Bates College Thesis 2005

Bates College ThesisFaith by Their Works: the Progressive Tradition atBates College from 1855 to 1877"
An Honors Thesis presented to the Faculty of the Department of History, Bates College, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Bachelor of Arts by Timothy Wayde Larson, Lewiston, Maine.

"The College shall not fail."-Benjamin Bates
Chapter 1: Faculty Attitudes Toward Abolitionism and Race
Chapter 2: Race Relations on the Bates Campus
Chapter 3: Women at Bates College
Chapter 4: Class at Bates College
Shortly after enrolling at Bates College in September 2001, I started doing some basic research to find out more about the community I was entering. I perused the most recent Bates Catalog and Bates Magazine, and I eventually came across a brief synopsis of the College's history on the school's Web site. This page asserted that "Bates was founded in 1855 by Maine abolitionists, and Bates graduates have always included men and women from diverse racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds."[1] While reflecting a contemporary commitment to socio-diversity, this statement also implies that Bates has a long tradition of egalitarian values, with little deviation from those core progressive beliefs.
This confident assertion about Bates history left me with more questions than answers. I wondered: Was Bates always open to students regardless of race, gender or class? If so, were these early students treated as equals at the school? How did Bates compare or contrast with other educational institutions and national attitudes regarding race, class and gender? Essentially, how progressive was Bates in its earliest years?
It was these questions that have inspired this thesis. In this thesis I consider how progressive Bates College actually was from 1855 to 1877 (the end of Reconstruction) in regard to race, class and gender. In order to accomplish this task, I will attempt to determine the values and aspirations of the founders, early faculty, and students, while comparing and contrasting Bates to other institutions and the dominant attitudes of the period. In this introductory chapter I shall first define "progressiveness," describe how different historians have interpreted Bates history, offer some source criticism, and then present my conclusions.
What does it mean to be "progressive?"
In order to begin an assessment of Bates College's early progressiveness I must first offer my interpretation of the term. Historian Glenn Altschuler asserts that "[e]very generation writes its own history, for the reason that it sees the past in the foreshortened perspective of its own experience."[2] My own "foreshortened perspective" is largely focused on interpreting history through the lens of race, gender and class. In other words by focusing on the "other" or those who are left out of more orthodox histories, I believe a more inclusive historical picture may emerge. Therefore the primary analytic lens that I will apply to progressiveness in this thesis will be through differences in race, gender and class.
In nineteenth century America, racial progressivism involved fighting mainstream cultural stereotypes and working towards racial equality. During this period "most whites believed that blacks were innately inferior, that racial antagonism could not be overcome, and that blacks, at best, must remain a subservient group in white society."[3] These stereotypes of racial inferiority represent what the progressive element of the nineteenth century was battling against. Even among the progressives, there was a wide range of values, as Altschuler writes:
Many progressives shared the belief that social conditions and not biology bred poverty and ignorance, and that government had a duty to protect citizens against the oppressive environment. A far smaller number of these reformers asserted that truly equal opportunity would give the lie to the myth of innate black inferiority.[4]
This quotation illustrates the true progressiveness of advocating for equal opportunity in a society that embraced and justified stereotypes of black inferiority. The first major step to reaching this state of equality before the Civil War was obviously to advocate for the immediate abolition of slavery.[5] The second step for progressives in establishing equality was to work to create equal opportunity for blacks and to destroy racial stereotypes prevalent in nineteenth century American culture. In my mind these steps marked true racial progressivism during this era.
Nineteenth century progressiveness also involved combating stereotypes and creating equal rights for women. Often this battle for women's rights was at odds with the African American civil rights movement, particularly after the Civil War. Many well-known white suffragists, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, allegedly held "mixed feelings about the way in which woman's rights had become subordinated to civil rights in this era."[6] Tension between the two movements was obvious during the post-Civil War period, as some white women felt betrayed by their former political allies in the abolitionist movement. Relatively few white suffragists seem to have been ardent supporters of African American rights after the Civil War.[7] Advocating for both women's rights and African American civil rights seems to have been a fairly uncommon, yet progressive stance during the post-Civil War era. For the purposes of this thesis, this combination shall partially define progressiveness during the period of 1855 to 1877 at Bates College. In other words the most progressive individuals were those who supported advancing both women's rights and African American rights.
The third component of my definition of progressiveness entails class egalitarianism. Being progressive in the nineteenth century involved a "provision for equal opportunity"[8] regardless of social status (a.k.a. wealth), and a commitment to equality of condition for all Americans. Progressives during this period believed, as Altschuler puts it, that "the United States had the capacity to use its surplus to create a true democracy and higher culture available to all."[9]This striving for class equality will serve as the ultimate bar for progressiveness during this era, and class will serve alongside race and gender as the triumvirate of interpretation of Bates' history for the purpose of this thesis.
