Friday, October 7, 2011

Chapter 5
The 1980s: Marcia Savage, Kathleen McGrory, and
The Resurgence of Interest in Education for Women 
Third President: Marcia Savage, 1980-1984 
Acting PresidentGail Champlin,  1984-1985 
Fourth President: M. Kathleen McGrory, 1985-1990
Photo: Gail Champlin, Marcia Savage, Kathleen McGrory, Joan Davis, Miriam Butterworth
            The 1980s and 1990s saw a resurgence of both popular and scholarly interest in the value of single sex education for girls and women. For example, a widely-read book Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls, 1994 by Mary Pipher and Ruth Ross pointed to a decline in self esteem characteristic of teenage girls. Readers of the book were led to consider the unique needs of girls compared to those of boys. On a more scholarly level, a 1991 landmark study commissioned by the American Association of University Women suggested that teachers paid more attention to boys than to girls in the classroom. Even cartoonist Gary Trudeau penned a Doonesbury cartoon in 1992 that became a favorite of advocates of women’s colleges. In the last frame of the strip a pre-school age girl advises her mother to send her father to talk to the girl’s teacher because, “Mom, She’ll never call on you! Send Daddy.”
In 1989 M. Elizabeth Tidball posited a particularly compelling case for single-sex education. Tidwell argued that women’s colleges play a unique role in the education of women, not only by providing a supportive experience for their own students, but by developing methods for educating women. She maintained that women’s colleges would continue to play an important role in American education. She also stressed that male professors at coeducational colleges could learn from their male peers at single sex schools. Her studies found that male professors at all women’s schools provided more help and support to female students than their counterparts at coed institutions.
            This increased interest in the education of girls and women and in the particular advantages of single sex education initially gave HCW a boost. However, the breadth of women-oriented programs offered at the college during the 1980s also points to an institution in search of a mission.The college appeared to provide programs for women of almost every age and ethnic group.
HCW was no longer a predominantly a feeder school for young women pursuing a four year degree.  Through the combined efforts of the College and its Career Counseling Center, by 1990, adult women accounted for twenty five percent of the total student population. HCW also spun out a variety of non-degree continuing education programs.
Marcia Savage 1980-1985
Marcia Savage became president of HCW in 1980. According to a Clark alumni magazine interview, Savage became more of a feminist during her years at HCW. When she arrived in Hartford, she had more experience with coeducational programs. Born and raised in Worchester, Mass., she attended college in her home town, becoming a 1961 honors graduate of Clark University. She came to Hartford from a post as Dean of the College at Clark where she had also served as Dean of Students and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs.
By 1985 Savage believed that women in academic administration were no longer treated as tokens, “but it is still an uphill struggle.” Savage oversaw the creation of the Women’s Research Institute headed by Sharon Shepala; developed additional adult programs, expanded the services of the Career Counseling Center, increased staff, and raised $2.5 million -  all of which strengthened HCW as a women’s institution. 
During Savage’s years in office HCW developed a more diverse student body, faculty, and staff. In a Chronicle article Savage commented, “We are the place that people turn to for interesting things on women. We have responded to  aneed in a way that has truly changed peoples lives in a tangible way. We have a special niche in the Hartford community.” That niche still exists in the 2010s, although it has evolved into a new form.
After leaving Hartford, Savage took on increased responsibilities as the president of Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY where she served from 1985-1995. Manhattanville had originally been founded as a woman’s college affiliated with the Sisters of the Sacred Heart in 1952. The college became an independent institution in 1966 and became coeducational in 1971. According to a Hartford Courant article dated Oct. 26, 1984 Manhattanville had a student population of about 1,000. HCW numbered about 200 undergraduates with 3,000 women and men using its services. She retired from Manhattanville in 1995.  

Kathleen McGrory 1985-1990

When Savage departed for Manhattanville Gail Champlin, director of the Career Counseling Center, was appointed as Acting President of HCW for a year.  Kathleen McGrory became the fourth and last president of HCW on October 6, 1985.
McGrory held a PhD from Colombia University. She came to HCW from Eastern Connecticut State University where she had served four years as Vice President of Academic Affairs (1981-1985) and three years as the first dean of the School of Arts and Sciences (1978-1981). She had been a professor of English and Comparative Literature at Western Connecticut State College in Danbury, Conn. and the College of White Plains of Pace University in White Plains, NY.  Her specialties included comparative medieval literature and modern Irish literature and she had published Yeats, Joyce, and Beckett: new Light on Three Modern Irish Writers (Bucknell University Press, 1975).
During the second half of the 1980s, HCWs accomplishments and those of its Career Counseling Center included the upgrading of the legal assistant program from certificate program into a baccalaureate, expansion of the computer education program, the expansion of programs for women of color, and the development of programs for women transitioning out of poverty or welfare into economic solvency. These years were also marked by efforts resulting in the naming of five buildings to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.
Most alumnae and former faculty and staff of HCW would probably agree that the campus, consisting of gracious former homes, landscaped grounds, and an informal arboretum of landmark trees contributed to the educational success of the college. For students struggling with personal challenges, whether financial, emotional, or vocational, the campus could seem like a haven of calm. Despite continuing economic difficulties, the college attempted to maintain the character of its buildings and grounds.
In 1986, Thomas G. Gaines included HCW in a Washington Post article, “Collecting Campuses in Connecticut.” He noted that “School campuses, along with theme parks, world’s fairs and village greens, can be among the most idyllic of man-made environments-places we enjoy visiting and returning to.” He stated that HCW “has the best landscaping of any Connecticut School.” He remarked that although the campus had grown by “serendipity” that “it was knitted into a cohesive whole, combining function and taste.”
The distinctive ambience of the HCW campus is one reason it continues to hold a place in the regard of the greater Hartford community. By the 1990s, however, time was catching up with the idyllic world of HCW.  A later chapter of this blog will deal with HCWs decision to affiliate with the University of Hartford. First, however, this blog will feature a chapter about  the institution that would become today's Center for Professional Development.

