SWARTHMORE COLLEGE
1860: Getting Started

"It will be interesting to the readers of the Intelligencer to know that the minds of many Friends throughout the several Yearly Meetings have been concerned for the establishment of a Boarding School, located in the country, where our children and youth may receive a through, and at the same time guarded, religious education, and where those desirous of following the profession of teachers may become qualified for a trust of such vital importance. During the week of the late Yearly Meeting held in Baltimore, an evening meeting was called of those interested, which was largely attended. The subject was freely discussed, in its various bearing, and a lively concern was manifested by those present. After a free interchange of sentiment, a Committee was appointed to prepare an address to the members of the six Yearly Meetings, and we are requested to inform that it is the design of some of their members to visit the cities of Philadelphia and New York, and to hold conferences with such Friends as are willing to aid in maturing and carrying into operation a plan that will effect the object. Our testimony to the guarded religious education and the training of the youth can hardly be overestimated, and if we would save them from the contaminating influences to which they are exposed, in seeking the full development of their intellectual powers, we must not longer delay to provide the means requisite to accomplish so desirable an end."

(As noted in the Friends· Intelligencer, November 17, 1860)

 

As early as 1850, interest in establishing a Hicksite Quaker preparatory school and college had been discussed by women members of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting, and an Education Committee of both men and women was appointed by the Yearly Meeting to investigate the issue. Four years later, on the first day of the Ninth Month [September 1], 1854 the Education Committee approved its Report on of the Committee of Education of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting of Friends, on the subject of A Boarding-School for Friends' Children and for the Education of Teachers and presented it to the Baltimore Yearly Meeting. There was no action on the report.

But interest continued and on October 2, 1860 at Nathan and Martha Ellicott Tyson's house, a group met to discuss the matter. It was described as "a Meeting of Friends who feel the want of additional facilities for the guarded education of Friends' children, and especially for the supply of suitable teachers in membership with us to whom to entrust our children in our neighborhood schools."

From this group a committee was appointed "to prepare an address upon the subject to our own members and also to the members of all the Yearly Meetings with which this corresponds, with a statement of such views and plans as they may think calculated to place the matter in its true light before Friends generally and to act therein, in furtherance of the object, in such way as they think may be best calculated to promote the end in view." Members prepared the "Address of Some Members of the Society of Friends to their Fellow Members on the Subject of Education, and on the establishment of a Boarding School for Friends' Children, and for the Education of Teachers". On October 13, a sub-committee was formed to meet with members of the Philadelphia and New York Yearly Meetings to discuss the issue and invite participation and financial support. A week later, with the Address completed and approved, instructions were given "to proceed as soon as may be practicable to Philadelphia and New York and endeavor to enlist our Friends of those Yearly Meetings in active cooperation with us, in the establishment of this much needed institution."

At a conference of Friends of Philadelphia and its neighborhood held at Race Street Meeting House on November 28, 1860, the subject of Quaker education was presented and discussed, led by a visiting committee from the Baltimore Yearly Meeting, which presented its address on the subject of education to the Philadelphia Friends in attendance.

Minutes of that meeting reported that, "A Committee appointed at a Conference of Friends in Baltimore attended and presented an address on the subject of Education accompanied by some explanatory remarks. The necessity of an association of the purchase of a Farm, the erection of suitable buildings to accommodate a Boarding School for the education of our youth of both sexes and for preparing teachers, was impressively presented by several Friends.

"The subject was freely discussed and the general features of the Address were approved." A committee was formed from the Philadelphia Meeting to join with the group from Baltimore to further discuss the issue, and both groups conferred the next day. At that meeting a sub-committee of Philadelphia members was appointed to accompany the Friends from Baltimore to New York to discuss the issue with Friends of the New York Yearly Meeting. As a result of the meeting in New York on December 10, 1860 a committee from that Meeting was appointed. A Joint Committee of the three Yearly Meetings was established to pursue this project.

Text prepared by Beth Bartle
Last update: 5/30/02