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1937 College Bulletin

Bulletin of


New Series 343


By Robert S. Fletcher and Ernest H. Wilkins

March 20, 1937

Oberlin, OH

The Oberlin Collegiate Institute opened its doors on December 3, 1833. For the remainder of that college year it comprised two departments, the Academic and the Primary, both below the college level.

The charter of the Institute, granted by the Ohio Legislature on February 28, 1834, gave to the Trustees of the Institute “power to confer on those whom they may deem worthy, such honors and degrees as are usually conferred in similar institutions.”

The first Circular of the Institute, dated March 8, 1834, contains the following paragraph:

The grand objects of the Oberlin Institute are, to give the most useful education at the least expense of health, time, and money; and to extend the benefits of such education to both sexes; and all classes of [the] community as far as its means will allow. Its system embraces thorough instruction in every department from the Infant School up through a Collegiate and Theological course. While care will be taken not to lower the standard of intellectual culture, no pains will be spared to combine with it the best physical and moral education. Prominent objects of this Seminary are, the thorough qualification of Christian teachers, both for the pulpit and for schools; and the elevation of female character, by bringing within the reach of the misjudged and neglected sex, all the instructive privileges which hitherto have unreasonably distinguished the leading sex from theirs.

In October, 1834, two new departments of the Institute were opened: the Collegiate Department, in which the students were men only, and the Female Department. As will presently appear, the course offered by the Collegiate Department was, or very soon became, equivalent to the course then offered by Yale. The course offered by the Female Department was not of college grade, but corresponded to the courses offered by the ladies’ seminaries of the East.

The First Annual Report of the Oberlin Collegiate Institute, published in November, 1834, contains the following paragraphs:


This is comprehensive, including physical as well as intellectual and moral culture, adapted to both sexes, and all ages and attainments from the common school through a liberal education, inclusive, ultimately of a theological course. Infant and Primary Schools will be sustained by the Oberlin Colony in the neighborhood of the Institute. The several departments of instruction in the Institute are thus arranged: Preparatory or Academic School; Female Department; Teacher’s Seminary; Collegiate Department, and Theological Department. The Preparatory School is designed, as its name denotes, to prepare pupils for the higher departments; or for business which does not require a more extended education.

The Female Department, under the supervision of a lady, will furnish instruction in the useful branches taught in the best Female Seminaries; and its higher classes will be permitted to enjoy the privileges of such professorships in the Teacher’s, Collegiate, and Theological Departments as shall best suit their sex, and prospective employment.…

The Collegiate Department will afford as extensive and thorough a course of instruction as other colleges; varying from some, by substituting Hebrew and sacred Classics for the most objectionable pagan authors.…

The first Catalogue of the Institute, issued in the summer of 1835, contains the following brief account of the Female Department:

Young ladies of good minds, unblemished morals, and respectable attainments, are received into this department, and placed under the superintendence of a judicious lady, whose duty it is to correct their habits and mould the female character. They board at the public table, and perform the labor of the Stewards Department, together with the washing, ironing, and much of the sewing for the students. They attend recitations with young gentlemen in all the departments. Their rooms are entirely separate from those of the other sex, and no calls or visits in their respective apartments are at all permitted.

The first detailed statement of the content of the course of study followed in the Female Department appears in the Catalogue of 1838. This statement is reprinted below as Appendix I.

Despite the fact that the Female Department was not of college grade, the opening of that department in Oberlin marked an innovation in the education of women in that this was the first instance in which a ladies’ seminary had been established as part of an institution in which the central department was a regular college.

A second innovation appeared in 1834 or by the following year at the latest: some of the young women in the Female Department attended classes in the Collegiate Department—the first instance of the attendance of women in college classes. The fact of this attendance is indicated by the statement quoted above from the First Annual Report to the effect that the higher classes of the Female Department

will be permitted to enjoy the privileges of such professorships in the Teacher’s, Collegiate, and Theological Departments as shall best suit their sex, and prospective employment,

and by the statement quoted above from the Catalogue of 1835:

They attend recitations with young gentlemen in all the departments.

The first young woman to graduate from the Female Department was Zeruiah Porter, who finished the course in 1838. She did not receive a degree, and the work she had completed was not that of a college course: but she was the first woman to graduate from a course carried on in a ladies’ seminary associated with a college; and she was the first woman to graduate from a course as part of which she had attended college classes with men.

Meanwhile, a far more significant innovation had taken place.