How Schools Shortchange Girls: The Aauw Report: a Study of Major Findings on Girls and Education. Washington, DC: AAUW Educational Foundation, 1992.
Pipher, Mary B. Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls. New York: Putnam, 1994.
Tidball, M E. Taking Women Seriously: Lessons and Legacies for Educating the Majority. Phoenix, Ariz: Oryx Press, 1999. Print.
Trudeau, G B. Quality Time on Highway 1. Kansas City, Mo: Andrews and McMeel, 1993.
Hartford College for Women archives
Gaines, Thomas A. “Collecting Campuses in Connecticut,” The Washington Post. October 26, 1986, E6.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Butterworth Family

Chapter 4
The Butterworth Family and Hartford College for Women:
Acting President Miriam Butterworth, 1979-80; Elizabeth Butterworth, Founder and Trustee; Paul Butterworth, Chairman of the Board;Oliver Butterworth, Professor of English

After the departure of Joan Davis, Miriam Butterworth served as acting president of HCW until Marcia Savage came on board in 1980. The Butterworth family had a long association with the college. Miriam’s husband, Oliver Butterworth, was among HCWs most fondly remembered faculty. Oliver’s father, Paul Butterworth, and Paul’s sister-in-law, Elizabeth Butterworth, were among the visionaries who created HCW. The main administrative building of the college was named Butterworth Hall in honor of Elizabeth and Paul.

Elizabeth von Arnim Butterworth

The original Mount Holyoke in Hartford came into being when a group of local women met to address the need for college-level educational opportunities for young women in Hartford, Conn. Elizabeth Butterworth was among those women. She brought to the project a sophisticated international outlook and a keen interest in intellectual pursuits.

Elizabeth Butterworth was born in New Zealand, the daughter of the British author, Elizabeth von Arnim, who wrote the novel Enchanted April and many other works, and a Prussian father, Count Henning August von Arnim-Schlagenthin. As young children the von Arnim children were educated on their father’s Prussian estate by tutors, including the novelists Hugh Walpole and E. M. Forester. The younger Elizabeth would eventually receive the rest of her education in England, where she attended Cambridge University.

After her first husband died, the elder Elizabeth had a three-year relationship with H. G. Wells, author of The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and War of the Worlds, among others. She then married Lord Frank Russell, the elder brother of mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell, in1916. The couple separated after a short time, although they never divorced. For the rest of her life Elizabeth was able to use the title “Countess Russell.” She eventually moved to the United States to be with her daughter at the time of World War II.

Her daughter Elizabeth married Paul Butterworth’s brother, Corwin. Although the Corwin Butterworths spent most of their lives in California, they also lived for many years at Sunset Farm, a residential division of West Hartford developed by Paul Butterworth. Elizabeth and Corwin’s daughters were educated at The Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Conn., where they were close friends with Miriam Brooks, who fell in love with and married their cousin Oliver.

Elizabeth Butterworth introduced the family to a highly intellectual game called Sonnets. According to Paul’s daughter, Lucy, each player is given a list of words that must be used as the last words in the lines of a 14-line sonnet. The sonnet must be written in iambic pentameter using a traditional rhyme scheme. This game proved to be good training for Oliver, who became an English professor at HCW. He was responsible for the creation of several traditions including the celebration of Shakespeare’s birthday and a yearly medieval banquet.

Although she probably would have liked to accomplish more, Elizabeth Butterworth seems to have found at least some outlets for her intellectual energies in Hartford. Most of Elizabeth von Arnim’s (Countess Russell’s) books deal with the theme of intelligent women struggling under the domination of overbearing men and restrictive social customs. Therefore, it is not surprising that her daughter, Elizabeth Butterworth, would support an experimental college that provided a superior education to young women.

Paul Butterworth

Elizabeth’s brother-in-law, Paul Butterworth, served HCW in many ways. He was chairman of the board for many years in addition to contributing financially to the cause and encouraging his fellow trustees to do likewise. Butterworth helped negotiate the acquisition of the Seaverns property. Finally, he predicted the importance of HCW’s long-term relationship with the University of Hartford.

Born in 1887, Paul Butterworth was the oldest son of Irwin Butterworth, president of the Denver Gas and Electric Company, and Mary Adelaide McMillin. Mary was the daughter of Irwin’s employer, Emerson McMillin. Emerson McMillin was a highly successful self-made man, an industrialist, and a generous philanthropist. McMillin’s business interests included public utilities, transportation, and banking. His charitable interests included libraries, museums, and university fellowships.

Paul and his brother Corwin both graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., in 1909. Two years later Paul married Clarabel “Clare” Virginia Smith, daughter of a Harford physician. At the time of his marriage, he worked for his grandfather at the Hartford City Gas Light Company. The couple had three children: Virginia, Oliver, and Harrison.

William B. Smith, Clare's grandfather, purchased land in West Hartford in 1867 that would later become Sunset Farm. The property was first used for horse pasturage while the Smith family continued to live in Hartford. Paul and Clare lived in a small house on the property after their marriage. When responsibility for the property fell onto Paul’s shoulders, he realized that the land would be better suited for development as a residential area than as a working farm.
Clare Butterworth died suddenly during the influenza epidemic of 1918 that killed an estimated 50 million people. Paul was now faced with raising three young children alone. When Elizabeth and Corwin Butterworth moved to Sunset Farm in 1924 to be near good schools for their children, they provided Paul’s three children with an extended family.

Paul Butterworth became the owner of Sunset Farm after Clare’s death. He began to sell lots to congenial friends and relatives, creating a community not unlike that of Hartford’s Nook Farm in the 1870s and 1880s. Nook Farm had been a literary colony whose residents included Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

The Sunset Farm community was close to good schools, and had plenty of open spaces for recreation. This part of West Hartford was still out in the country, and it was possible to raise sheep, cows, and chickens on the property. People who grew up in Sunset Farm during that period recall an idyllic setting of gardens, woods, and fields peopled by friendly neighbors who viewed their community as a cooperative effort.

