Monday, July 4, 2011

College education for women: a formerly repugnant transaction

From an article about Trinity College in Washington DC, by Kevin Carey in the Washington Monthly: The Trinity Sisters

"And so the two nuns and the vice rector banded together to form a Catholic college for women: Trinity College.

"Within months, they were engulfed in protest and controversy. Men in the local church hierarchy were aghast at the prospect of a women’s college being erected within walking distance of the male students at Catholic. Like Billiart and Bourdon a century before, Sisters McGroarty and Euphrasia’s modern ideas about educating women pushed the bounds of what was acceptable within the church. Soon the fledgling project was surrounded by rumor and innuendo. Joseph Schroeder, a professor of dogmatic theology at Catholic, relayed his objections to allies in the Vatican and began publishing broadsides in conservative newspapers. “We cannot discern any advantage gained by this newfangled rise of the New Woman,” he wrote. Fending off the anti-Trinity campaign fell to Euphrasia, a tireless networker, promoter, and fund-raiser who might have been a star in the university development world had she lived in a different time.

"The face-off was dubbed by some the “War of 1897.” Catholic newspapers up and down the East Coast ran stories about the controversy. “The project of a University for the weaker sex,” said one pointed inquiry from Rome, “has made a disagreeable impression here.” Finally Sister Euphrasia determined to speak with the archbishop himself, who had fled the stifling summer heat for Atlantic City. On August 26, she and a colleague donned their heavy hooded traveling cloaks despite the soaring temperatures and set out by train for New Jersey. The archbishop was impressed by their case and their determination, and his support helped tip the battle in Trinity’s favor. (It didn’t hurt that the college’s supporters began pointing to their opponent Shroeder’s weakness for all-night sojourns in disreputable saloons.) By December the war had subsided. Trinity College enrolled its first students on November 3, 1900.

Happy (American) Independence Day to all:)


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