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were physically and mentally fit for col- above a whisper. Miss Thomas mainlege — to be sure, she couldn't find any tained a firm chin and continued her study. proof to the contrary, but people said they She passed from the University of Leipzig were unfit. And through all this storm to Göttingen and Zurich. and stress she had held to the underlying She was still in her twenties, and yet belief that she could go to college and she could look back over years of achievelearn what men learn, and the event of ment and realize that through them all her life was her meeting with a college she had been a self-governed, selfwoman - a Vassar graduate.
responsible individual. This surely exShe drank in this wonderful creature. plains why it occurred to her that other "She's exactly like other delightful wo girls had a right to rule themselves just men," was the summing up.
as she had done. If she had been by Here, then, was a proof. Woman could instinct a conformist herself she would do it. To the young girl, born in conserva- have demanded hide-bound rules for tive Baltimore, trained in private schools, others. But if you should see her to-day this meeting was a great dramatic situation. you would read in one glance the fact that
She was beginning to shake herself free. she never was one. There is too high a
She announced that she would go to brow under her white hair to permit her Cornell University. This was not what to accept others' explanations until she a Baltimore young lady usually did, but has probed them with her own mind. Miss Thomas bore off a degree in 1877. There is a determination in the chin that
Next she spent a year at Johns Hopkins. never succumbed merely because it was
Next she decided to go to Leipzig for told to do so. And there is too much advanced study. Perhaps the going was humor twinkling in her dark eyes to miss even less significant than the fact that she the joke that lurks in accepted standards. did the deciding for herself. In that A nd therefore, when higher education point lay the real pioneering. After she for women under any conditions was so reached Germany, the first news from home new as to be a bit shocking, what did this was that family friends were preserving a mind of initiative and daring do but rise sort of hush regarding this unconventional up and recommend self-government in a daughter in the presence of her mother, little Quaker college for girls. For, aland hardly spoke of her, as if she had though the institution was undenominabrought some sort of disgrace upon the tional in name, it was strongly Quaker in family and was to be mentioned barely atmosphere at that time.
foolhardy.co this reasonr's pio
In 1886, then, Miss Thomas, exercising establish a permanent government of her authority as dean, gave informally their own. The president and trustees into the hands of these girls their own gladly gave the girls in letter what they conduct. At that period, when the col- already possessed in spirit; and in their lege for women was not far removed from constitution it is to be read that “to the the young ladies' seminary in spirit, we Bryn Mawr Students' Association for can picture the authorities of other col- Self-Government the president and dean leges looking on with tremulous alarm shall entrust the exclusive management of while they waited to see this foolhardy all matters concerning the conduct of young school wreck itself. But the wreck students in their college life which do not did not occur. A venture is counted fall under the jurisdiction of the authorities foolhardy, or not, according to its out of the college or of the mistresses of the come. For this reason educators look halls of residence.” And upon closer back upon Bryn Mawr's pioneering in inspection one finds that the matters self-government as an event which has which are left to the faculty are pracmade history. From East to West to- tically all academic, and that the misday the college girl is coming to be recog- tresses of the halls are concerned no more nized as a responsible human being who with discipline than are hostesses in a can control her own conduct and who will houseful of guests — only with the matcontrol it far better if it be left in her own ters which, without question, belong to the hands, on the principle that the only fun management of the household. As for in breaking rules lies in having rules to the behavior of the girls, that is attended break. It was Miss M. Carey Thomas to by proctors of their own appointing. who first pointed this out.
Now observe the workings. Take, for But although other colleges and schools example, a young freshman, we will say have followed, Bryn Mawr still stands Miss Minerva Smith. She has been unique in the completeness of its democ- reared in a conservative family, this is racy: for it admits no member of the her first going-away, she hears that the faculty even in an advisory capacity to faculty does not discipline, and a glittering its board of discipline. Miss Thomas vision of liberty suddenly dazzles her eyes. does not lead liberty on leash. In 1892, On the first available day she takes a train when the experiment was about a half- for Philadelphia, and devotes herself to dozen years old, the girls asked that a shopping. Later on she meets old friends, charter be given to them which should dines, stays over night and spends Sunday with them, reaches the station in time for the situation on the way out. She says the nine-forty-five train, and half an hour nothing to the young lady. But the next later is at Bryn Mawr.
day she speaks casually to one of the Now it so happens — both Minerva and officers of the Association. the case are hypothetical, you understand "Miss Minerva Smith, that new student, - it so happens that Miss Thomas is on came out on the nine-forty-five train last the same train. She has observed the evening,” she observes, and that is all. freshman slipping aboard. She considers Absolutely all. She dismisses the matter from her mind. She mentioned it merely ment of her own devilment, she may have as any other observer might, in wishing lighted a cigarette! Possibly she has to aid the Association in its work. If the crossed the campus in male attire, having students choose to take up the matter, dressed thus for her role in a play. She well and good; if not, it will never be may have made a social engagement with referred to again.
some male member of the faculty. She Next day a note comes to Minerva. It may have secretly turned the strawberry is not from the president, dean, or any lemonade into punch at a tea. She may other of the mature powers-that-be. It is have returned so late that the low windows from certain authorized members of the offered an easy means of entering her Students' Association, which elects its dormitory, unknown. She may have inofficers wholly from the ranks of the stu- vited a man caller to her own study withdents. In the note Minerva Smith is re- out a chaperon. Once a student smuggled minded that, in the first place, she left the her own brother into the gymnasium, college for overnight without registering disguising him in feminine garments. her address in the hall; and that, secondly, Slowly the mills of the students grind, she has broken the rule that the seven- but woe to the sinner when the grinding forty-five on weekdays, and the eight-fifteen is done. If it be agreed by the executive on Sundays, are the latest trains which stu- board that the victim be suspended for dents are permitted to take unescorted, and six weeks, possibly expelled, Miss Thomas the nine-fifteen is the latest in any case. is asked to go through the form of dis
“But I thought there were no rules for missal. This is a mere matter of form, conduct made by the faculty!” she protests however; the board knows that its deto a junior.
