Notes on the Early History of the Barnard Faculty

                                           Note on the Early History of the Barnard Faculty

Two beginning dates:
The first was October 12, 1889, when instructional services commenced at the College’s first site, a leased Manhattan  brownstone at 343 Madison Ave, between 43rd and 44th Streets;
Four young men, all connected with Columbia College located four blocks to the north and all hired on a semester-to semester basis by Barnard’s chief academic officer, Ella Weed,  appeared  to provide instruction in the same four subjects then required of entering Columbia college students – Greek, Latin, rhetoric and mathematics – to Barnard’s 14 beginning first-year students and  21 “specials,” part-time students who were not degree candidates.  Three more Columbia men supplemented the instructional staff in the spring of 1890, extending the  instructional offers to include  French,  Italian, German and botany.

[Describe these men,  especially those who stayed on at Barnard – ages/hometowns/colleges/PhDs]

Nelson  G. McCrea – Latin
b. Brooklyn, 1863; CC AB 1885
Phd in Latin 1888; BC Tutor in Greek 1889-95; 26 in 1889; Instr 1895-1900; Adj. Prof. 1900-03; Prof 1903-1937
Charles Sear Baldwin – English tutor  started in 1889 (MCW) or 1891 (CU Spec)– born in NYC, 1867 ; CC 1888; 22 years old in 1889; CU PhD 1894
Married a Barnard graduate in 1894
Married a second in 1902
Left CU upon PhD for Yale; returned in 1911 à 1935

Mortimer Lamson Earle – CC 1886; PhD 1889
Faculty 1900; Died 1905

Nathaniel L. Britton  b. 1859 SMines 1879; CU PhD 1881; left CU to become first director of NY Botanical Garden (1895-1929)

The first departure from the initial pattern of all-male hires occurred in the College’s second year. Nathanial Britton, who in the spring of 1890 inaugurated  instruction of botany, which, while not required of the regular students,  was in early demand among the College’s “specials.” Britton was  the only one  of the first-year  “rent-a-profs” to hold a professorial position at Columbia – he was an adjunct professor in the School of Mines  – and could not again be spared in 1890. was about to leave Columbia to become the founding director of the Bronx Botanical Garden. At his urging and that of his wife, Elizabeth, herself an established botanist, mainstay of the Torrey Botanical Club


and advocate of gender equality, the newly installed  Columbia College president  Seth Low (whose wife was the first member of the Barnard board elected by the board) authorized the appointment of the 50-year-old Emily L. Gregory (1890-1897), the first American women to earn a PhD in botany (Zurich, 1886) and a frequent contributor to the Torrey Botanical Quarterly as a “lecturer in Columbia College to provide instruction at Barnard College.” She had previously taught briefly at Smith, Bryn Mawr and the University of Pennsylvania.  It helped  when she was put forward by the Brittons that Gregory, independently wealthy and despairing of finding an academic home, required no salary.

Gregory remained  the only woman to  teach at Barnard during the eleven years prior to the establishment of an autonomous Barnard Faculty in 1900, by which time some four dozen men were to have done so.  Nonetheless, her academic credentials  and professional standing (she was one of the first researchers attached to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute), her presence at Barnard until her death in 1897 established from the outset the principle that the standards applying to the hiring of women be at least as demanding as those applying to men.  Upon her death she was promptly succeeded by the 26-year-old Harvard-trained botanist, Herbert Maule Richards (1897-1928), he on  full salary.
By the fall of 1894, with regular enrollments now at 71 and 48 “specials,” the Barnard instructional staff  consisted of 17 men and Gregory.  Most were hired to teach only a course or two in a stated semester and were not seen again. But not all. At least four  — the English literature specialist George Rice  Carpenter, the Sanskritist  A.V Williams Jackson and the French literature scholar Benjamin Woodward  — went on to distinguished careers at Columbia, while three others who had been teaching there off and on since its opening  — Nelson Glenn McCrae, Charles Sears Baldwin and Mortimer Lamson Earle – plus Charles Knapp who began at Barnard in 1890 —  were unbeknownst to them  settling in at Barnard to what became their academic careers.


That same fall  of 1894 the 24-year-old William Tenney Brewster (1894-1943) , of the 17th-century Plymouth Brewsters, a Harvard graduate and Columbia graduate student in English, took up an instructorship in English. This commenced a relationship with Barnard that was to stretch over a half century, during which “Billy” Brewster was not only the longest serving faculty member who served as both acting dean and provost as well as chairman of the English Department but was, if alumnae remembrances of “Billy” are to be trusted, one of Barnard’s few Chipsean characters. His wife,  Anna Richards Brewster, the brother of his husband’s colleague  Herbert Maule Richards, of a Quaker family  and an accomplished water colorist, donated  several of her paintings to Barnard.

These early male Barnard instructors  differed from those teaching at most other colleges in the 1890s – and nearly  all other women’s colleges – on several accounts. In addition to their youth (most were in their mid-20s)  and the extreme contingency of their employment – they possessed repectable if recently acquired academic credentials. In 1894, what William James decried a decade later as “The PhD Octopus” had not yet taken up proprietary residence on American college campuses, and only six universities (Yale; Cornell; Harvard; Columbia; Johns Hopkins and Chicago)  awarded them in any numbers. Yet  11 of those offering instruction at Barnard possessed the degree.  Several were fair instances of the type as described by George Santayana, himself a reluctant recipient

[Santayana quote]

The first substantial departure at Barnard from the initial Harvard “Annex” model of instructional provision  occurred in 1895. Here, too,  the facilitating hand of Seth Low is in evidence. In his discussions following on the death of Ella Weed in late 1894 with the newly appointed and first-designated Dean of Barnard College, Emily James Smith, Low offered to make an anonymous gift  of $36,000 to Barnard that would provide the salaries for three senior appointments for three years. He attached three conditions: that the Barnard trustees take responsibility for their salaries beyond that point; that they agree to a sharing of the appointees’ instructional responsibilities with Columbia, where they would be providing graduate instruction; and that Columbia would compensate Barnard for the instruction foregone with equal amounts of undergraduate instruction provided by other Columbia faculty.