In 1938 Paul married Elizabeth Taylor Elmer, a widow with two young daughters, Jeanie and Lucy. Elizabeth Taylor Elmer had grown up in Hartford and lived in Bronxville, Conn., during the years of her first marriage to Wellington Elmer. After her first husband died, she and her daughters joined relatives who lived at Sunset Farm.

As the family grew and expanded, the Paul Butterworths built several houses. Paul also oversaw the other major construction projects in the neighborhood. His enthusiasm for and knowledge of building and design extended to his oversight of Hartford College.

It is hard to assign any one professional designation to Paul Butterworth. He was aware that his family enjoyed financial security as the result of the achievements of past generations. Raised as a Quaker, he felt a strong sense of responsibility toward others. His awareness of his own good fortune coupled with his religious beliefs inspired him to realize significant productivity in everything he undertook either professionally or as a volunteer. He viewed all of his accomplishments as a form of service.

Many institutions including the Hartford Monthly Meeting of Friends, the American School for the Deaf, the American Red Cross, The Connecticut Children’s Aid Society, Hartford Hospital, the Ethel Walker School, and Newington Children’s Hospital benefited from his involvement. In one particularly poignant instance, he volunteered at the temporary morgue set up in the Hartford Armory building after the Hartford circus fire in 1944. Sixty-seven children and 119 adults died in the fire. Paul assisted the families who came to the morgue to identify the bodies of their relatives.

As chairman of Hartford College board of trustees, Paul was among the five chairmen of local colleges who met in 1956 to lay plans for the development of the University of Hartford. Although HCW was not ready to join the University at that time, Paul recognized that the college should not dismiss the possibility of future cooperation between the schools.

One important factor in the decision not to merge with the University of Hartford at the time it was formed was the perceived need for a non-denominational college specifically for women. At the time, single-sex colleges were not an anomaly. Saint Joseph College in West Hartford was a strongly Catholic women’s college run by the Sisters of Mercy. Trinity College in Hartford, although open to members of all faiths, still had important ties to the Episcopal Church and was several decades away from admitting women. The trustees of HCW wanted to maintain a college open and welcoming to young women of all backgrounds.

Paul Butterworth was chairman of the board at the time negotiations were underway for acquiring the Seaverns property for HCW. Negotiations for setting up the University of Hartford were going on at the same time. The HCW trustees considered various forms of affiliation and cooperation. They even considered settling on a tract within the University’s property and sharing facilities such as cafeterias and administrative offices.

Paul felt cooperation with the University of some kind was necessary to secure the good will of the community. He also believed that HCW “should not close the door” on possible affiliation with the University until the Searverns property was secured. Once that occurred, however, the issue of a merger with the University became dormant until many years later (letter to Laura Johnson, Aug. 4, 1956, and letter to Helen Randall, Aug. 21, 1956).

The Seaverns property posed challenges. For example, the fire department would not allow the Seaverns house (now Butterworth Hall) to be used for classrooms. Eventually the problem was solved by building several classroom buildings nearby and using the house for administrative offices.

Oliver Butterworth

Born in 1915, Oliver Butterworth was the oldest son of Paul and Clare Butterworth. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1937 and did his graduate study at Middlebury College, where he earned an MA in 1949. He taught at Kent School in Kent, Conn., from 1937 until 1948 and the Junior School in West Hartford, Conn., from 1948 to 1950.

Beginning in 1947, Oliver taught English at Hartford College for Women for a salary of $1.00 a year until the late 1980s. Like his father, Oliver believed that since he had been blessed with financial security, he had a duty to share his good fortune with others. Therefore, he felt he should not accept a larger salary from the struggling college.

Oliver is most widely known for his children’s books. He was awarded the New York Herald Tribune Spring Festival of Books prize (1960) for The Trouble with Jenny's Ear and the Lewis Carroll Shelf award (1970) for The Enormous Egg. He served as trustee of the Mark Twain Memorial from 1958 to 1962 and eventually became a trustee of the Hartford College for Women. Oliver died in 1990 in West Hartford.

According to an oral interview with Oliver prior to his passing, many of the young women at Hartford College did not have enough family money to go elsewhere. Some students were daughters of recent immigrants who spoke a language other than English at home. Especially during the Depression years, families might make sacrifices to educate their sons, but not their daughters.

For these young women, the Hartford College experience opened up a whole new world of learning and achievement. According to Oliver, these students were a joy to teach as he watched them discovering talents they never knew they had. Butterworth’s wisdom and compassion earned him a special place in the memory of his students.

Miriam Butterworth

Oliver married Miriam Brooks in 1940. Oliver and Miriam raised three sons: Michael, Timothy, and Dan; and one daughter, Kate. Miriam would become well-acquainted with the college and its special characteristics. When she became acting president of HCW on Sept. 9, 1979, she had just finished a challenging stretch as the chair of Connecticut’s Public Utilities Control Authority. This had been a demanding assignment. Running HCW for a year seemed restful to her by comparison.

Miriam had many credentials to bring to the job of college president. She was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1968 and had helped found and had chaired the Caucus of Connecticut Democrats. She was an organizer of the 1971 Economic Conversion Conference, the 1973-74 ad hoc Committee for Economic Alternatives, the 1975 Forum on Economic Alternatives for Connecticut, and the 1975 Forum on Multinational Corporations.

In later years Miriam was named town historian for West Hartford, Conn., (1996) and authored a history of West Hartford. She rode the 1995 Peace Train for 23 days from Helsinki to Beijing on her way to the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on Women.

Between 1979 and 1980, Miriam kept HCW going until the arrival of its next president, Marcia Savage. The next chapter in this blog will deal with the administrations of Savage and her successor, Kathleen McGrory.