cision will stand. The president has never “There aren't. The rules are our own. yet vetoed such a decision; this she would And you won't find many faculties that not risk doing, for one veto would overenforce rules as strictly as we do," warns throw the democracy. But the significant the weathered junior.
fact is: she has never yet wanted to veto. Miss Minerva is given a chance to mend And so, in the guise of a detached obher ways, but is made to understand that server, she looks on as if she had nothing repeated offences mean a penalty. The to do with it all. Occasionally some infact that her fellow students frown upon fringement of rules comes to her attention her careless conduct strikes her forcibly. -as, for instance, Minerva Smith's It dawns upon her that liberty in its truest offence — but she merely reports the sense is the most austere form of govern- incident to the students in authority, to ment; she hears that these girl students assist them. warn, punish, if necessary expel, offenders And yet her spirit is the vital force without asking advice from anybody. animating this remarkable government,
To be sure, they are not often called small, compact, isolate, and practiupon to use such extreme measures, for cally perfect as a republic. So, too, her in the main the self-government achieves insistence upon ideals of scholarship is its end of excellent conduct. But the behind that proverbially high standard of girl who will not enter into the spirit of requirements in entrance examinations it ever and anon appears, and she is dealt and for graduation. It is a standard with to the full measure of the law. which keeps the college small; it does
Perhaps, in the beginning, the trouble, not even attempt to accommodate more some freshman was like Minerva . Smith than about four hundred and fifty stuand did not understand. But if the dents, and it annually weeds out two executive board becomes fully convinced thirds of its applicants by examination. of her law-breaking spirit, it summons her The girl who carries off a Bryn Mawr before its court, gives her a hearing, calls diploma must be ready to fight for it. upon witnesses, and judges. Her sin And no matter how hard her struggle for may have taken any one of many forms. learning, it cannot possibly be as hard as Perhaps, fairly tremulous in the excite- was the struggle of this woman who has made these privileges possible to her; for third of a year must go to some science, she, of another generation, fought against another third to another science, or to the overwhelming odds of prejudice. political economy, or history, or law, or
In the days of her earliest struggles, she mathematics, another third to the history wept over the story of Adam and Eve of philosophy, another third to whichever because she thought that the curse pro- one of the four languages was omitted at nounced upon Eve might imperil girls' entrance (Greek, Latin, French, and Gergoing to college. She searched books man were offered, three to be chosen). everywhere for light upon the possibilities and another third for two years to English of woman, and often found her hopes literature and the correct writing and rebuffed by even the greatest. Milton pronunciation of our language. Here you excited her rage and indignation and she have, then, only a highly modified form of condemned him as a woman-hater; even specialization. The major subjects are Shakespeare, she felt, was not entirely fair chosen by the student, but so many subto her sex intellectually. And so, through jects are required of her that she is bound inward storm, rebuked by her period, she to have a pretty general education before fought on, educating herself in America she gets through. She cannot escape these and Europe. The degree she had earned subjects, whether she is interested in at the University of Leipzig from 1879 to them or not. 1882 was refused her on account of her All this is part of that greed for learning. sex; a like fate befell her at the Uni- and more learning, both for herself and versity of Göttingen; but the University others, which fills Miss Thomas. A four of Zürich finally granted her the degree of years' course is none too long, according Ph.D., summa cum laude, the highest to the president's stern doctrine, to predegree, at that time, ever awarded to a pare to specialize. In a day when the woman. It was a sort of martial experi- vocational mania is abroad in the land, ence for a girl; it brought the iron to the there is something formidable in viewing surface. No wonder it was with an aus- the foundation required here for a superterity of standard that she started on her structure later on. In a day when we career as an educator. And somehow, by smatter through countless subjects in a that occult process which we all have quick preparation, that we may hurry on experienced, that austerity has contrived to our specialty, this groundwork for life to permeate the air of Bryn Mawr. The looks like the great wall of China beside students inhale it.
the underpinning of a portable house. She will not permit Bryn Mawr College Bryn Mawr is the only woman's college to accept the certificates of schools in to maintain a graduate school. Barnard lieu of its own examinations. These and Radcliffe have such schools, but only are given annually in twenty or more as they share the privilege with the men's centres. When the days of examinations universities to which they are allied. are over, the little group that President There is a theory in this Pennsylvania Thomas looks over as it faces its freshman institution that not only should the year is only one third of those who applied opportunity for further study be offered for entrance, a picked and tiny army. to women, but that it is a good thing for
And now come the four years of still the undergraduates — this contact with keener effort. This college dared to under- graduate workers — and that it is stimulatake the group system of studies, adopting ting to a faculty. This school is one of it from Johns Hopkins in early days, when Miss Thomas's pet hobbies. other colleges for women were trying no J ust one curious requirement for graduaventuresome experiments of such a nature. tion is a sidelight upon her passion for Every girl has her major subjects to which perfection. She has instituted the rule she must give one and a third years of her that every candidate for graduation must time. Chemistry and physics may be pass in sight-reading of French and Gerwoven together, or political economy and man. The little room with its long table history, or Greek and Latin. Another in which every senior must go through