklyn.[53]

For Gildersleeve and her Barnard crowd,  those  the New York Times called the “socially, intellectually and athletically prominent” (Virginia played golf and was familiar with guns), membership in a Greek sorority (then called a fraternity)  provided a desired measure of exclusivity that Barnard’s otherwise more  egalitarian  environment lacked. The College’s first fraternity, Kappa Kappa Gamma,  was established in 1891 and initially included all regularly enrolled students.  By the spring of 1896, when Gildersleeve was inducted, its membership had become more exclusive and included less than a quarter of the student body. Virginia was the only member of her freshman class to be inducted. During her sophomore and junior year, she saw to the induction of  her friends, Duer, Jacobi, Striker, and Stilwell. Never included was a majority of her class, among them its  five identified Jewish members, one of whom, Sarah Straus, the daughter of Isidor and Ida Straus, the owners of Macy’s Department Store, who would in 1919 be elected as alumnae member of the Barnard board of trustees.  Virginia’s   sorority sisters were the  narrow sample from which she derived two conclusions about her class contained in her 1954 autobiography: that it  was “far less varied in make-up than a college class of today” and that its members were  “all more or less on the same social level.”  The first was probably true, but  the second is  questionable and ignores the social tensions at the anything but inclusive Barnard of her day. [54] [But isn’t this true for the fraternity if not Barnard?]

Also unmentioned in her autobiography was an incident that occurred in Virginia’s sophomore year. That spring  Stella Stern, a popular junior  from New Orleans, was denied admission to Kappa Kappa Gamma  because she was Jewish.  Stern and three of her Christian classmates,   Jessie Hughan, ’98, Helen St. Clair (Mullan) ’98, and Elizabeth Wyman ’98,   protested the decision and set out to end the KKG monopoly by forming their own sorority, Alpha Omnicron Pi [AOP], with a chapter charter that explicitly prohibited religious discrimination. [So were they give their charter?] Over the next decade six more chapters of national sororities  were established at Barnard, all closed to the College’s  growing number of Jewish students. [55]

It was not that Virginia was indifferent to changes occurring around her. In the spring of her senior year she published an undergraduate essay, “The Changing College Population,”  lamenting  the declining focus on academics  and the increasing attention to the social side of college-going. Whatever the validity of these observations, the essay ignored more sweeping changes occurring in the economic  circumstances of Barnard students, and certainly gives no indication that these  reportedly more fun-loving newcomers were any less well off or less socially credentialed  than “the studious middle-class daughters” of her later imagining. [56]

  1. Guess Who’s Coming to Barnard?

By their graduation Virginia  Gildersleeve and her privileged KKG sorority sisters were already a declining presence at Barnard. For every incoming student whose socially prominent New York parents sent her to Barnard,  several equally credentialed New York parents entrusted their  daughters  to Bryn Mawr, Smith, Wellesley, and Vassar.   This was particularly true for the daughters  of  Protestant East Side families who prepared at private day schools such as Brearley and Spence, where both institutional influence and social pressure directed them to one or another of the out-of-town  “country colleges.”  Less so the daughters of  the City’s East-Side German-Jewish elite prepared at Dr. Sacks’ School or Ethical Culture, who, either because  of suspected  anti-Semitism on some women’s  college campuses or tighter familial bonds, were more likely to have their daughters either forego college altogether (the fate of the Schiffs’ daughter Freida), or send them to nearby Barnard. [57]

By the early 1900s Barnard served  a portion of the City’s German Jewish community  as one of its colleges of choice for their academically inclined daughters. If their  presence distressed some Barnard trustees, no evidence of such has been found. Moreover, whatever her private reservations about her more recently arrived co-religious, Annie Nathan Meyer applauded  this development in her dealings with the Guggenheims,  whom she assured in the course of seeking financial help for the College that Barnard  welcomed Jews. But what even  Mrs. Meyer had not anticipated, and almost certainly disapproved of, was the appearance of increasing numbers of applicants from the daughters of Yiddish-speaking Jewish families now residing in the City’s outer boroughs and only a generation removed from the shetls of eastern Europe and Russia. In complaining to President Butler in 1905 about her daughter’s rejection by Miss Keller’s School, one of many private schools  with Columbia faculty on their boards that discriminated against Jews, Annie Nathan Meyer agreed that “no school need accept more than a certain  proportion [of Hebrews].”
No Hebrew objects to that. The loud or coarse or those that are too German or
Russian to affiliate with the students may with justice be rejected. A common,
unrefined brewer may send his boy or girls to these schools but a cultured
Hebrew with American traditions, and even if belonging to the oldest families
of the country is not permitted the same liberty.