To determine how well Bates College lived up to these ideals of equal opportunity and to see how others had treated the subjects of race, class, and gender, I started off my research by looking through past histories of the College. Understandably, official college publications provided the bulk of material on Bates history. The earliest descriptions of Bates' history from the 1850s through the 1880s are recorded in publications such as Seminary Advocate, Bates Student and President's Report, which were useful in gaining a first hand perspective from Bates students and faculty who lived during the period, and these sources frequently hinted at attitudes regarding race, class, and gender at Bates. Other Bates publications from the early nineteenth century such as the Bates Bulletin (1909 to 1917) were also invaluable in interpreting the early years of the school. These Bulletins contain brief histories of the college written by President George Colby Chase, who was a Maine State Seminary student in the early 1860s and a member of the Bates class of 1868. Chase's interpretations seem to have been primarily based on his own recollections and discussions with other chief movers in the Bates community. A third very useful official source of College history was Alfred W. Anthony's Bates College and Its Background. Published in 1936, this is the only official history of the College to date (as of March 2005). Professor Anthony was a generation removed from the founding of the College, and therefore he used various sources (primary and secondary) to interpret the early years of the institution. All of these College histories reflect as much about the era they were written in as they do about the early period of the school and understandably they present changing perspectives in interpreting Bates history.
Among the first brief histories of the school is an article published in the Bates Student in 1877 written by Professor Richard C. Stanley, entitled "A Historical Sketch of Bates College." In this history Stanley described how the College "has given most cordial welcome to young men of color" and "every one…would testify that he had never received on account of his color, the slightest discourtesy from any one connected with the College."[10] Stanley also claimed that Bates "has been open to women from the first, in this respect taking the lead of all the New England colleges [and]… the College has never refused free tuition to any worthy student who has asked for it."[11] This is significant because Stanley was hinting (very early in Bates' history) that the school had been quite progressive in its early policies toward African Americans, white women and poor white students. This early history seems to imply that Bates attempted to treat its first minority students with at least courtesy, and at most equality. Professor Stanley's firsthand perspective at Bates during this period, which describes racial, gender and class egalitarianism at Bates, is a useful to contrast with other later interpretations.
Later Bates historians largely reiterated Stanley's description of early openness in admissions, although they downplayed certain characteristics as attitudes and perspectives changed. Bates College Bulletins from the early twentieth century both celebrated and distanced their descriptions of Bates' progressive values. Most of these "histories" of the College were written by George C. Chase, a student at the Maine State Seminary and a member of Bates' class of 1868, who served as a professor of English and president of Bates until his death in 1919.[12] In the College Bulletin of 1910, Chase's perspective seems to have reflected the era in which he was writing. For example, according to Chase, African American students had always "been welcomed" at Bates, but only comprised "a fraction of one per cent"[13] of the student body (in actuality 1.13% of graduates were African Americans from 1867 to 1900).[14] This early Bulletin stands in contrast to modern Bates marketing materials which are often attacked by students on the 2005 Bates campus for possibly exaggerating racial diversity. To a modern Bates student, it might seem slightly odd that the president of the College would state how little diversity there was on campus in a prominent publication. Why Chase stated how few African Americans attended Bates is puzzling. Possibly, his early 20th century New England audience was wary of racial diversity in higher education, or maybe Chase simply felt a duty to provide an honest description of the student body. It is impossible to know for sure, but it is likely Chase was at least thinking about his audience when he was constructing this very public history (and marketing material).
The last major history of Bates College from 1936 also celebrated Bates early egalitarianism, but was again very selective about which parts of Bates' history it chose to focus on. In Bates College and its Background, Alfred Anthony, a retired professor, described the abolitionist background of Oren Cheney, the founder of Bates, in depth. He also described throughout his book how Bates was always very welcoming to poor students particularly those affiliated with the Free Will Baptist church. At the same time, Anthony tended to de-emphasize any racial progressiveness beyond supporting emancipation of the slaves. He neglected to mention Henry Chandler (the first black graduate)[15] or any of the early black students in his text. In the last pages of his book, Anthony does mention Bates' openness to women as the first college in New England to admit women. As a sort of disclaimer, however, Anthony wrote:
The policy was early adopted of limiting the number of women in proportion to the total expected size of the class, so that the ratio of women to men should be about that of three to five…This policy has proven beneficial to all parties concerned…It may have at times made it a little more difficult for a woman to gain admission than for a man, but probably with no ultimate loss to either men or women.[16]
Anthony's statement, while recognizing that women were admitted to Bates in its earliest years, seems to imply that women were less desired by the College than men. Clearly, Anthony was hinting that the earliest male and female students at Bates were truly not treated as equals in the admissions process. Perhaps this disclaimer was included so Anthony did not see himself as emasculating the College by emphasizing the sizable number of female students. Anthony's de-emphasis of African Americans and the number of women at Bates again likely reflected his audience and early twentieth century perspective on co-education.
Since Anthony's history, Bates College has largely presented its history through marketing material such as the annual catalogue, the website, and other bulletins. In much the same way that early twentieth century historical literature reflected early twentieth century ideals, early twenty-first century materials have mirrored twenty-first century values (at least the public values of Bates). The 2004-2006 College Catalogue claimed:
Bates was founded in 1855 by people who believed strongly in freedom, civil rights, and the importance of a higher education for all who could benefit from it. Bates has always admitted students without regard to race, religion, or national origin…Bates was New England's first coeducational college. The inclusive nature of the College's admissions philosophy has guided, enriched and strengthened the institution for 150 years[17].
This mythical description of the college's values implies that Bates has held largely the same idealistic beliefs throughout its history, and it idealizes Bates' historical commitment to civil rights and modern progressive values. Modern producers of Bates' history would understandably want to appeal to the ideals that twenty-first century Americans consider important, and that is exactly what this passage and other contemporary College marketing materials do.
