Document 2: Resignation letter from members
of the Ladies Board to the Board of Trustees,
19 April 18501

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Following the dismissal of Emily Pillsbury Burke, students, faculty, and community members in Oberlin petitioned the Board of Trustees in her defense. Fearing that the all-male Board of Trustees would reinstate Emily Burke as Principal of the Female Department without their consent, four members of the Ladies Board wrote to the Trustees, threating to resign. The women of the Ladies Board saw the petitions in favor of Emily Burke as an affront to their authority and agency; however, their resignation letter yielded the desired result. The Board of Trustees upheld their decision to dismiss Burke, reaffirming the power of the Ladies Board and suggesting a burgeoning trust in the judgment of women in Oberlin. Ultimately, the women's resignation did not take effect.

Document Text:


Believing it to be no longer in our power to address the interests of the Female Department of this Institution, we beg leave to resign into your hands the responsibilities you delegated to us as members of the Ladies Board of Managers. Having pledged ourselves to cooperate with the Principal Mrs. Hopkins,2 until Commencement3 when her engagement term abates, we are willing to assist her until that period to the utmost extent of our ability.

Oberlin April 19th 1850

M.P. Dascomb4
.... Hill5
Minerva D.P. Cowles6
Mary H. Mahan7

To the Board of Trustees

[1] Transcribed by Kate.

[2] Mary C. Hopkins (served 1850-1852) was the principal of the Female Department of Managers after Emily P. Burke (1849-1850) and before Marianne P. Dascomb (1852-1870).

[3] Commencement in 1850 most likely took place in September; Oberlin College moved its commencement ceremonies to June after 1878.

[4] Marianne Parker Dascomb was Principal of Oberlin's Female Department,1835-36 and 1852-70 and served on the Women's Board of Managers, 1836-79. She was the wife of James Dascomb, MD, and Professor of chemistry, botany and physiology.

[5] The name is partly illegible; this Ladies' Board member's first name is unknown.

[6] Alice W. Cowles was on the Ladies' Board of Managers of Oberlin College.

[7] Mary Hartwell Mahan was the wife of Rev. Asa Mahan, Professor of intellectual and moral philosophy and President of the College, 1835 -1850.