1. "Elizabeth von Arnim," in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 197: Late-Victorian and Edwardian British Novelists, Second Series. A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book. Edited by George M. Johnson, University College of the Cariboo. The Gale Group, 1999, pp. 9-14.
2. Townsend, Lucy, compiler. Uncle Paul Stories: A Collection of Documents and Reminiscences by and about Paul McMillin Butterworth, Dec 31, 1887 – October 24, 1980, Sugar Bush Hill Press, Chesterfield, NH.
3. Butterworth, Miriam Brooks, interview with Margaret Mair, Sept. 23, 2010.
4. Townsend, Lucy Elmer, interview with Margaret Mair, Sept. 7, 2010.
5. University of Hartford Archives. HCW Collection, trustees’ papers.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Joan Davis Years

Chapter 3
The Joan Davis Years 1976-79
Professional Administration, Expansion of Adult Programs,
Changing Roles for Women,
And the Coeducation Dilemma
Second President Joan Davis 1976-79

The next person who follows a long-term and highly regarded administrator often faces a challenge. When Joan Davis assumed the presidency of HCW in 1976, the college community was used to Laura Johnson’s highly personal administrative style. Joan Davis recalls her administration as a time of transition as the college moved from a closely held family business model toward a more modern style. These years also saw an expansion of offerings for adults, including programs for women who would later be called “displaced homemakers” - women returning to the workforce precipitously after being widowed or divorced. Some HCW programs were developed to attract members of minority groups. Additionally, Davis was faced with external challenges including changing roles for women and the opening of many traditionally all-male colleges to women.

Davis stayed at HCW for three years, departing to become assistant to the president of Mount Holyoke College in 1979. During this time, HCW revamped many academic administrative functions. The board of trustees was enhanced by a greater number of representatives from the corporate and business communities who brought a new perspective to the college. Many of these changes required significant adjustments on the part of the faculty and staff. Many courses were now more vocationally oriented, a real departure in a college traditionally dominated by the liberal and fine arts.

In an interview with Joan S. French of the New Britain Herald dated Oct. 26, 1977, Davis described her own career as “checkered.” Born in St. Cloud, Minnesota, Davis earned her BA in 1949 from the University of Minnesota. She received an MA from the University of Connecticut in 1955. She taught political science at the University of Connecticut beginning in 1954. During this time, she and her husband Irving G. Davis, Jr., a Hartford lawyer, lived in Storrs where they raised two sons. After her husband died in 1967, Davis resumed her education. She attended Yale where she received a PhD in 1974. She served as associate professor of political science and Chair of the Social Science Department at Keene State College beginning in 1971.

When she became president of HCW in 1976, Davis knew firsthand of the difficult transition many women faced when they had been in and out of academia or the workforce for a number of years while coping with family responsibilities. Davis’s own experience had taught her the importance of a supportive environment for women returning to school or to the workforce. She had been the only woman in her master’s degree program in public administration at the University of Connecticut in the late 1950s. During her years in Storrs when she first began commuting to Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, Yale was not very responsive to her situation as a woman pursuing a PhD. However, when she became a widow and returned to the program, Yale did allow her to start her dissertation again.

Davis inherited a relatively quiet campus in Hartford. The turmoil of the 1960s had run its course, and many innovations both large and small of that era had become mainstream. To choose one example, the dress code requiring skirts on campus was abolished in 1969, remarkably late compared to other colleges and even high schools at the time. Such a change may seem trivial today, but in 1969, the right to wear slacks with comfortable shoes rather than a skirt with stockings and dress shoes was a form of personal emancipation for many women.

In 1976, the sight of mature women continuing their education was no longer unusual. However, courses in business skills, computer operations, office management, and auto mechanics were still viewed by many as experimental or even radical. During these years, HCW’s Counseling Center became a force to reckon with, pioneering in the development of such courses under the supervision of its innovative director, Mary Merritt. The Counseling Center’s new non-traditional classes were indicative of new roles women were assuming in the world of work. Although the working woman was not a new phenomenon, what was new was a growing acceptance that many women aspired to achievement on their own account rather than as subordinates of male employers or helpmates to their husbands.

By the 1970s the movement sometimes referred to as “the second wave of feminism,” “the women’s movement,” or “women’s liberation” had helped change the character of American education. Developments in the status of women had evolved alongside many other social upheavals including the African American civil-rights movement, the sexual revolution, and the gay rights movement.

These changes had a particularly strong impact on developments at the Counseling Center during the late 1970s. Although the social changes of the 1960s and 1970s are often remembered as the province of the young, Counseling Center director Merritt knew that these changes were just as important for the mature woman. Merritt’s innovations of this period included the introduction of legal studies, a program that still exists today. When the legal assistant training program was instituted in the late 1970s, the college made it quite plain that this was a program for paraprofessionals to learn the basics of legal research and practice, not for legal secretaries to learn typing and shorthand.

In some respects, the feminist demands of the 1970s worked well for women’s colleges. At single-sex institutions, women were freed from intellectual competition with men. As Davis noted, in coeducational classes, female students often let the men do all the talking. At HCW and other women’s colleges, students were more likely to speak up. This phenomenon occurred in both the undergraduate programs and in those offered at the Counseling Center. Women’s studies became a legitimate scholarly discipline during the 1970s. Women were encouraged to enter medicine, law, engineering, and academic administration.

Davis and her colleagues were also concerned with the contributions of women to government and politics. In this quest HCW was abetted by trustee Dorothy Goodwin, who served in the state legislature. Davis recalled that in her own experience most government jobs for women involved sitting behind a typewriter. She felt that women’s colleges had an important role in educating women in economics, political science, and other fields necessary for greater responsibility. She hoped that HCW would help produce women who could model themselves on Goodwin.

During these same years, however, the Ivy League schools and other elite men’s schools were opened to women. Students at women’s colleges transferred in large numbers to the newly coed schools, leaving women’s colleges with depleted student ranks. However excellent a woman’s college might be, the men’s colleges carried more prestige. The right to earn a diploma from Yale, Harvard, or Princeton was considered a landmark achievement even among many feminists.