Source Criticism
In critiquing primary sources from Bates' earliest period, it is important to keep these artifacts in context and to expose notable biases of the authors. Among the earliest primary sources utilized in this thesis are the writings of Bates founder, Oren B. Cheney. Cheney's surviving diary from 1864 and his few remaining letters did not often express his views on slavery, race, or gender, but they do provide some clues to his stances on these issues. Not surprisingly, Cheney often wrote about his daily activities and these included recruiting minority students and attending anti-slavery rallies. These clues hint at the progressiveness of the author and verify other secondary documentation about Cheney. Other primary sources written by Cheney also expressed his relative progressiveness, but these sources require a better understanding of the audience. Cheney's writing for the Morning Star, Seminary Advocate, and College Catalogue publicly expressed his progressiveness, although in varying degrees. The Morning Star articles by Cheney expressed his loathing of the slave system and conveyed his opinions on racial justice. Whether Cheney exaggerated his arguments in an attempt to appeal to the relatively racially progressive audience is debatable, but it seems as though most of Cheney's other actions and writings were consistent with these progressive arguments.
On the other hand, the Seminary Advocate and College Catalogue (Cheney likely had some input in writing the catalogues) understandably downplayed race and gender. The catalogues from this era actually did not mention race at all, simply asserting that the school is "open to students of any age or rank of scholarship."[18] Gender was also only mentioned in passing in describing the "young ladies and gentlemen"[19] attending the school. Perhaps this downplaying of egalitarian positions was an attempt by the school to put on a more moderate face in order to attract students and donors, who were possibly more mainstream or conservative in their views. Cheney and other College officials may also have been concerned about building a reputation among peer institutions, and therefore put on a more conservative face in these official publications.
Primary sources from other faculty and trustees at Bates College during the Civil War era also offered piecemeal hints as to the progressiveness of the College. Publications by Bates' early trustees A.K. Moulton and Samuel Tufts outwardly expressed their feelings about slavery. Whether these articles exaggerate their stances and whether their private stances are representative of their public work at Bates is unclear. Although it seems likely that Moulton and Tufts held strong convictions about slavery, little evidence exists about the direct impact of their views on Bates College itself.
During the first several decades of Bates' existence, four of the most well-known and respected faculty members were Thomas Angell, Professor Benjamin Hayes, George Chase and Richard Stanley. All four of these faculty kept diaries or journals at some point during the 1850s and 1860s, and these period writings are currently in the possession of the Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library, Bates College. These four diaries provide useful insights into the views of Bates' earliest faculty members, as they offer relatively candid opinions about race, class and gender matters. (Sometimes a good deal of digging is required to find relevant passages, however.) All four diaries mention slavery directly or indirectly, and all four provide evidence about Bates' progressive views.
Primary sources from Bates students during the Civil War era are slightly more difficult to locate, although several do exist. The Bates Student (and the Seminary Advocate before it) is probably the most useful source in ascertaining the sentiments of the student body during this period. Most articles in the early Bates Students were undoubtedly written by students of European-American ancestry, as the early college yearbooks reveal that almost all of the first graduates of the college were visibly identifiable as white. Several articles in the newspaper were, however, written by African Americans such as Thomas Bollin. Bollin actually addressed issues of racial equality in several of his articles.[20] Female writers also contributed articles to the Student in its first years of publication. These articles mainly stressed the value of co-education, and were in response to a male student who opposed co-education. [21] Authors in the Bates Student provided a diverse range of opinions regarding co-education and racial equality. It is sometimes difficult to determine whether these articles are written for the sake of argument or whether the students actually believed the arguments they were putting forth. The latter seems more likely, although the former remains a possibility in some cases. The Student is certainly among the most valuable sources in piecing together views on both race and gender relations at Bates College during this period.
Another useful resource in gaining insight into the mind of an early Maine State Seminary (Bates College) student (he attended from 1858 to 1862)[22] is the published diary and letters of Holman S. Melcher. Melcher's writing, being personal, seems very credible. Melcher described life as a Union soldier, and his descriptions (or lack of them) of race and gender are telling. While Melcher did not deal extensively with these topics, inferences can be made about his opinions on them by analyzing his actions during the War. It is possible that Melcher's attitudes were indicative of other students at the school, and therefore are useful as an early period source.
Other sources written by early Bates students include several reminiscent articles published in the 1920s and 30s. These articles include "Ricker's Reminiscences" by George Ricker, class of 1867,[23] and "Reminiscences of Bates History" by Emma J. Clark Rand, class of 1881.[24] These articles are extremely useful because of their in depth descriptions of the early student body. Emma Rand's article is particularly helpful because it describes life at Bates from the perspective of one of the earliest female graduates. Although the articles were written many decades after these alums attended Bates, and they may have forgotten certain details, the authors seem remarkably specific in their descriptions. Ricker and Rand did not seem to over idealize their experiences at Bates, and they actually pointed out many of the challenges facing early students and faculty of the College in all aspects of life, including race, class and gender. It is difficult to tell if these insights are the result of reflection and perspective, however, rather than their actual attitudes fifty years earlier.
Probably the most useful source pertaining to the early years of the College is Emeline Cheney's 1907 biography of her husband, The Story of the Life and Work of Oren B. Cheney. Mrs. Cheney not only offers reminiscences, but also quotes from many of Oren Cheney's diaries, kept throughout his entire life. Only Cheney's diary from 1864 currently exists, so Mrs. Cheney's biography is very important in piecing together his life.[25] Emeline Cheney understandably puts forth an extremely positive image of her husband and Bates College. Although this work is biased because of Mrs. Cheney's relationship to the subject, it is still an extremely useful source, as it conveys Cheney's stances on abolitionism, Christianity, female suffrage, and civil rights. Because the book quotes directly from Cheney's diaries, it deserves a fair amount of credibility in piecing together progressive life at Bates College.