The Collegiate Department, as has been said, was opened in October, 1834, its students being men only. Statements of the content of the course of study followed in this department appear in each of the early catalogues. The first such statement, which appeared in the Catalogue of 1835, is reprinted below as Appendix II. The corresponding statements in the next two catalogues are more elaborate. The fourth catalogue, published in September, 1839, ends with a detailed “Comparative View of the Oberlin and Yale College Courses of Study,” which gives the content of the Oberlin course in great detail, and establishes its equivalence to the Yale course. This “Comparative View” is reprinted in full as Appendix III.

On or immediately after Commencement Day, September 6, 1837, four young women—Mary Hosford, Mary Fletcher Kellogg, Elizabeth Smith Prall, and Caroline Mary Rudd—presented themselves and were accepted for entrance into the regular course of the Collegiate Department. They were the first women to matriculate for a regular college course. Their matriculation in September, 1837, was the beginning of actual college education for women; and it was, as well, the beginning of coeducation on the college level. College education for women thus began as coeducation.

All of the four pioneers had previously been registered in the Female Department. The First Annual Report lists Miss Hosford as registered for the “Summer Term” of 1834. The Catalogue of 1835 lists Miss Hosford, Miss Kellogg, and Miss Prall among those registered in the Female Department for the year 1835-36. The Catalogue of 1836, which divides the students of the Female Department into three classes, Senior, Middle, and junior, lists Miss Prall as a member of the Middle class and Miss Rudd as a member of the junior class for the year 1836-37. In the next catalogue, published in June, 18 3 8, and listing students as of the year 1837- 38, the main list of Young Ladies is followed by a special section headed “College Course,” under which are the captions “Freshman Class” and “Preparatory.” The entries under the first of these two captions are as follows:


MARY F. KELLOGG, Jamestown, N. Y.
CAROLINE M. RUDD, Huntington, Ct.

This is the first list of women enrolled for a college course.

No list of students in the Collegiate Department for the year 1838-39 was published. The next catalogue, published in September, 1839, and listing collegiate students as of the year 1839-40, lists Miss Hosford, Miss Prall, and Miss Rudd (but not Miss Kellogg) under the headings “College Course, Junior Class”; and they appear similarly in the following catalogue as the three women members of the Senior class.

These three young women, Miss Hosford, Miss Prall, and Miss Rudd, carried the course through to completion, and received on Commencement Day, August 25, 1841, degrees and diplomas identical with those given to their male classmates. They were the first women in this country to receive degrees which were specifically called bachelor's degrees, and to receive degrees awarded on the completion of a regular college course,1 and they were, as well, the first women to graduate from a coeducational college course.

1These qualifying clauses are designed to give due recognition to the fact that a graduating class of eleven young women received degrees in 1840 from Georgia Female College (now Wesleyan College). Georgia Female College received its charter in 1836, being the first college exclusively for women to be chartered. It did not open its doors until January 7, 1839. The “Testimonials” given a year and a half later do not specify that the degree awarded is a bachelor's degree: the graduates are said to be “deemed worthy of the First Degree conferred by this Institution.” It may be, however, that the degree was, in the intention of the officers of the College, a bachelor's degree. The evidence indicates that the course of study then offered in Georgia Female College was not comparable to that offered men in colleges of the day. The Georgia experiment is studied in detail by Thomas Woody in his A History of Women’s Education in the United States (New York and Lancaster, Science Press, 1929), Vol. 11, pp. 161- 167. Dr. Woody concludes that the extreme youth of the students admitted, the low admission requirements, the failure to insist upon even these requirements, the omission of Latin and Greek as required courses, and the granting of diplomas more like those granted by contemporary seminaries than those granted by colleges indicate that the course offered at the time in Georgia Female College was not equivalent to the usual course in men’s colleges of that day.


The First Detailed Statement of the Content of the Course of Study followed in the Female Department.2

The following is the course of study for young Ladies.


Reading, Spelling, Writing; Arithmetic, Colburn’s and Adam’s; Geography, Grammar and Composition.

The studies of the regular course are as follow!

First Year.

English Grammar; including analyzing and the study of Poetry; Ancient and Modern Geography, on the topic system; Sacred Geography; Histories of Greece, Rome and England; Webster’s United States; Nevin’s Biblical Antiquities; Emerson’s Watts on the mind; Greek for such only as design to take a full course; Linear Drawing.

Second Year.

Universal History; Botany; Algebra; Olmsted’s Natural Philosophy, abridged; Whately’s Logic and Rhetoric; Paley’s Evidences; Cowper’s Poems; Town’s Analysis; Hopkins’ Christians Instructor; Greek of the New Testament for such as take a full course.

Third Year.