For added effect, Meyer copied the Guggenheims. To all of which Butler coolly responded on behalf of Columbia: “We are much more often charged with favoring Jews than with discriminating against them.” Clearly the “Hebrew Problem”  was not Virginia Gildersleeve’s classmates Rosalie Bloomingdale, Ella Seligsberg or Sarah Straus, but the other unremarked upon classmates, Elise Kupner  and Martha Ornstein. [58]

Or if not Ornstein or Kupner (the latter going  from Barnard to a distinguished career as chair of the botany department of Wadleigh High School), then what about the “most unsavory girl” who appeared unannounced on campus in the summer of 1901, as Bursar N.W. Liggett reported to the  newly arrived Dean Laura Drake Gill:

Not a creature has been here… save a most unsavory girl, named Fox, who took the
examinations for Barnard at Fall River, and who has never received any word as to
the results. We have been taken in by this girl. Her home and locality where she lives
persuaded me that she was of saintly Puritan stock, but not quite orthodox, since she
turned her back upon the colleges of New England for those of New York. She turns
out to be an unwashed (I crave pardon for the word, but it required a strong one) Jew!
She has friends living on the lower east side of Third Avenue, with whom she proposes
to live! I gave her almost an hour of my time, and wish heartily she would partake
herself to Radcliffe.

What Bursar Liggett,  a Vassar graduate, had yet to understand and Gill, a graduate of Smith, would never  grasp, was that the nature of  college-going  for New York girls had fundamentally changed in the dozen years since Barnard’s founding. Once limited to the East Side daughters  of the wealthy and well-born  and privately prepared, college  was becoming a possibility  for a wider segment of New Yorkers, not least for the academically ambitious daughters of immigrant families “living on the lower east side of Third Avenue” and in the City’s  outer boroughs. [59]

             To be sure, a few of the City’s wealthiest WASP families did send their daughters to Barnard. Subsequent trustees Florence Colgate (BC 1895) and  Mary Harriman (BC 1905), the daughter of the railroad magnate Edward Harriman, granddaughter of an Episcopal bishop and the founder of the Junior League, are cases in point. More common, but still a minority, were the daughters  of wealthy German-Jewish families, as with  future trustees Sarah Straus Hess (BC 1900) and Helen Lehman Goodhart Altschul (BC 1907). Florence Samet Rothschild, the daughter of an Alsatian-Jewish real estate developer, who attended religious services at Temple Emmanu-El on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, entered Barnard in 1904, and later described her background: “I came from a very wealthy family….We were fancy people.”  [60]

However,  fewer of the City’s “fancy people” availed themselves of Barnard than Meyer and others active in the College’s founding anticipated. Having described itself in King’s Handbook of New York in 1893 as mainly for “New York girls, whose parents prefer that their daughters should live at home during their collegiate educations,” the College soon found that whatever parental preferences might have been  in the Meyer and Gildesleeve household, turn-of-the-century college-bound girls from New York families of means preferred to go off to one of the country colleges than live at home and commute to Barnard. By Barnard’s second decade of operations, following its move from the Madison Avenue  to Morningside, it was attracting fewer socially credentialed East Side residents than in its opening decade. [61]

More than the loosening of parental ties among the City’s elite families and a greater willingness to grant daughters the same away-to-college experience provided sons, confounded the expectations of Barnard’s founders. Equally  disruptive  was the demographic transformation of turn-of-the-century New York. Even as the earlier influx  of German immigrants slowed, and that of Irish immigrants continued apace, the city witnessed  a new wave of immigrants from Italy and Eastern Europe, the latter mostly  impoverished and often illiterate Jews, who spoke Yiddish, a “mongrel” language that bespoke  centuries of dislocations.  For some  settled New Yorkers, including  quickly acculturating German Jews who arrived  a generation earlier, these newcomers posed a threat to the standing social order greater than did the Irish, who, after all, spoke English and were Christians of a sort.  By 1910 eastern European Jews made up 25 percent of the population of the consolidated city. A year earlier a survey indicated that three out of  four New York residents  had a foreign-born parent. [62]

Another unanticipated development was the remarkable upgrading  of the  city’s public schools begun in the 1870s and accelerated with the passage of the New York School Law of 1896.  It provided for the opening of public high schools throughout the five boroughs, several of which now offered instruction in the subjects  required for admission to college. These included coeducational high schools like Jamaica High School in Queens and Morris High School in the Bronx, both opened in 1897, and  Curtis High School opened on Staten Island in 1904. And then there were the new high schools  for girls, including  the Girls’ High School in Brooklyn (1886) and Wadleigh High School for Girls, which opened in 1902 on  Manhattan’s West II4th Street in the  largely Jewish neighborhood of Harlem, only four blocks from Barnard.  A similar boom in high school building was underway in the towns of Westchester County and northern New Jersey. [63]