Other Bates sources that are relevant to this thesis such the College Bulletins from the early 1900s and Anthony's Bates College and Its Background from 1936 are slightly more removed from the Civil War generation at Bates. These sources provide some useful insights into the early years of the College, but often ignore specific social issues such as diversity in the early Bates community. These secondary sources are undoubtedly influenced by the era and the atmosphere in determining what should be left out or included in the histories. The early 1900s were a time of nativism in much of country including New England, and there was a widespread revival of the Ku Klux Klan.[26]Because of this atmosphere, the downplaying of social issues (especially race and ethnicity) is to be expected from period sources. It seems likely that most sources from this era reflect some of the conservative attitudes of the times.
After extracting the credible information from these sources at Bates, I will use other sources to contrast and compare Bates' values to those of other institutions. In comparing Bates to other institutions (namely Bowdoin), the most useful primary sources are articles from the Bowdoin Orient written about Bates in the 1870s that often address issues of gender and class. Other very useful secondary sources from Bowdoin include A Small College in Maine: Two Hundred Years of Bowdoin that provides an excellent picture of life at Bowdoin in the mid-nineteenth century, thereby providing a point of contrast to Bates. Other college histories that have been useful points of comparison in this thesis include: From Evangelism to Progressivism at Oberlin College, 1866-1917 by John Barnard; and Historic Hillsdale College: Pioneer in Higher Education, 1844-1900 by Arlen Gilbert. These books tell the histories of two western colleges that were similar to Bates in regard to their egalitarianism in consideration of race and gender. As western schools, however, Oberlin and Hillsdale were located in a somewhat different environment than the New England colleges and are obviously not perfect examples of comparison. All of these books were published by the respective colleges; therefore it is not surprising that the colleges are often portrayed in a rather positive light. Strong differences and similarities are still evident between all of the institutions in these books.
Furthermore, I will employ several secondary sources in addressing how Bates fit into the intellectual mainstream of the era. Cornell historian Glenn Altschuler's book Race, Ethnicity, and Class in American Social Thought 1865-1919 provides a very useful reference point in discussing American attitudes toward race and class in late nineteenth century America. For an overview of mainstream gender relations in nineteenth century America from a late twentieth century perspective, Louise Newan's White Women's Rights; The Racial Origins of Feminism in the United States, Glenda Riley's Inventing the American Woman, and Nancy Woloch's, Women and the American Experience provide excellent background material for understanding nineteenth century views toward female education and toward women's place in mainstream American thought. Other generally useful secondary sources for this thesis are History of Universities by Jurgen Hurbst and A History of American Higher Education by John Thelin. These two sources give overviews of the American college system and describe race, gender and class (most significantly) on American campuses in the nineteenth century. All of these fairly modern secondary sources are useful in understanding various race, class and gender phenomena that were occurring on the Bates campus, and how these compared to the wider national attitudes and movements.
Thesis Statement
In this thesis, I will argue that from 1855 to 1877 Bates College was an exceptionally progressive school in regard to race, class and gender compared to both other institutions and the intellectual mainstream. The leading faculty members of Bates College were outwardly progressive in their views on race, class, and gender, and President Cheney tended to be the most radical member of the faculty in regard to these issues. This is not to say that notable anomalies did not exist to this rule, as sometimes faculty and students could be accused of being paternalistic or even bigoted by modern standards. But the student body, while holding a somewhat more diverse range of opinions on race and gender, was overall exceptionally progressive as well by nineteenth century standards. The presentation of this argument is organized into chapters. I will devote Chapter 1 to faculty attitudes toward abolitionism and race, Chapter 2 to race relations on campus, Chapter 3 to women at Bates, and Chapter 4 to "class." In my mind, each of these topics is an integral part of defining progressiveness. In each chapter, I will discuss how the Bates' faculty and students lived up to my definition of progressiveness. Hopefully, this thesis will provide a richer understanding of the dynamics of race, gender and class at Bates College during the Civil War era and become part of the greater historiography of Bates College.
Next section >> Chapter 1: Faculty Attitudes Toward Abolitionism and Race
[1]Bates College, "About Bates," 2004,
[2] Glenn C. Altschuler, Race, Ethnicity, and Class in American Social Thought (Arlington Heights, IL: Harlan Davidson, 1982), vii.
[3] Altschuler, 2.
[4] Altschuler, 3.
[5] Altschuler, 2-3.
[6] Louise Michele Newman, White Women's Rights: The Racial Origins of Feminism in the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 3.
[7] Newman, 4.
[8] Altschuler, 77.
[9] Altschuler, 113.
[10] Richard C. Stanley, "Historical Sketch of Bates College," Bates Student. June 1877, Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library, Bates College (hereafter referred to as MASC).
[11] Stanley, 163.
[12] Mabel Eaton, General Catalogue of Bates College and Cobb Divinity School: 1864-1930 (Lewiston, ME: Bates College, 1930), 33, MASC.
[13] Bulletin of Bates College (Lewiston, ME: Bates College, 1910), 14 (279), MASC.