Legendre’s Geometry; Hershel’s Astronomy; Chemistry; Milton’s Poems; Leslie on Deism; Stewart’s Philosophy of the Mind; Jahn’s Archeology.

Fourth Year.

Astronomy completed; Butler’s Analogy; Milton’s Poems completed; Lectures on Intellectual Philosophy; Wayland’s Moral Science with Lectures; Ecclesiastical History; Principles of Sacred Interpretation; Lectures on Theology.

Compositions, and Exercises in Reading throughout the course. One lesson weekly in the English Bible.

Practical Lectures on Physiology interspersed throughout the course.

Whenever the course of study admits of it, the young Ladies attend the regular recitations of the College Department.

2From the Catalogue of 1838, pp. 29-30.


The First Statement of the Content of the Course of Study Followed in the Collegiate Department.3

GREEK.—Greek Testament; Xenophon’s Cyropoedia; Memorabilia of Socrates.

LATIN.—Cicero de Amicitia; de Senectute; de Oficiis; Buchanan’s Psalms.

HEBREW.—Spirit of Hebrew Poetry; Gleig’s History of the Bible; Biblical Antiquities; Seixas’ Hebrew Grammar, and Selections from the Hebrew Bible.

MATHEMATICS AND NATURAL PHILOSOPHY.—Algebra; Geometry; Trigonometry; Olmstead's Natural Philosophy, and Astronomy.

NATURAL SCIENCES.—Chemistry; Mineralogy and geology; Botany; Anatomy, and Physiology; Zoology.


POLITICAL ECONOMY AND LAW, (particularly Laws of the United States.)

EVIDENCES OF RELIGION.—Paley’s Evidences; Erskine and Leslie; Keith on the Prophecies; Butler’s Analogy.

LOGIC AND RHETORIC.—Whately; Campbell; Kames.

MISCELLANEOUS.—Robbins’ Universal History; Poetical works of Cowper and Milton; Abbott’s Corner Stone, etc.

Compositions and exercises in speaking, throughout the whole course.

3From the Catalogue of 1835, pp. 18-19.


Comparative View of the Oberlin and Yale College Courses of Study.4

Persons who have written for the purpose of decrying the Oberlin Course of Study have compared it with that of Yale College; but the comparison has been made chiefly with respect to the Oberlin Latin course. In order that the christian public may be enabled to judge us fairly, we here present in parallel columns the entire courses of the two Institutions. Yale is in no danger of being condemned for want of thoroughness, and we deem it hardly necessary to say that no unfriendly feeling towards that venerable seat of learning, has led us to present this comparison.

We begin with the Latin and Greek courses. The pages of each author are reduced to those of the Tauchnitz edition of Latin and Greek classics. The estimate may not be exact to a line; but it is sufficiently so for all the purposes of comparison.


Oberlin. Yale.
  Pages.   Pages.
Latin Reader, 236. Latin Reader, 236.
Cicero, 209. Cicero, 209.
    Sallust, 122.
    Virgil, 358.
Total, 445. Total, 925.


Oberlin. Yale.
  Pages.   Pages.
Cicero, 404. Cicero, 340.
Tacitus, 53. Tacitus, 290.
Grotius, 125. Plautus and Seneca, 67.
Buchanan, 258. Livy, 366.
    Horace, 258.
Total, 840. Total, 1321.


These are the same at both Institutions, except that the few pages of poetry in the Greek Reader, are not required at Oberlin.


Oberlin. Yale.
  Pages.   Pages.
Xenophon, 351. Xenophon, 287.
Aeschines, 92. Aeschines, 92.
Demosthenes, 108. Homer, 221.
Plato, 98. Aeschylus, 37.
Aeschylus, 37. Sophocles, 102.
Sophocles, 47. Euripides, 39.
Acts, Epistles, and Rev. 332.    
Total, 1065. Total, 778.


Oberlin. Yale.
One recitation a day through one third of the junior and the whole of the Senior year. [Our present Seniors will have done nearly this.] One recitation a day through one third of the junior year. Instead of this the Student may study Plato’s Gorgias, French, Spanish, or Fluxions.

From the above, it appears that the Oberlin preparatory Latin is 17½ pages less than one, half of what is required at Yale;—that the Oberlin college Latin is 179½ pages more than one half of the Yale;—and that the whole of the Oberlin course is 162 pages more than one half of what is required for admission and what is studied at Yale together. But, on the other hand, it appears that while very nearly the same amount of Greek is required for admission to college at both Institutions, the Oberlin Greek course in college, exceeds the whole Yale Greek course, by 27 pages more than one third of that course.