Another interview, called “Hartford College for Women, Led by Davis, Bucks Coed Trend.” provides a snapshot of the state of single-sex education for women in the late 1970s. Davis pointed out that she hoped HCW would remain a women’s college because women were going through a transitional period transforming old roles and starting new ones. An all-female environment was helpful to women spearheading these changes.

The population of HCW was changing in the late 1970s. Twenty percent of the students at HCW were women 35 to 40 years old. Additionally, fifteen percent of the students were members of a minority group, the highest percentage in the state among private colleges. In the 2000s, both adult students and minority students are represented in larger numbers on college campuses. Colleges and universities have realized that these students may need support services as they not only adjust to, but help transform, the campus environment. In the 1970s both adult students and minority groups often felt more isolated from the mainstream.

When Joan Davis left HCW for Mount Holyoke College, HCW was still firmly placed as a liberal arts college devoted to the liberal arts. The student body was changing, however, and the college was expanding its student base by creating flexible nondegree programs for both enrichment and vocational training. The Davis years also marked the creation of the College Sampler, a series of noncredit courses for adults, and expansion of courses at the Counseling Center This trend would continue during the next decades as the tiny college struggled to remain afloat. Before turning to the era of the 1980s, however, we will take a look at the Butterworth family, who played such an important role in the college right from the beginning.

Telephone Interview by Margaret Mair with Joan Davis, Oct. 23, 2009.
University of Hartford Archives, Hartford College for Women Collection, Administrators Series: Joan Davis files.

The next installment in this series will be:
The Butterworth family and Hartford College for Women
Acting President Miriam Butterworth 1979-80
Trustee Paul Butterworth
Oliver Butterworth, Professor of English

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Laura Johnson Years

C hapter 2
The Laura Johnson Years
Laura Johnson, Third Dean (1943-58) and
First President (1958-76) of Hartford College for Women

Hartford College for Women came into being in the 1930s but hit its stride with the appointment of Laura Johnson as dean in 1943. Although it would be 1958 before Johnson was granted the title of president, she began to set the tone for the college immediately. Her tenure at the college lasted for more than 30 years.

On Nov. 9, 1964, Linda Case described Johnson in an article published in The Hartford Courant. According to Case, “Laura A. Johnson presides over the school with the finesse of a hostess, the insight of a teacher, and the practicality of a Yankee farmer.” Johnson was never simply a “career woman.” She never made a distinction between the role of gracious homemaker and that of a professional administrator, a state of mind perhaps influenced by her modest upbringing.
Johnson was born in 1911 in Wallingford, Vt. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Vermont and a second master’s degree from Radcliffe. Her experience before coming to Hartford included teaching assignments at Concord Academy and at Bancroft School, both in Massachusetts. She had also served as a resident head at Simmons College.

Johnson lived in the main administrative building of the college during the academic year, retreating in the summer to a much-loved house in Clarendon, Vt. She presided over the campus as she might have presided over her own private grounds. The college community became her family. She welcomed informal visits to her office from students, faculty, and staff. Her commitment to service was demonstrated not just in her attention to the Hartford College community. Her energies also carried over into her service to the greater Hartford community.
Johnson was the first woman to be elected to The Hartford Courant board of directors. In 1972 she was became a director of Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Company, the first woman to serve as a director in a Hartford-based insurance company. She also served as a trustee of many colleges, schools, and other nonprofit organizations.

Johnson’s contributions to HCW were manifold. Among the most important achievements of her era were the relocation of the college in the 1950s from the Highland Street house to the former Seaverns estate on Asylum Avenue; the development of programs for mature women, including the creation of the Counseling Center, now the Career Development Center; and the emergence of the Consortium of Higher Education and its housing on the HCW campus.
In 1945 Hillyer College once again tried to build bridges with Hartford College. At this point, HCW hoped to join the New England Association of College and Secondary Schools, but lacked a sufficient number of full-time faculty and adequate facilities. One solution was to join forces with another institution such as Hillyer. However, despite the temptation of the proposed marriage of convenience with Hillyer, HCW stood fast in its desire for independence and self-reliance. HCW improved its strength by finding a new campus, expanding its programs to include services for nontraditional students, and cooperating with other local colleges and universities.

Johnson’s own independence of spirit paralleled that of the college. Her authority soon outstripped that of her two predecessors, and it eventually became unnecessary for her to defer to a male superior. The dominant force of the college’s early years, Howell Cheney, served as a trustee until his death in 1957. A year later Johnson was promoted from dean to president.

By the 1950s the college was overcrowded at the Highland Street house. Although a number of new locatons were considered, the former Seaverns estate on the corner of Elizabeth and Asylum Streets proved to be the most desirable. The grounds of this estate were originally designed by Frederick Law Olmsted II, the son of the designer of Hartford’s Bushnell Park; Central Park in New York City; Smith College in Northampton, Mass; and many other projects. On the idyllic Asylum Street campus, Johnson established her own office just inside the front door of the main administrative building, the former Seaverns house.

Like the Highland Street house, the Seaverns building, (now Butterworth Hall) was a family residence before becoming part of the college. As the years went by, HCW grew by acquiring other houses in the neighborhood. When new buildings were erected, they were planned on an intimate scale. Thus, HCW retained a domestic feel throughout its history. This family-like atmosphere helped create an informal, nurturing environment for the faculty and staff as well as for the students. Johnson both fostered and flourished in this conclave of domesticity. Her sensitivity to traditionally feminine concerns helped her to reach out to women of all ages.
During HCW’s early years, the college focused primarily on the needs of young undergraduate students, preparing them for transfer to four-year colleges. During Johnson’s tenure, the college expanded its mission to include programs for older women and those in transition. Johnson believed that by the time a woman completed her most demanding child-rearing years, she could be ready for as many as 30 more years of productive service. Johnson also recognized that after even a few years out of the workforce, a woman might need to refresh her skills and acquire new ones. Her convictions contributed to the development of programs for displaced homemakers and programs for working women who were blocked in their careers due to a lack of training and confidence. Although unmarried herself, Johnson was acutely aware of the challenges of combining career and family.