[14] Eaton, 32-145, and Class Photograph Albums from 1870 to 1900, MASC.
[15] Eaton, 42.
[16]Alfred Williams Anthony, BatesCollegeand Its Background (Philadelphia: Judson Press, 1936), 276.
[17] Bates College Catalog 2004-2006 (Lewiston, ME: Bates College, 2004), 6.
[18] Catalogue of the officers and students of the Maine State Seminary (Lewiston, ME: Maine State Seminary, 1859), 23, MASC.
[19] Seminary Catalogue, 25.
[20] Thomas Bollin, "Social Equality," Bates Student, April, 1879, 85.
[21] "Woman in College" Bates Student, September, 1873, 175.
[22] Seminary Catalogues, 1858-1862, MASC.
[23] George Ricker, Box 1, Bates Reminiscences, folder "Ricker's Reminiscences," 13, MASC.
[24] Emma J. C. Rand, Box 1, Bates Reminiscences, folder "Emma Clark Rand Reminiscences of Bates history," 2, MASC.
[25]Anthony, 162.
[26] Altschuler, 29,69.
Chapter 1: Faculty Attitudes Toward Abolitionism and Race
In 1836, a newly enrolled student at Dartmouth College named Oren B. Cheney accepted an invitation to teach at a small school in Canaan, New Hampshire.[1] Only a few weeks earlier a beautiful academy building had sat next to the schoolhouse, but "news having spread that 'niggers' were attending this [a]cademy, some of the townspeople at night, with their oxen drew the building a mile away and left it in a swamp" so that, according to the culprits, "[n]o sable son of Africa remains to darken our horizon. The abolition monster…is sent headlong to perdition."[2] In the face of this hostile atmosphere, Cheney continued teaching at the school and, courageously, let his anti-slavery principles be known to the community.[3] Luckily, Cheney was not assaulted by his opponents in the town and went on to found Bates College.
This short story suggests the kind of the heated environment that New England educators, including Bates' founders and early faculty, found themselves in during the antebellum and Civil War eras. Abolitionist sentiments were despised by some groups of New Englanders as seen by Cheney's story. This chapter will explore the extent to which Bates' founders and early faculty were involved in the anti-slavery controversy, particularly looking at the degree to which they were personally supporters of the radical abolitionist movement and of general racial equality. It concludes that these individuals were indeed relatively progressive in regard to their views on race and abolitionism. These conclusions rest on a variety of evidence including diaries, letters, articles and other writings that either expressed sympathy with the well known abolitionists of the day; mentioned direct connections to the abolitionist movement; or reflected individual attitudes and actions about race and the anti-slavery movement. Based on this material President Cheney appears to have been a more outspoken supporter of the abolitionist movement than many of his peers (although they generally supported the movement), but faculty attitudes (Cheney included) regarding actual racial equality were somewhat ambiguous.
Oren Cheney and other early faculty are often labeled as abolitionists in both contemporary and later writings, but the meaning of this term can be extremely broad. It has been inclusive enough to embrace everyone from supporters of black colonization in Africa to Garrisonian abolitionists who called for an immediate end to slavery. David B. Davis, a historian from Yale, writes "immediatism suggested a repudiation of the various media, such as colonization or apprenticeship, that had been advocated as remedies for the evils of slavery."[4]For this thesis, immediatism (calling for an immediate, uncompensated end to slavery) shall serve as the most progressive form of abolitionism.
Indeed, the evidence implies that Oren Cheney was a fervent immediatist abolitionist, and many early faculty members at Bates College also held abolitionist views or supported "abolitionist" political candidates. This fact does not necessarily indicate that these individuals were radicals in their thinking about racial equality or for that matter that they were rabid racists. Historian Herbert Aptheker is correct in claiming "the position of the Abolitionists themselves in the matter of racial equality was, at best ambivalent."[5] Clearly, abolitionists held a wide range of beliefs about race, which is not particularly shocking considering the broadness of the movement.
James McPherson, a historian at Princeton, concludes that some abolitionists, which Aptheker mentions, saw themselves as helping African Americans, yet these individuals often displayed paternalism toward African Americans. McPherson discusses the racial views of white abolitionist educators, claiming:
Most of the northern educators were not racists, at least not consciously; they were culturalists…In this faith that blacks were capable of cultural assimilation as equals, the missionaries departed radically from the established wisdom of the age. It is of course arguable that cultural paternalism and racism are the same thing. But such a notion would have been foreign to the champions of both racial equality and white supremacy a century ago.[6]
From a twenty-first century perspective, this line between racism and paternalism is hard to distinguish. As McPherson points out, almost no one in mid-nineteenth century America would have put cultural paternalists and vocal white supremacists into the same category as racists. The two groups were often seen as opposites, regardless of any similarities between them. Abolitionists such as Cheney and the early faculty of Bates certainly did not see themselves as vocal advocates of white supremacy, but they often voiced opinions that nevertheless may have reflected racial paternalism. McPherson claims that the white "belief that hard work, thrift, piety, and respectability would win prosperity and respect for the Negro is now viewed by some as at best naïve and patronizing, at worst reactionary and racist."[7] Indeed, certain attitudes expressed by early Bates founders and faculty tend to fall somewhere into this spectrum, although closer to the radical commitment to racial equality side than not.