When the Barnard trustees  promised to do the best it could to meet its end of the bargain, Columbia proceeded to make three distinguished senior appointments, with each designated to do some of their teaching at Barnard and to involves themselves in its internal affairs.   They included the economist John Bates Clark (1895-1911), then at Bryn Mawr and before that his alma mater Amherst; the mathematician Frank N. Cole (1895-1926), then at the University of Michigan, and the historian James Harvey Robinson (1895-1918), hired away from the University of Pennsylvania. These appointments both instantly raised Columbia’s standing in the competition among the nation’s half-dozen PhD producing universities, as each took a national leadership role in his respective field, and made Barnard a locally acknowledged  contributor to Columbia’s self-described “bolt to the top.”   In yet  another magnanimous gesture, Low used the occasion of these three appointments to change the designation of Emily Gregory from that of  “Lecturer” to “Professor.”

Clark continued to teach  political economy  at Barnard until 1911, when he transferred entirely to Columbia, while Cole and Robinson retained their Barnard ties through Cole’s retirement in 1926 and Robinson’s departure from Columbia in 1918.  Of equal utility, when they were teaching at Columbia their departments provided Barnard with regular members of the Columbia faculty in their place, among them the economist Edwin R.A. Seligman (1897-1911),  the anthropologist Livingston Farrand (1897-1911) and the astronomer Harold Jacoby (1897-1910) thus giving the post- 1895 Barnard instructional staff a measure of  scholarly distinction and continuity  otherwise lacking in the first years of the “Annex” era.

That era ended in the spring of  1900 and a new, more autonomous faculty era began . The change followed on the Intercorporate Agreement reached in January between President Seth Low and, since her marriage to the New York publisher  George Haven Putnam the previous spring, Dean Emily James Smith Putnam, that was intended to define Barnard’s place in the University. It included several stipulations, among them: that the president of the University be a member of the Barnard Board of Trustees and has a role in the selection of the Barnard dean; that Barnard have the exclusive responsibility within the University for the baccalaureate instruction of women (and no longer a role in the graduate instruction of women); that Barnard graduates receive their degree from Columbia Of particular relevance here, the agreement also provided for the establishment of a distinct Barnard College Faculty, to consist of officers with Columbia appointments  and other  officers with appointments exclusively at Barnard.

That faculty came into official being  on March 15, 1900. By then Dean Putnam had resigned in anticipation of a baby expected in the summer and Professor James Harvey Robinson convened the meeting as acting dean. It consisted of  15 members who comprised the “Faculty” proper — 14 professors and 1 adjunct professor, all Columbia appointees ”whose primary instructional responsibilities” were at Barnard – and another 13 lecturers, instructors and tutors who were exclusively on the Barnard payroll and bore the subordinate designation ”Other Officers of Instruction.”

All 15 members of the faculty proper were men, as were all but two of the 13 officers of instruction. One of the women was the newly hired 40-year-old Margaret E. Maltby (1900-1931) , a graduate of Oberlin (1882) and MIT (1891) and the first woman to receive a PhD from Gottingen (1895) an instructor who taught physics under the direction of WilliamT.  Hallock, who had taught the subject at Barnard since 1892 and would move fulltime to Columbia in 1902. When he did,  Maltby took sole charge of physics instruction at Barnard, eventually  becoming the second woman to achieve faculty  status, which she did in 1903, and promotion to associate professor, which occurred in 1913.  She retired in 1931. She was one of 10 women physicists to secure a place in James McKeen Cattell’s   American Men of Science , which first appeared in 1906, through 1940, and one of  five Barnard women scientists so recognized.


A second woman included on the 1900 instructional staff was Louise B. Dunn, a tutor who taught botany under the direction of  Herbert Maule Richards, who had succeeded Gregory as the College’s senior botanist. The first Barnard graduate (1897) to join its teaching staff, Dunn died in 1902.

A third woman appearing among the half-dozen “Assistants” in the 1900-01 officers of instruction was a still more recent Barnard graduate (BC 1900),  Eleanor Keller (1900-1943) , who was a beginning graduate student at Columbia in chemistry and is the first person I have found who is identified with that subject.  Like Maltby and Dunn, Keller stayed on at Barnard for her teaching career, retiring in 1943, but unlike Maltby she never completed his PhD and was supersede in 1903 by another woman, Marie Reimer, who became Barnard’s senior chemist, its first woman to achieve faculty status and the first to be promoted to full professor, in 192x. She also secured a place in Cattell’s 1906 first edition  American Men of Science and in subsequent updatings through her career which ended in 1945.

Male scientists joining the Barnard faculty between 1900 and 1914 who remained for their careers included the botanist  Tracy Hazen (1903-1939), the psychologist Harry Hollingsworth (1907-1946) and the mathematician George Mullins (1913-1948). Others, including the mathematician Edward Kasner  (1900-1949) and the zoologist Raymond  Osburn (1907-1915), were soon come and gone, Kasner to Columbia (although he retained his place on the Barnard faculty) and Osburn to Ohio State.

A similar two-track pattern existed among early male appointees in the social sciences and humanities.