The 1960s saw the creation of the Hartford College for Women’s Counseling Center, one of the college’s most abiding legacies. The center initially provided support to female college graduates entering or reentering the job force. During the 1970s and 1980s, the center expanded its programs, providing workshops, career counseling, and training programs for women from many walks of life. In 2005 the center’s name was changed to the Career Development Center.

In 1972 the Consortium for Higher Education was launched through a partnership of four colleges: St. Joseph College, the University of Hartford, Hartford College for Women, and Trinity College. The consortium developed a program allowing undergraduates to take courses at the other colleges without paying additional fees. The four colleges created joint graduate programs in the late 1970s. Students were allowed access to library sources at all four of the colleges. For the time being, the consortium would satisfy HCW’s need for wider course offerings and give its students a taste of coeducation.

Cooperation between colleges and universities was very much in vogue at the time. The Hartford consortium was modeled on the Four College Community of western Massachusetts. The four-college program, established in 1965 to promote the broad educational and cultural objectives of its original four member institutions, included two women’s colleges: Smith and Mount Holyoke; Amherst (at that time an all-men’s college); and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Eventually the four colleges sponsored the creation of Hampshire, an experimental college located in Amherst. The whole group is now known as the Five College Community. For many years the Hartford consortium was housed on the Hartford College for Women Campus. By 2007, the consortium included Capital Community College, Central Connecticut State University, Charter Oak State College, Connecticut Public Televison and Radio, Goodwin College, Hartford Seminiary, Rensselaer at Hartford, St. Thomas Seminary, St. Joseph College, Trinity College, the University of Connecticut and the University of Hartford.

Clearly, Laura Johnson had taken HCW from a modest “noble experiment” to an established presence in Hartford educational circles. She and her supporters could take great pride in their mutual achievements. After retiring from HCW in 1976, Johnson moved to Farmington Woods in Avon. During her last years, she pursued her love of nature through her involvement in the Connecticut Horticultural Society, of which she was President, and the Bee and Botanical Society in Vermont. She died in 1980 at the age of 69.

Joan Davis succeeded Laura Johnson as president on June 1, 1976, and she had a tough act to follow. Laura Johnson had presided over the college for many years, knew its ins and outs, and always welcomed a casual visit from faculty, staff, and students. By contrast, Davis was a more modern administrator. She helped introduce a more formal management style to HCW.

University of Hartford Archives.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Early Hartford College for Women History

In honor of the upcoming reunion, A Home Coming for Women March 4-6, 2010, the University of Hartford Archives at the Mortensen Library will be presenting a series of short articles about the history of Hartford College for Women. These articles were prepared by Margaret Mair, University of Hartford archivist, using materials in the archives. Unless otherwise noted, all images are the property of the Univesity of Hartford.

Chapter 1 The Great Depression and the Noble Experiment 1933-43

Mount Holyoke in Hartford 1933-39

Hartford College for Women was founded as Mount Holyoke in Hartford, Conn. in 1933 to meet the needs of young women in the Hartford area who were unable to afford the cost of a four year degree at a residential college. The Great Depression had forced many girls to put their dreams on hold; the new college afforded them the possibility of pursuing those dreams. At a time when funds were short, many families opted to educate their sons, but not their daughters. In the early days, the college was often referred to affectionately as “The Noble Experiment.” As it evolved, the new college for women was known by many names: Mount Holyoke in Hartford, Hartford Junior College, Hartford College, and eventually Hartford College for Women.
This article has three goals. The first is to provide a brief factual account of Hartford College for Women from its beginning as “Mount Holyoke in Hartford” in 1933 until its metamorphosis into The Women’s Education and Leadership Fund of the University of Hartford in 2006. The second goal is to place the history of HCW within the context of the development of women’s education and the junior college movement in the United States. A third goal is to trace HCW’s relationship to other Hartford-area educational institutions, particularly the University of Hartford.

As the archivist of the University of Hartford, I have spent the last several years organizing the historical collections of HCW. Reading through correspondence, newsletters, and memos, and sorting through mounds of photographs, I have become acquainted with the legacies of a vast array of inspiring individuals. HCW was led by fascinating women and men, produced scores of talented alumnae, and fostered many creative educational projects. Some of those projects have evolved and continue to operate in the greater Hartford community to this day. Alas, it is not possible to mention everyone who served HCW or to describe each one of its many pioneering ventures. I am forced to concentrate on chief administrators, selected long-term faculty, and the most enduring educational initiatives.

In preparing this article, I have relied upon unpublished histories of the college prepared by Oliver Butterworth, Bess Graham, Christine Lyman-Farquhar, and Helen Randall. I have also benefited from research conducted by Jane Barstow and Mary Merritt in conjunction with their 1983 oral history project and exhibit "A Woman’s Place; the First Fifty years of Hartford College for Women" and from A University for Hartford, A University for the World: A Short History of the University of Hartford compiled by Gordon Clark Ramsey and Humphrey Tonkin and published by the University in 1998. Many alumnae, former faculty, and administrators have shared memories with me. However, any opinions or interpretations expressed in this article are my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone affiliated with Hartford College for Women or the University of Hartford.

It is not surprising that the idea of a two-year women’s college found favor in Hartford. New England gave rise to many noteworthy educational establishments for women. In fact, although exceptions existed, single-sex education was the norm for private colleges and secondary schools in New England. Hartford Female Seminary, a pioneering institution, was founded by Catharine Beecher, sister of Harriet Beecher Stowe, in 1823. Miss Porter's School was founded in Farmington, Conn. in 1843. After several years in New Jersey, Ethel Walker School was moved to Simsbury, Conn. in 1917.