Bates founder, Oren B. Cheney, is undoubtedly the most important figure in the early years of the school, and Emeline Cheney's The Story of the Life and Work of Oren B. Cheney is the most important source in understanding Cheney. Because of the book's prominence, its historical accuracy must be examined. Although Cheney kept a diary throughout most of his adult life, only his diary from 1864 appears to have survived. While writing Bates College and its Background in 1936, Professor Alfred Anthony searched for Cheney's missing diaries, writing that "[r]elatives and friends on both sides of the family have been appealed to, all pertinent and suggested clues have been followed up, without discovering a trace of the lost material."[8] Fortunately, Cheney's third wife, Emeline (they married when he was 75 years old),[9] wrote The Story of the Life and Work of Oren B. Cheney in 1907, and she directly cited from "at least eleven of them [his diaries], for the years 1846, 1854, 1860, 1861, 1867, 1874, 1875, 1877, 1878, 1883 and 1886."[10] It is impossible to know if Emeline Cheney cited these diaries accurately or if she did so simply to cast her husband in the most favorable light possible. As she put it, "Foibles? Yes, he had them for he was human…But considering that, during twelve years of closest relations, the writer never once heard him refer to a fault in any member of his family, brothers, sisters, children or grandchildren, and seldom in anyone, we accord him the same gracious silence."[11] Other than her silence in regard to some of Cheney's minor "foibles," Emeline Cheney's writing suggests that she cited fairly accurately. For example, her citation of the Lewiston Evening Journal on page 303 is exactly reproduced, as the December 22, 1903 edition of the Journal can attest. Furthermore, while Dr. Cheney was alive and with his assistance, Emeline Cheney wrote "a series of reminiscences, fourteen or fifteen of which have appeared in The Morning Star."[12] These stories about Cheney's early life are nearly exactly reproduced in her later book, providing addition evidence of the historical accuracy of her work, considering these articles were published with Cheney's input while he was alive. Because of the depth of information in her book, the seeming historical veracity, and the author's exclusive access to Cheney's writings, I frequently cite Mrs. Cheney's book in piecing together her husband's background.
President Cheney's views on slavery and race during the mid-nineteenth century were primarily molded during his childhood and adolescence. Cheney's father, Deacon Moses Cheney, was a conductor on the Underground Railroad helping "flying fugitives on their way to liberty," and he also was the original printer for the Morning Star, a Freewill Baptist newspaper, which expressed anti-slavery views.[13] The American Revolution Bicentennial Administration reported that Moses Cheney operated a station on the Underground Railroad at his home in Peterborough, New Hampshire from 1835 to 1845, and "from here one of the Cheney boys [possibly Oren] would guide fugitives up Windy Row…to their next stop at Hancock. Frederick Douglass was a houseguest when he was in Peterborough to speak at a meeting of the New England Antislavery Society…in 1840."[14] Oren Cheney clearly had strong abolitionist influences at home.
Furthermore, these influences continued at the institutions that Cheney was affiliated with. He was educated at New Hampton Academy and the Parsonfield Seminary in Maine, which were run by the Free Baptists and had notable abolitionist connections. Cheney then enrolled at Brown University in 1835 and became active in the abolitionist movement there, attending several rallies.[15] After a term at Brown, Cheney transferred to Dartmouth because "anti-slavery sentiments were allowed more freedom of expression than at Brown."[16] While a student at Dartmouth in the 1830s, Cheney reportedly claimed publicly, "I am an abolitionist."[17] After graduation in 1839, Cheney worked in New Hampshire and Maine over the next few years as principal of Farmington Academy, Stratfford Academy, Greenland Academy, Lebanon Academy, and Parsonfield Seminary, and apparently continued expressing his abolitionist views at all of these institutions. [18] For example, Cheney ran:
[a] branch of the underground railroad through Parsonsfield and thence to the Canadian border. One day the station keeper in Effingham brought to Mr. Cheney's home in Parsonsfield a woman and two children, fugitives from slavery. He sheltered and fed them, then arranged for them to meet parents as well as children at his school. Here the mother showed the branded marks on her children's shoulders and other indications of cruelty. They were sweet singers and as they sang their weird songs with much pathos in word and tone, all were moved to tears and the sentiment of the community was so changed that Mr. Cheney afterward found few objectors to his anti-slavery utterances.[19]
Cheney certainly sympathized with the runaway slaves regardless of whether he viewed them as equals. The Bicentennial Administration report supported the veracity of this story, reporting that "Oren Burbank Cheney like his father, had an active anti-slavery record…between 1843 and 1845, he operated a branch of the Underground Railroad that extended from Portland, Maine to Effingham, New Hampshire."[20]
After five years of teaching, Cheney was ordained as a minister in the Free Will Baptist Church. At this period the Free Will Baptist church ardently opposed slavery, and "in 1839 it took the step, virtually unprecedented at the time, of severing connections with communions that included slaveholders in their fellowships."[21] The Free Will Baptists' only serious rivals in terms of ardent opposition to slavery were likely the Quakers, who first became involved in the abolitionist movement in the 1700s.[22] Cheney's views undoubtedly mirrored the anti-slavery stance of his denomination.
After preaching in Free Baptist pulpits and teaching for several more years, Cheney was elected to serve in the Maine House of Representatives for the term of 1851-1852 by a combination of the Free Soil, Whig, and Independent party voters.[23] As a Free Soil legislator and a delegate to the 1852 Free Soil Convention, it can be inferred that his central political views somewhat coincided with this party's platform of opposing the expansion of slavery.
