Document 3: Emily Pillsbury Burke's Appeal
to the Board of Trustees, 22 April 18501

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Taking matters into her own hands, Emily Burke wrote to the Board of Trustees, an organization above the Ladies Board, requesting the opportunity to defend her reputation in light of the accusations leveled against her character. At no point in her letter does she deny the reasons for her dismissal or ask for reinstatement as Principal of the Female Department. Rather, she wishes to redeem her reputation from the "suspicions" she believes her dismissal has created. Playing on the Christian sentiments of the male Trustees, Burke quotes the Bible to emphasize her vulnerable situation as a widow.

While the original letter was undated, we have given it the date it was presented, along with the petitions in Document 4, to the Board of Trustees on April 22, 1850.

Document Text:

To the honorable Board of Trustees of the O.C. Ins.2

I beg leave to present to your honorable Board the unpleasant situation in which I have been placed by a removal from your institution, saying that I feel I have been treated unjustly and in an unchristian manner. In the first place, I wish you to distinctly understand that I am not grieved by a removal in the act itself, but by the manner which has created suspicions unfavorable to my character as a christian lady. In view of these things I would now beseech you to call for the charges against me and give me an opportunity to defend my reputation, according to the injunction, "Judge the fatherless, plead for the widow."3 E.P. Burke

[1] Transcribed by Kate.

[2] The Oberlin Collegiate Institute's name was changed to Oberlin College in 1850, at some point after this letter was composed.

[3] Isaiah 1:17, The Bible, preceded by the phrases "Learn to do good; seek justice, relieve the oppressed."