For Whom Early Barnard Intended?

I. Who Was Early Barnard For? Who Came?
The Good of Counting, the Good of Mapping

The Research Assignment — January 26 to February 23, 2015

What kinds of students did the early leadership intend Barnard College to educate?
What kind of students did it soon find itself educating?

Intended: The trustees’ daughters? Their neighbors’ daughters?  Their communicants’ daughters? The daughters of their fellow club members? The graduates of the private schools attended by all of the above. Families with the financial wherewithal and sophistication to send their daughters away to a “country college,” but with reasons not to.

[In 1888, the year prior to Barnard’s opening,  67 NYC women were in collegiate attendance at Cornell (2); Bryn Mawr (4); Smith (13); Vassar (17); Wellesley (31) . Some 1600 NYC young women attended Normal College (later, Hunter College)

Intentions as stated:

1888 – Annie Nathan Meyer, in The Nation ( June 26, 1888), calling for a college for women in NYC affiliated with Columbia College – To serve NYC young women  “who would attend college gladly, enthusiastically, were it not necessary to face the obstacle of leaving home…. Bemoaning their fate because their parents will not allow them to leave their homes.”

ANM had a doting father who would not allow her to go away to college, where she would, he predicted, “never marry.” ANM did send her only daughter to Barnard.

1891 – Broader  view – Helen Dawes Brown, Original Board Member (OBM, 1889 -1896) – “There are 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 … hungering for just what this College gives, but without the means to come here.”

1894 – Rev. Arthur Brooks, rector of Grace Church, OBM (1889-95) and first chairman – “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….Women who have not their own living to earn…. A particular class for whom Barnard is intended is diligently sought and with no great success.”

1895 – Virginia C. Gildersleeve, on her family and classmates of the Class of 1899;
The Gildersleeves – “We were not in ‘society’ exactly; we were professional people.”
[But Gildersleeve family in the New York Social Register].
Lived in prosperous neighborhood  “inhabited by solid American families”
Attended Brearley, the most academically demanding of the girls’ schools for wealthy New Yorkers, founded by Mrs. Joseph Choate, a Barnard OBM.
Of VCG’s 20 classmates,  “All were more or less on the same social level”

1906 –June – Barnard Bursar N. W. Liggett to Board treasurer George A. Plimpton

“We are drawing a very large percentage of Hebrews, and others of foreign extraction; that our students are coming from neighborhoods unknown to most residenters. This contingent might not be open to criticism if we had plenty of the children of well-to-do New York families also….“Already Hebrews are coming to us from other sections of the country. They are not from good jewish families…. Every year we are drawing less and less from the private school element, and from the well-to-do classes.

1906 – Laura Gill, 2nd dean (1901-07) – in response to Liggett’s concerns — “We may have no fear that the College is losing its hold upon those [girls of wealth and from NYC’s private schools] who regard higher education as chiefly ministering to general intellectual ends.” Contrasted these with  Barnard students coming from the public schools who are “looking to self-support professionally.”

1914 – 3rd board chair Silas Brownell dissenting from the decision of  the newly installed Dean VCG and a majority of trustees who increased  tuition from $150 to $200 to contain the number of NY State Regents scholars [$100 x 4 years] coming to Barnard.
Brownell argued that Barnard ought not just be for “girls whose parents on account of their wealth and smartness and so-called social relations or aspirations are unwilling to allow their daughters to leave home for college.’
Should also be for “girls so limited and circumscribed I have the greatest pity and would open Barnard’s gates for them as wide as possible.”
Brownell more concerned that Barnard “provide and popularize college education, especially for those who except for it might not have the golden opportunity… should not be limited to people of means and position. It should open its doors and leave them open to the deserving and aspiring crowds.”

Brooks Hall built to attract well-to-do students from outside NYC  ready to pay high room and board costs – opened in fall of 1907 but did not achieve full occupancy until 1913, following introduction of residential fellowships to help with the high cost of room and board for Brooks Hallers.

Daughters of wealthy, old-family New Yorkers [Knickerbocker/WASP/Protestant
Privately prepared by tutors or Miss Broen’s School, Brearley, Spence
Families listed in The Social Register
Fathers professionally engaged; clubbed; themselves college graduates
Reside on West Side (“below the Park” just west of 5th Avenue) and the Near Upper East Side along 5th, Madison and Park Avenues
Seeking education comparable to that of their brothers and/or future husbands;
Not looking to gainful careers
Secondary target: the newer, wealthy German-Jewish community [“Our Crowd”]

Soon Attracted
Daughters of modest income, more recently arrived immigrant families from Ireland and eastern Europe;
Barnard’s proximity and its affordability (for commuters) made it for them a more feasible option than going away to college;
Barnard’s link to Columbia gave it more prestige/cachet than attending Normal College (despite fact that most early graduates became teachers)
Saw a Columbia degree as an occupational credential

Requisite preparation obtained at the new public schools of Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and the towns of Northern New Jersey;
These schools soon had Barnard graduates as teachers/college advisers, along with
college-bound tracks for ambitious students and attention to CEEB and State Regents examinations

Last updated:
January 9, 2015
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