After serving as a legislator in Augusta, Cheney became a pastor at the Free Baptist church in that city. While in the capital, Cheney also became an editor for the Morning Star in October 1853, and he frequently expressed his anti-slavery views through this medium. In his first article as an editor in 1853 Cheney commented on the institution of slavery. His opinions correspond to his other later writings and actions:
We shall speak against slavery, as we have hitherto done. We can find no language that has power to express the hatred we have towards so vile and so wicked an institution—We hate it—we abhor it, we loathe it—we detest and despise it as a giant sin against God, and an awful crime upon man. Thus we feel ourself, and thus we teach our children to feel, and dying we will teach them so.[24]
This excerpt from Cheney's "Salutatory" article seemed indicative of Cheney's views on abolitionism during the antebellum years. Cheney clearly had a visceral loathing for slavery at the time that Bates was founded.
Cheney's personal relationships included nearly all of the most prominent abolitionists and anti-slavery advocates of the mid-nineteenth century. According to Emeline Cheney, his friends and acquaintances included Charles Sumner, Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Sojourner Truth, Henry Ward Beecher, Wendell Phillips, and George Thompson. The only abolitionist references in Cheney's 1864 diary were references to anti-slavery speakers to whom he enjoyed listening.[25] The previous year (1863) Cheney had served as president of the Freewill Baptist Anti-Slavery society, so apparently he remained involved with the abolitionist movement until the last years of American slavery.[26]
One of Cheney's abolitionist friends was Senator Charles Sumner, who later impacted Bates College's history. Cheney's "political relations with the Hon. Charles Sumner"[27] are significant because the Massachusetts senator was among the most radical members of the U.S. Senate in regard to ending slavery and pushing for equal rights for African Americans. As early as the 1840s Sumner had argued for such controversial topics as integrated schools, claiming that "[b]lack children had a right to equality and that must mean that they 'have an equal right with white children to the public schools.'"[28] Sumner gained fame for being beaten nearly to death by a southern Congressman on the floor of the U. S. Senate because of his abolitionist views. It was Charles Sumner who received the honor from Cheney of naming a motto for Bates. Sumner wrote a letter to Cheney in 1857 suggesting:
Amore ac Studio [with love for learning]. I cannot send anything better than these words for the seal of your Institution. I once thought to have them cut on a seal of my own, but did not.[29]
The College later acquired a collection of Sumner materials including the chair he was allegedly sitting in when attacked, and it is currently used for Bates' presidential inaugurations.[30] This chair and the motto continue to serve as symbolic reminders of Bates College's abolitionist past, and Cheney's connection to the larger abolitionist movement. Because of Cheney's admiration for Sumner, it is probable that his views on slavery (abolitionism) and race coincided somewhat with Sumner's own fairly radical ones.
The legendary abolitionist history of Oren Cheney seems almost perfectly righteous by contemporary standards, yet contradictions lie beneath the surface of this idealistic portrait. A quotation by Senator Sumner describes one such contradiction. Sumner asserted that there was "unholy union…between the cotton planters and fleshmongers of Louisiana and Mississippi and the cotton spinners and traffickers of New England—between the lords of the lash and the lords of the loom."[31] Sumner's words pointed out the fact that northern textile industrialists were as much to blame as Southern slave owners because they were allowing slavery to thrive. Among the ranks of these textile industrialists was Benjamin Bates, from whom Oren Cheney obtained substantial funding for the College.[32] It is ironic that an ardent abolitionist such as Cheney obtained funding for the College from someone who profited handsomely from manufacturing products out of cotton produced with slave labor. This irony is not meant to suggest that Benjamin Bates favored slavery or that Oren Cheney was any less noble for accepting funding from a textile magnate. Perhaps this contradiction speaks more to the omnipresence of the slave system in American economy than to Cheney's own shortcomings.
President Cheney was not only a vehement supporter of abolitionism, but to some degree at least, also a supporter of civil rights for African Americans (although his motives were sometimes questionable). Cheney's long friendship with Frederick Douglass epitomizes his fairly progressive stance on race. According to the Bates Student Cheney welcomed Douglass into his home on several occasions, as well as all of "the then despised advocates of the anti-slavery cause, Austen Willey, Fred. Douglass, Henry Wilson, Sojourner Truth, and Frances Watkins."[33] By allowing abolitionists and particularly black abolitionists to stay at his home in Maine, Cheney was clearly making a stance about racial boundaries.
Cheney also directly rebelled against these predominant race relations in his friendship with Douglass. One of the most telling events in this regard occurred after Cheney had been elected as a delegate to the Free Soil Party Convention in Pittsburgh in 1852.[34] Along the journey to the Convention, Cheney apparently stopped at various points and met with other delegates. One of the most notable meetings on this trip was in Alliance, Ohio, where Cheney met up with Frederick Douglass.[35] As Cheney, Douglass, and the rest of their party entered a dining hall that evening, the owner of the restaurant noticed Douglass and told the group, "the nigger must not come in."[36] This remark outraged Cheney and the other Free Soil delegates, and they decided that if Douglass could not eat at the establishment, then none of the delegates would eat.[37] Fearing a loss of business, the owner finally backed down. This situation seems to be representative of the anti-racist position, which Cheney consistently held throughout his life. In his later years, when Cheney was traveling in 1895, he heard of Douglass's death and "easily obtained tickets for the church and the attendance at the funeral was a never-to-be forgotten privilege."[38] At the funeral no one purportedly "rendered a more heart tribute than Dr. Cheney," who claimed, "God 'hath made of one blood all nations of men.'"[39] It is not clear if Cheney was invited by the family to speak at the funeral or if he said these words privately, but this statement is telling. Cheney clearly felt that there was a divine unity among all people regardless of race. Cheney's progressive belief about racial equality linked him with some of the most influential abolitionist leaders of the day, such as Douglass.