The following calculation will show whether the greater quantity of Hebrew and Greek at Oberlin is equivalent to the deficiency in Latin. One recitation a day during the last four terms of a college course, would carry the student over at least 1040 pages of the Tauchnitz Latin Classics. This, added to the excess of Greek in favor of Oberlin, makes our College course in languages greater than that of Yale by 846 pages, and our whole course greater than what Yale requires for admission and what it studies together, by 366 pages. Or, supposing the Yale student to choose to study Greek or Hebrew instead of the other things during the term in which he has his option, the whole course at Oberlin in languages would still remain greater than that of Yale by 106 pages. In this calculation the daily recitation is supposed to be equivalent to four pages. Our juniors are now reciting five pages of Demosthenes at a recitation.

We have not put to the account of Yale College, “Latin and Greek” mentioned in the list of studies for Senior year. The Greek, we are informed, consists of an excellent course of Lectures on “Demosthenes on the Crown,” delivered to only a part of the class; and the “Latin” means Lectures on Virgil or some other familiar author to the other part of the class. Should allowance be made for Demosthenes, the Yale Greek course must be increased by 108 pages. The Oberlin course would still remain the greater in the number of pages, unless the Yale student studies Hebrew or Greek during the third term of his junior year, in which case the Oberlin course would be two pages less than the Yale, or, allowing f or the poetry in the Greek Reader, about 20 pages less. It is now submitted whether our course in languages is not as well adapted as that of Yale to students who are preparing for the ministry—whose office it will be to expound the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures.



Oberlin. Yale.
English Grammar. English Grammar.
Geography. Geography.
Adams’ Arithmetic. Adams’ Arithmetic.
Colburn’s First Lessons.  
Goldsmith’s Histories of
Greece, Rome and England.
Webster’s United States.  
Nevin’s Biblical Antiquities.  
Hopkins’ Christians Instructor.  
Porter’s Rhetorical Reader.  


Oberlin. Yale.
Day’s Algebra. Day’s Algebra.
Davies’ Legendre, including
Spherical Geometry.
Playfair’s Euclid.
Spherical Geometry.
Legendre’s Trigonometry. Day's Mathematics, including, besides the subjects comprehended in the Oberlin course, Mensuration, Navigation, and Surveying.
Bridge’s Conic Sections. Bridge’s Conic Sections.
Olmsted’s Natural Philosophy. Olmsted’s Natural Philosophy.
Astronomy. Astronomy.
  Adam’s Roman Antiquities.
Tytler’s Universal History. Tytler’s History.
Whately’s Logic. Hedge’s Logic.
Whately’s Rhetoric. Jamieson’s Rhetoric.
Kames’ Elements of Criticism. Blair’s Rhetoric.
Lowth on Hebrew Poetry.  
Stewart’s Mental Philosophy,
Vol. 1.
Stewart’s Mental Philosophy.
Cousin’s Psychology.  
Lectures on Mental Philosophy.  
Lectures on Moral Philosophy. Paley’s Moral Philosophy.
Lectures on Law. Kent’s Commentaries.
Paley and Butler on the Evidences of Christianity. Evidences of Christianity.
Paley’s Natural Theology.
Lectures on Anat. and Physiology.  
Lectures on Chemistry. Lectures on Chemistry.
  Lectures on Mineralogy & Geology.
Botany with Lectures.  
Political Economy. Political Economy.
Cowper’s Poems.  
Milton’s Poems.  
Lectures on Natural Philosophy (not yet for want of apparatus). Lectures on Natural Philosophy.
Rhetorical Exercises. Rhetorical Exercises.
Science & Art of Sacred vocal Music.  
Lesson in Eng. Bible once a week.  

4From the Catalogue of 1839, pp. 22-24.

“The above is bona fide our course, and we have done our utmost to carry our classes through it and make them thoroughly understand it;” and the result is, that few important studies have been omitted. It is true that our performance has not been equal in all respects to our wishes or our plans; but this has been in a great measure owing to the difficulties universally experienced in organizing and perfecting a new institution. Our present juniors have read nearly the whole course in languages including the Greek Testament, and have actually read more Greek than the whole Yale course contains: the time for their study of Hebrew has not yet come. We hope to be able ere long to carry our students through the whole, not only in languages, but in other studies. If on sufficient trial, we find this impossible, our annual catalogue will show what we omit.

The Bulletin of Oberlin College is published every six weeks by the Secretary of the College, Administration Building. Entered September 5, 1903, at the Post Office at Oberlin, Ohio, as second-class mail matter, under Act of July 16, 1894.

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