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1860 Abolitionist Founders

Swarthmore College was created out of a concern of the liberal Hicksite branch of the Society of Friends (Quakers) to establish a place "under the care of Friends, at which an education may be obtained equal to that of the best institutions of learning in our country."

Leading proponents of the new school included:

  • Lucretia Coffin Mott (1793-1880)

    Lucretia Coffin MottA Quaker minister and major figure in the reform movements of the 19th century who devoted her life to the abolition of slavery, women's rights, school and prison reforms, temperance, peace, and religious tolerance. Her home in Philadelphia was a stop on the Underground Railroad, and her support of women's education also led to the founding of what became the Medical College of Pennsylvania and Moore College of Art.
  • Benjamin Hallowell (1799-1877)

    Benjamin HallowellAn educator and Quaker minister who wrote the first pamphlet advocating the creation of Swarthmore College. A conscientious objector during the War of 1812, Hallowell once counted future-general Robert E. Lee among his students at a school he founded in Virginia. In 1859, he was named the first president of what became the University of Maryland and accepted the position on condition that the school's farm not use slave labor and that he serve without salary.
  • Martha Ellicott Tyson (1795-1873)

    Martha Ellicott TysonAn anti-slavery advocate, supporter of women's rights, and elder of the Hicksite Quaker Meeting of Baltimore. She is also the author of the first biography of inventor and scientist Benjamin Banneker. In 1860, the meeting she held at her home led to the campaign for the college.
  • Samuel Willets (1795-1883)

    Samuel WilletsA successful Quaker businessman who supported the anti-slavery movement and women's education.  His substantial financial support helped establish the school and rebuild Parrish Hall after the fire of 1881. In his will, he bequeathed $100,000 to the college for the education of "poor and deserving children."