In 1906, some 9,000 eighth-graders entered one of the City’s eighteen public high schools. A majority of them left at 16 to enter the work force. Of those from Irish families, who constituted 19 percent of the City’s population,  only 6 percent stayed  to graduate. Those from Italian  families, who made up 6 percent of the City’ population, only 3 percent stayed on. Meanwhile, students whose parents immigrated from Russia, and made up 7 percent of the City’s population, comprised  12 percent of all graduates. A 1911 report on Causes of Elimination of Students in Public Secondary Schools in New York City, using 1906 and 1908 data, concluded that “The Hebrews far exceed all others, including native-born Americans, in their appreciation and use of New York City high schools.” [64]

The report also concluded that girls enrolled in high school were more likely to stay on through graduation than boys, describing the operative family dynamic : “When resources are meagre the older boys are sent to work; the older girls on the other hand are frequently sent to high school.”  This applied with more force within Irish families, where 10 girls went to high school for every 6 boys, whereas  Jewish families  sent 5 boys to high school for every 4 girls. For both immigrant groups, the report speculated  “older boys are sent to work and only the youngest boys are sent to high school. The older girls, on the other hand are frequently sent to high school, it appears, possibly in the hope of making teachers of them.”  [65]

In 1908, a majority  of the 24,000 students enrolled in New York City public schools were girls. Of these only an estimated  7,000 were  from native-born families,  some  living in “two, rarely three rooms in a crowded tenement house section in the least attractive neighborhood.“ Many of the 3,600 Jewish and 1,000 Irish girls came from even worse residential circumstances. But if only  a quarter of these girls stayed on to graduate from high school, and then sought further education to enable them to teach in the public schools from which they graduated, they constituted a vast local student pool, one that  Barnard’s founders had not anticipated twenty years earlier. The question became  whether Barnard  would embrace this new demographic reality –  young women in numbers  “from the least attractive neighborhoods” in search of higher education – or  remain favoring those Trustee chair Arthur Brooks called “New York women who are not likely to be compelled to earn their living.” [66]

Three other turn-of-the-century developments unanticipated by Barnard’s founders, technical in nature, but together further democratized New Yorkers’ access to higher education. The elimination of Greek as a prequisite for college admission, led by Harvard in 1886, was soon followed by others, Columbia and Barnard doing so in 1897. Public high schools offering  Latin to their most ambitious students now found themselves legitimate pathways to college. [67]

Another development can be directly credited to  Columbia’s Nicholas Murray Butler. Before ascending to the Columbia presidency, he worked for a decade  to persuade twelve colleges, including Columbia and Barnard,  to forego their  entrance exams in favor of a uniform admissions examination to  be administered by a consortium of college administrators called the College Entrance Examination Board. Once Harvard signed on in 1904,  other colleges followed and the “College Boards” became the  national mechanism by which colleges determined the  eligibility of an applicant. College-administered  exams soon became a thing of the past. [68]

A third development  specific to New York State was the 1904 decision by the  Board of Regents  to administer state-administered subject-specific  examinations  to graduating high school seniors.   Passing scores on these “Regents Exams”  quickly  became an acceptable basis for admission to colleges throughout New York State and beyond.  Columbia and Barnard announced in 1906 that they would  automatically accept any applicant who scored above 60 percent on four of the Regents exams.   [69]

The combined effect of these  developments would almost certainly make Barnard more diverse and inclusive than any of the College’s  founders envisioned.  Accepting the idea of an inclusive Barnard  would take time,  and even more time would be required if those favoring a more exclusive Barnard sought to  evade the social imperative that came with the College’s New York location.

Chapter 2 – End Notes

[1] Arthur Brooks, “The Constituency of Barnard College,” Barnard Annual Vol. 1 (May 1894), 10.

[2] Virginia S. Brownell, “Ella Weed – In Memoriam,” Barnard Annual, Vol. 1 (May, 1894); “Ella Weed,” Vassar College Encyclopedia, vcencyclopedia.vassar.edu/alumni/ella.weed.html


[3] George A. Plimpton to Ella Weed, March 11, 1893, Plimpton Papers, Barnard College Archives.

[4] Annie Nathan Meyer, Barnard Beginnings, 84-90.