New England was home to many of the earliest and most enduring women’s colleges. Smith College was founded in 1871. Mount Holyoke was founded as a seminary in 1837 and became a four-year college in 1893. Wellesley was founded 1870. Connecticut College was originally founded as Connecticut College for Women in 1911.
The earliest impetus for HCW came from the local YWCA. Blanche Babcock, president of the YWCA, and Bess Graham, the educational secretary of the Y, along with the Y’s education committee, initiated the idea of a local college for women. This group prudently sought the advice of educational experts and conducted thorough research into educational opportunities in the area.

The committee considered joining forces with Trinity College, the local men’s college. When approached about founding a coordinate college for women, President Remsen B. Ogilby at Trinity stated that Trinity already had its hands full dealing with boys. He referred the committee to Mount Holyoke’s president, Mary Woolley. Woolley in turn invited the group to South Hadley, Mass. for a discussion. Mount Holyoke had suffered a decline in enrollment during the Depression. Woolley and her colleagues were anxious to put their faculty to work in other colleges nearby so that Mount Holyoke could eventually draw these professors back when the economy improved.

One criterion of the early planners was that admissions requirement and the curriculum at the new college had to be identical to those of Mount Holyoke so that the Hartford students could transfer to colleges on a par with Mount Holyoke. Smith, Vassar, and Wellesley; all confirmed they would also accept transfers from the Hartford College.

Eventually an expanded committee consisting of representatives of Trinity College, the Hartford YWCA, and Mount Holyoke College drew up plans for the new school, which opened with 22 students in 1933. Classes were originally held in the YWCA building at 262 Ann Street. The curriculum consisted of ancient history, Latin, German, English, French, mathematics, speech, hygiene, and physical education, including basketball, swimming, and other sports. In 1963 Helena M. Gamen wrote to Bess Graham of her memories of the first class, "I have never had a more enterprising, motley, and original group of young students to work with.”

At first, Mount Holyoke in Harford only provided one year of study equivalent to the freshman year at Mount Holyoke. The earliest classes of Hartford students petitioned for a sophomore year in 1935, but Woolley declined to participate in the expansion of the program. She felt that the one-year program had been a success, but that it would be too difficult for Mount Holyoke to manage a full two years from South Hadley. As the economy improved and attendance grew at the home school, Mount Holyoke needed to regroup and focus on its core group of students in Massachusetts.

Enthusiasts in Hartford believed that the college could be maintained and expanded under local sponsorship. In 1938 Mount Holyoke ended their official control of the Hartford experiment, and the emerging college became a community project. By this time six classes had completed the freshman year in Hartford. In all, 129 students had completed the course, 45 had completed the remaining three years at Mount Holyoke, and 84 had transferred to other colleges.

A new committee evolved to consider the future of the school and this committee called upon the consulting firm of Tamblyn and Tamblyn for advice. The committee learned from Tamblyn and Tamblyn that in the Hartford area, 2220 girls graduated from high school each year. About 300 were qualified to attend college, but only about 180 could afford the fees. Girls graduating from high school found it difficult to obtain a higher education. Moreover, traditional women’s careers - including teaching, nursing, librarianship, and office work - needed some training beyond the secondary level.

Clearly young Hartford area women needed access to appropriate education. Trinity College planned to remain an exclusively male college. Although St. Joseph’s College had come into being under the auspices of the Sisters of Mercy in 1932, it had not yet been accredited. Therefore, the first St. Joseph’s students could not count on later acceptance into other schools.
Meanwhile, across town at the YMCA, Alan S. Wilson was developing a plan for a two-year coeducational school to be called “Hillyer Junior College.” Hillyer Junior College grew out of Hillyer Institute, an evening extension program housed at the YMCA. Hillyer Institute was originally designed for young working men who needed additional education and training to qualify for better jobs. Thus, Hillyer and HCW both had close ties to the YM/YWCA movement and came into being during a time of great interest in the two-year “junior college” idea. The junior college movement emerged in the early 20thcentury from the recognition that a high school diploma was insufficient training for many forms of skilled employment. Many junior colleges were originated in the belief that two years of college work could either qualify students for good jobs or enable them to pursue a four-year degree elsewhere.

In 1939, when the founders of Hartford Junior College (HCW) found out about Wilson’s plans, they requested that Wilson establish Hillyer as a single-sex institution for men, fearing that Hillyer might draw young women away from HCW. However, Hillyer Institute had already become coed in 1928. Reverting to single-sex education was not practical. Hillyer Junior College began offering an associate's degree in 1937. Hillyer evolved into a four-year baccalaureate degree program in 1947. In 1957 Hillyer would be one of the three schools that merged to form the University of Hartford.

During this period, the male trustees were among the most indefatigable supporters of HCW. Howell Cheney of the Cheney Mills family in Manchester, Conn. had been a Mount Holyoke trustee; he stepped into the breach when Mount Holyoke discontinued the Hartford program. In 1939 the college was incorporated as Hartford Junior College, and Cheney became the first chairman of the board. That same year, the school moved from the YWCA on Ann Street to a shingle-style house at 47 Highland Street in West Hartford, Conn. (now demolished). A two- year program was now offered and courses in chemistry, economics, sociology, European history, and the history of art were added to the curriculum.

Faculty from the local men’s colleges, Wesleyan and Trinity, had helped to supplement the faculty from the start of the new college and continued to do so. Although the college developed a strong core faculty of full-time professors, faculty from other institutions taught on a part-time basis throughout the history of the school.

There is no statistical information available regarding the religious and ethnic background of the students of Mount Holyoke in Hartford or Hartford Junior College during the early years. It seems likely that local Catholic girls were more likely to attend St. Joseph’s College, especially after St. Joseph’s received accreditation. However, a scan of early yearbooks suggests that Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish girls all attended Hartford Junior College. Although most students were of white, northern European descent, African American and other American women of color, as well as international students of East-Asian, Middle-Eastern, and Asian background, were also represented albeit in smaller numbers. In a 1983 oral history interview, alumna Paula Polivy recalled 15 students in her class. “Five Jewish, one black, one Persian, one Greek… in those days it didn’t mean a thing... We were all friends together… [It was] a marvelous place.”

