Skip to main content

1863 Swarthmore's Namesake

Swarthmore College is named for Swarthmoor Hall, a 17th-century Elizabethan manor house near Ulverston, England. Throughout the 1650s, the house served as the center of the early Quaker movement.

Swarthmoor was the home of Margaret and Thomas Fell, who allowed Religious Society of Friends founder George Fox and his followers to use it as a meeting place for worship.  Several years after her husband's death, Margaret Fell married Fox and effectively dedicated her life to the Quaker movement. Regarded as its matriarch and jailed for holding illegal meetings, she wrote "Women's Speaking" in the mid-1660s to show that the ministry of women was "Justified, Proved, and Allowed of by the Scriptures."

Many Quakers visited Swarthmoor Hall, including William Penn in 1676. He later established a Quaker community in Pennsylvania, where the College is located.

Margaret E. Hallowell, wife of founder and educator Benjamin Hallowell, is credited with suggesting the name Swarthmore at the December 1863 annual meeting of the Friends Educational Association. The meeting directed the Board of Managers to draft and apply for a charter to incorporate "Swarthmore College."

Why the different spellings? By the 19th century, the commonly established form was Swarthmoor - "black moor."  But Swarthmore College was chartered at the height of the American spelling reform movement. It seemed logical to plain-speaking American Friends that a word rhyming with "more" should be spelled m-o-r-e, regardless of etymology.