[5] Marilyn Ogilvie, “Emily L. Gregory,” Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science (London: Rutledge, 2001), Vol. 1, 528.


[6] For early faculty appointments, http://blogs.cuit.columbia.edu/ram31/appendices/appendices-index-page/faculty-appendix/barnard-faculty-by-appointment-year-1889-2019/


[7]  Emily James Smith bio àEllen Lagerman, Notable American Women


[8] McCaughey, Stand, Columbia, 189.


[9] Ibid.


[10] “Agreement Between the Trustees of Columbia College in the City of New York and Barnard College, New York City,” January 19, 1900. Reprinted in Meyer, Barnard Beginnings, 185-189.


[11] Emily James Smith Putnam to George A. Plimpton, February 26, 1901, Plimpton Papers, Barnard Archives; [James Harvey Robinson] Acting Dean’s Report, 1900-1901.


[12] George A. Plimpton, “Early Barnard Finances,”  Bulletin of the Associate Alumnae of Barnard College, Vol. 4, No. 2 (June 1915), 10-14.


[13] Meyer, Barnard Beginnings, 141-42.


[14] Cyrus Adler, Jacob H. Schiff, 2 vols. (Garden City, NY, 1929); Naomi Cohen, Jacob H. Schiff: A Study in American Jewish Leadership (Waltham: Brandeis University Press, 1999); Meyer, Barnard Beginnings, 176-177.


[15] Frederick S. Wait to Seth Low, March 22, 1893, Special Collections, Columbia University Archives,  Box 664; Barnard Board of Trustees, Minutes, May 12, 1893; Barnard College Financial Appendix, http://blogs.cuit.columbia.edu/ram31/appendices/appendices-index-page/finances-appendix/barnard-college-revenues-1889-90-to-1892-93/


[16] George A. Plimpton to Ella Weed, March 11, 1893; Plimpton, “The Financial History of Barnard College,”  Bulletin of the Associate Alumnae of Barnard College, Vol. 4, No. 2 (June 1915), 10-14.


[17] Ibid., 13.


[18] George Plimpton to Ella Weed, “Proofs of the statement of finances for four complete years,” November 1, 1893, Barnard College Archives;  Barnard Board of Trustees, Minutes, May 11, 1894. Mrs. F.P. Olcott  to  George A. Plimpton, May 12, 1896, Plimpton Papers, Barnard College Archives.


[19] George A. Plimpton to Mrs. Joseph H. Choate, April 26, 1894, Plimpton Papers, Barnard College Archives.

[20] $140,000 gift from Mrs. Josiah M. Fiske announced at board meeting of May 7, 1897. John William Robson, ed., A Guide to Columbia University (New York: Columbia University Press, 1937), 125-136.


[21] Rockefeller challenge gift of $10,000, made  in letter of June 25, 1898 to George A. Plimpton,   announced at board’s meeting of October 12, 1898.


[22] “Memorial of Rev Arthur Brooks,” The New York Times, January 20, 1896.


[23] ”Trustee Statistical Appendix”  for original 22 board members and the 31 subsequent members elected between 1890 and 1914.


[24] http://blogs.cuit.columbia.edu/ram31/appendices/appendices-index-page/trustees-appendix/


[25] Ibid.


[26] Meyer, Barnard Beginnings, 110.


[27]  http://blogs.cuit.columbia.edu/ram31/appendices/appendices-index-page/trustees-appendix/


[28] Obituary for Lucretia Osborn, the New York Times,


[29] David C. Hammack, Power and Society: Greater New York at the Turn of the Century (New York, Columbia University Press, 1982), 65-78;  Sven Beckert, The Monied Metropolis: New York City and the Consolidation of the American Bourgeosie, 1850-1896 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 237-272.


[30] For residences of trustees, http://blogs.cuit.columbia.edu/ram31/appendices/appendices-index-page/trustees-appendix/1646-2/


[31] Manhattan’s East Side  defined here as encompassing the blocks south of Central Park over to 6th Avenue and East of the Park to 3rd Avenue, with the southern limit the upper 20s and northern limit the upper 80s. For location of East Side cultural institutions, see xxx.


[32] Barnard Board of Trustees, Minutes, December 1, 1898, Barnard College Archives.


[33] Clifton Hood, In Pursuit of Privilege: A History of New York City’s Upper Class & The Making of a Metropolis (New York: Columbia University Press, 2017), 207-250.


[34] Ibid.


[35] Sven Beckert, The Monied Metropolis: New York City and the Consolidation of the American Bourgeosie, 1850-1896 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 265-267.