First Dean Helen Randall 1939-40

Helen Randall, Hartford Junior College’s first chief administrator, was given the title of dean. Randall held a doctorate from Yale University and came to Hartford on leave from a teaching position in the English Department at Smith College in Northampton, Mass. Randall was apparently somewhat remote from the students, although she was thoroughly dedicated to the college. Sheonly served one year before returning to teaching at Smith College, where she had a distinguished teaching career and eventually became dean in 1948. Randall retired from Smith in 1973 and died in 2000.
In addition to teaching and administrative duties, Randall endured a lack of privacy since she was given an apartment in the Highland Street House as part of her compensation.
Randall’s 1983 oral history interview details her perceptions of the earliest days. According to Randall, the college was on shaky financial ground from the very beginning. Randall was disappointed in the Highland Street house and believed it was a “makeshift arrangement.” Dorothy Pietrallo, one of the first trustees, recalled that the financial pressures “never eased.”
Randall, like Woolley, was particularly appalled by the inadequacy of the library. Randall bought many of the college’s books at an estate auction. Other books were donated by well wishers. Randall also purchased lumber and built the first bookshelves herself. Professor Oliver Butterworth recollected that the “library” in the Highland Street house consisted of bookshelves along the walls that were blocked by large pieces of furniture. According to Butterworth, students were reluctant to use a book if retrieving it entailed moving the furniture.

Randall remembered the students as “dressed in city clothes” but not having “much style.” She did feel that they were an earnest group of young people, and not given to “escapades or pranks.” Randall believed that the quality of education offered at the college was “commensurate with that of the best women’s colleges in the East.”

With the departure of Helen Randall in 1940, trustee Clement Hyde took over many of the carpentry duties at the college. He built additional bookshelves and cabinets when they were needed. Hyde taught physics and mathematics at Hartford High School. Many years later, when the new laboratories were named in his honor at HCW, his former Hartford High School students contributed $11,000 toward the construction, documenting the friendly association that had developed between the Hartford public schools and the college.

In 1940 the subject of cooperation with Hillyer College was raised again, but rejected by the trustees on the grounds that the educational missions of the two colleges were significantly different. Hillyer offered a terminal two-year associates degree. While Alan Wilson and his colleagues worked hard to develop a strong liberal arts curriculum at Hillyer, it remained primarily a technical and business school. Hartford Junior College, by contrast, was planned as a two-year foundational program that would lead to a four-year liberal arts degree.

Second Dean, Grace Frick 1940-43

A scholar of French language and literature, Grace Frick became the second dean of Hartford Junior College in 1940. She taught English at HJC in addition to fulfilling her administrative duties. A native of Kansas City, Mo., she was a 1925 graduate of Wellesley College. She received an master's from Wellesley two years later. Frick completed additional academic work at both Yale and the University of Kansas. She had taught previously at Stephens Junior College for Women at Columbia, Mo., and at Barnard College of Colombia University before coming to HJC.

Frick was faced with the impact of World War II which eventually reinforced the need for women’s education. Women stepped into careers formerly open primarily to men and took over family businesses as men departed for service in the armed forces. Although enrollment at the college dropped during the war, the trustees felt that they needed to keep the college afloat for the duration. They predicted that the next generations of women would increasingly expect education of a high caliber after learning during the war that they could handle professions and trades formerly viewed as masculine.

Today Grace Frick is best known because of her lifelong relationship with Belgian writer Marguerite Yourcenar. The two first met in 1937 in Paris. Later, while Frick was taking courses at Yale in New Haven, Conn., Yourcenar came to the United States to avoid the disruptions in Europe caused by the war. The two began to share an apartment in 1939 while Frick was teaching at Barnard.

Yourcenar later joined Frick in Hartford. Unlike Dean Randall, Grace Frick did not live on campus. She and Yourcenar lived together in an apartment building at 549 Prospect Ave. in West Hartford and kept the apartment until April 1951. Yourcenar taught at Hartford Junior College beginning in1941, teaching French literature and art history for free. The two women were active in the intellectual and artistic circles in Hartford during their years of residence. Youcenar also commuted to Bronxville, N. Y. during this period to teach at Sarah Lawrence College.

Frick initially left Hartford College for Women for a teaching position at Connecticut College for Women in New London, Conn. in 1943. Frick became Yourcenar’s translator and continued in that role until her own death. The two finally settled in 1950 at Mount Desert Island in Maine. Grace Frick died in 1979.

The first two administrators of the college had been exceptional scholars but had now moved on to careers focusing on teaching in the case of Randall and research and translation in the case of Frick. Although these first two deans had served very briefly, the administrator who followed Grace Frick would be the woman who most fully defined Hartford College for Women.


Barstow, Jane, and Mary Merritt. "A Woman’s Place; the First Fifty Years of Hartford College for Women." exhibit catalog and essay, University of Hartford Archives, Hartford College for Women Collection, 1983.

Butterworth, Oliver. "Hartford College: The First Twenty-Five Years." unpublished manuscript, University of Hartford Archives, Hartford College for Women Collection,1964.

Graham, Bess. "History of Mount Holyoke in Hartford." Unpublished manuscript prepared for the 25th anniversary of Hartford College foe Women, The University of Hartford Archives, Hartford College for Women Collection. 1964.

Lyman-Farquhar, Christine. "Bibi Constanem Esse." Unpublished manuscript, The University of Hartford Archives, Hartford College for Women Collection, 1988.

Rousseau, G. S.. Yourcenar. Life and times. London: Haus, 2004.

Savigneau, Josyane. Marguerite Yourcenar: Inventing a life, trans. Joan E. Howard. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1993.

University of Hartford. 1998. A University for Hartford, a University for the World: A short history of the University of Hartford.

University of Hartford Archives, Hartford College for Women Collection, especially Administrators Series.

The next installment in this series will be:

The Laura Johnson Years
Laura Johnson, Third Dean (1943-58) and
First President (1958-76) of Hartford College for Women