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Records of the Board of Trustees (Group 1)
[1] Records of the Board of Trustees, 1833-1978, 44 l.f.

Administrative History

Under the 1834 charter (an Act to Incorporate the Oberlin “Collegiate Institute”),12 persons were authorized to serve on the board of trustees. The president of the College was made an ex-officio member in 1834. In 1850 the charter was amended so that the name of the institution could be changed to Oberlin College. The number of trustees was increased in 1874 to l8 and in 1878 to 24, divided into six classes of four, elected to serve for six years. Four of the additional members were elected in 1878, the others in 1880.

In 1878 the trustees authorized participation by the alumni in the selection of one trustee each year. Until 1892, candidates were selected by the alumni, but election was by vote of the trustees. Since then alumni have elected their representatives directly. The membership of the board was expanded to 28 in 1970.

Mrs. Adelia A. Field Johnston, professor of medieval history at Oberlin College, became the first woman to be named to the board in 1901-02. Between 1900 and 1960 only six other women were elected. They were Harriet Louis Keeler, who served from 1915 to 1924; Katharine Wright Haskell (1924-1929); A. Beatrice Doerschuk (1926-1955); Cliffe Johnson Merriam (1930-1936); Adena Miller Rich (1934-1960); and Kathryn Louise Hopwood (1956-1968). During the next 30 years the number of women on the board tripled.

Scope and Content

The records of the board of trustees consist mainly of the following records series: charter and bylaws (printed), 1903-1966; minutes of meetings, 1834-1965 (1834-1964 on microfilm); minutes of the executive committee, 1924-1967; document files supporting the minutes of meetings of the board, 1833-1968; and committees. Committee records include those of the Presidential Committee, 1878-1961; Investment Committee, 1892-1894,1903-1973; Budget Committee, 1892-1959; Presidential Search Committees, 1945-46, 1959, 1970, and 1975. Indexes exist for the meetings of the board of trustees and the Prudential Committee, but they only cover the years of 1834 to 1904.

Records making up the early years of the document files give the appearance Shaving been informally kept or of having been recreated after they had been dispersed. Some of the pre-Civil War documents (e.g., student labor accounts of the 1830s) may have been selected for this file by Robert S. Fletcher during his research into the history of Oberlin College. Material of the 1830s, inch including that at on the subject of coeducation, is random in nature. Some documents for the years 1853-1863 and 1864-1869 are in the records of the Office of the Treasurer. There are no items for the years 1875-1878, one item for 1879, and none for 1880, 1882-83 and 1887-1891. It is likely that a fire in 1903 destroyed many of the records, because several items of the 1870s are charred and stuck together as if they had been drenched by water.

Around 1893 the documents are more formal in nature and complete in scope. On June 25, 1900, the file numbers begin with DF197, and from that point on they continue in chronological and numerical order. (Prior to 1899 the College treasurer also served as its secretary. The first secretary—George M. Jones—began his duties in September, and he may have begun the document numbering system.) Documents dated after June 7, 1968, are in the Office of the Secretary of the College.

Subjects relating to women’s history may be identified by researchers through the available indexes (name and subject). A firm grasp of the institution’s history is necessary if one is to interconnect the records of the board of trustees with the women’s history subjects.

By way of illustration, index entries exist for Women’s Board of Managers (Ladies’ Board); Women; Women’s Department; Mrs. Pelton (endowment for the female department); literary societies; missionaries; Mrs. Mary L. P. Kinney; and Mrs. Adelia A. Field Johnston. Theboard acted on such issues as the status of women, women’s athletic association, Women’s Club, women’s gym, women’s day of prayer, and women’s studies.

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