[36] Annie Nathan Meyer letter to The Nation, January 21, 1888, reprinted in Barnard Beginnings, Appendix C., 167-174.


[37] On Meyer no advocate of Barnard as a melting pot, Goldenberg, “Annie Nathan Meyer,” xxx.


[38] Rev. Arthur Brooks, “The Constituency of Barnard College,” Barnard Annual, Vol. 1 (May 1894), 10-12.


[39] Helen Dawes Brown, “Report of the Students’ Committee,” in Barnard Board of Trustees, Minutes, November 11, 1891. On the establishment of the College’s first scholarships, The Barnard Dean’s Annual Report , 1898-1899.


[40] http://blogs.cuit.columbia.edu/ram31/appendices/appendices-index-page/trustees-appendix/barnard-board-of-trustees-by-appt-year-1889-1914/


[41] In 1900, five Brearley graduates and two Spence graduates were candidates for admission to Barnard. Meanwhile,  while six New York City public high schools sent 22 candidates. Early Academic Records, Box 12, Barnard College Archives. Elizabeth Man Sarcka, BC ’17, Centennial Oral History Interview by Arline Winer, Barnard College Archives.

[42] http://blogs.cuit.columbia.edu/ram31/appendices/appendices-index-page/students-alumnae-appendix/social-profile-of-class-of-1899/


[43] Virginia C. Gildersleeve, “I Move Out of the Back Row,” Many a Good Crusade (New York: Macmillan, 1954), 34-48.


[44] “A Victorian Childhood,” Many a Good Crusade, 17-33.


[45] Ibid., 23.

[46] Ibid., 3-16.


[47] Ibid., 13-16, photograph facing 20; 33.


[48] Ibid., 34-39.


[49] Ibid., 40.


[50] VCG’s mother listed as honorary member of Class of 1899 in 1896 Barnard Mortarboard.


[51] On Grace Goodale, who later became a Barnard instructor of Classics, Edith Striker and Alte Stilwell, Gildersleeve, Many a Good Crusade, 41.


[52] Ibid., 41.


[53] Ibid., 41-42.


[54] Ibid., 42. For VCG’s Jewish classmates, http://blogs.cuit.columbia.edu/ram31/appendices/appendices-index-page/students-alumnae-appendix/social-profile-of-class-of-1899/


[55] On Alpha Omnicron Pi’s founding at Barnard, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpha_Omicron_Pi. A Jewish member of the Class of 1909 later  recalled the operative situation: “We knew that Kappa Kappa was ‘the sorority’.  And we knew we weren’t going to be asked there.” Hannah Falk Hofheimer, BC 1909, Barnard Centennial Oral History Interview by Arline Winer, 1986, Barnard College Archives.


[56] VCG, “The Changing College Population,” April 25, 1899; reprinted in Nancy Woloch, ed., Early American Women: A Documentary History, 1600-1900 (Belmont, Ca.: Wadsworth Publishing, 1992), 466-468.


[57] In 1900, of the 94 candidates applying to Barnard, the three schools that catered to NYC’s  German Jewish community sent  at least 17 candidates.  Early Academic Records, Box 12, Barnard College Archives.


[58] Goldenberg, ANM’s anti-semitism


[59] N. W. Liggett to Laura Drake Gill, July 20, 1901, Laura Gill Correspondence, Box 2, Barnard College Archives.


[60] Florence Samet Rothschild, BC 1908, Barnard Centennial Oral Histories, 1988, Barnard College Archives.


[61] King’s Handbook of New York City , Vol. 1. (Boston, 1893; reissued 1972), 274.


[62] Moses Rischin, The Promised City: New York’s Jews: 1870- 1914 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977);  Morris Horowitz and Lawrence J. Kaplan, The Jewish Population of the New York Area (New York: Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York, 1979).


[63] Joseph King Van Denburg, Causes of Elimination of Students in Public Secondary Schools in New York City  (New York: Teachers College,1911), 38; Diane Ravitch, The Great School Wars: A History of the New York City Public Schools (New York: Basic Books, 1988).


[64] Van Denburg, op. cit.,


[65] Ibid.,


[66] Ibid.,


[67] Gildersleeve, Many a Good Crusade, 44.


[68] Nicholas Leman, The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy (New York: Farrar, Straus, 1999), 17-18, 112; Michael Rosenthal, Nicholas Miraculous: The Amazing Career of the Redoubtable Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler (New York: Farrar, Straus, 2006), 93-94..


[69] Harold S. Wechsler, “The Selective Function of American College Admissions Policies, 1870-1970,”
Columbia University PhD Dissertation, 1974, Vol.1., 124-174.