1869 College Opens, Admits First Class
On opening day, Nov. 10, 1869, a tree-planting ceremony was held to honor College founders Lucretia Mott and her husband, the late James Mott, members of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. Both were well known for their activities in the anti-slavery and women's rights movements. As the company assembled on the lawn in front of College Hall, Mott, assisted by her son Thomas, planted two oaks that had been raised from acorns by her husband.
The ceremony proceeded with a speech by President Edward Parrish, who spoke on the equal education of men and women. "A peculiarity of this organization, as contrasted with most others for like purposes," he said, "is the association of women equally with men in its origin and management."
Hugh McIlvain, chairman of the building committee, then presented the key to College Hall's front door, stating that "the building, though not in all particulars completed, is now fit for occupancy." He also submitted receipts for $205,480 for examination by the Board of Managers. After discussion and praise for individual committees, Samuel Willets, chairman of the board, then handed the building's key to President Parrish.
The Board of Managers had planned to admit 75 students, but because of unanticipated heavy applications, the Board accepted 199. At that time, admission required only that the applicants be 13 or older and the children of stockholders or Friends. Of those admitted, only 25 qualified as first-year college students, 15 of them women. It took several more years before college students outnumbered secondary students, and the preparatory department was not discontinued until 1892.