Cheney's concern with African American freedom and justice did not end with Emancipation. He was also particularly concerned about the millions of freed slaves after the Civil War. According to Emeline Cheney, President Cheney was in Washington when Lee surrendered and he went to Richmond where he talked with Confederate prisoners and freed slaves.[40] According to Emeline Cheney, Oren Cheney asked himself:
'What is to be done with, and for the Freedmen, hundreds of whom are flocking northward?' His interest in the race had grown, when at different times in Washington and its vicinity he had attended the churches of the colored people, had studied their characteristics and thought about their possibilities.[41]
It is apparent that Cheney thought deeply about African Americans in the United States during that period, although Cheney's assertion about "what is to be done with" the freed slaves rings of a sort of white paternalism and deculturization that McPherson claims, "are now regarded in many quarters as negative educational achievements, a form of cultural genocide."[42] Although Cheney's attempt to assist the African American refugees appears to have been benevolent, it was possibly misguided. Furthermore, if Emeline Cheney's writing is accurate, President Cheney's studying of "their characteristics" implies a kind of objectification of African Americans or elitist view of their "distinctive" culture or character. Cheney later acted upon this benevolent feeling when he raised the initial funding for Storer College, for freed slaves, in Harpers-Ferry, West Virginia.[43] Cheney's devotion to providing educational opportunities for African Americans is admirable regardless of any paternalistic motives, and his actions (taking an active part in Storer College) are impressive considering the number of activities with which he was involved throughout his life in addition to being President of Bates College.
As president of Bates, Cheney played a major role in recruiting scores of early trustees of the College (Benjamin Bates included). These trustees largely shared Cheney's abolitionist views. Early trustees such as A.K. Moulton, a Freewill Baptist pastor, voiced their concerns about the slave system. Before becoming involved with Bates College, Moulton published a pamphlet in 1848 titled "A Peep at the Peculiar Institution with Hints as to the Duty of Northern Christians." In this pamphlet Moulton enumerated the various reasons why the slave system was inherently evil. He recognized the major Southern arguments for slavery and refuted them individually. Moulton's arguments were largely based on appealing to the Christian values of the audience and motivating the audience to oppose the government's brutal support of the slave system. Moulton claimed that the government,
takes the people's money to build jails in which to imprison northern colored citizens, and to be occupied by soul-drivers to herd their droves of human cattle in, when they bring them to the great slave mart, the city of Washington, to be sold at public auction under the shadow of our national flag.[44]
This argument against government approval of slavery was pleading to the conscience of his audience. Moulton's public attempt at persuasion through this pamphlet hints that his views on slavery were radical, progressive, and ardent. In many ways his abolitionist views seemed to parallel Cheney's, which is not surprising considering they were both Free Will Baptist clergymen and friends.
Reverend Moulton also expressed a fairly progressive view towards ideas about race in general in his pamphlet. Moulton criticized Southern justifications for the enslavement of African Americans. In particular Moulton claimed that Southern arguments asserting that blacks were not human and of inferior intelligence were not sound.[45] Moulton blamed Southern slaveholders for the oppression of blacks and the limitation of their education, and therefore pointed the finger at environment and not innate racial differences for the disparity between whites and African Americans. Moulton claimed that the predominant attitude was un-Christian and "whatever else we may be, God helping us, we will be Christians."[46] Moulton believed that slaves were humans and could become Christians; therefore, they deserved equal treatment as such. Moulton was also particularly disgusted at the Federal Government because it "takes the people's money to build jails in which to imprison northern colored citizens."[47] Reverend Moulton argued that these northern people of color deserve the same equal rights and protection under the law that white citizens faced.
Another trustee, Reverend Samuel B. Tufts, held similar views to Moulton and Cheney on slavery. Tufts served as a trustee of Bates College from 1863 to 1868 and preached about his views on slavery in a sermon from 1859 titled "Slavery and the Death of John Brown." In this essay Rev. Tufts extolled John Brown for his attacks on those who were perceived as supporting the slave system in Kansas and Harper's Ferry. Tufts believed that John Brown "died a martyr—a hero, moral, religious and liberty loving."[48] By celebrating John Brown as a martyr rather than a criminal or lunatic, Tufts was asserting his views not only on John Brown but also on slavery. John Brown was fighting for the abrupt end to the immoral slave system, and it can be inferred that Tufts supported Brown's cause. While Tufts glorified Brown, he dehumanized slaveholders. Tufts describes Brown's slaveholding adversaries in Kansas as "hordes of villains, indescribable and fiendish with appearance more repulsive than Gibeonstish poverty, and hearts more savage than Vandal hordes"[49] Tufts blatantly vilified his political opposites and went on to claim that because of these villains "families were dispersed—fathers murdered—mothers inhumanely and namelessly abused and murdered—maidens indecently exposed and carried into captivity."[50] By outwardly expressing his extreme partisanship in battle over slavery, Tufts was labeling himself as a proponent of the immediatist anti-slavery movement. Tufts was much more radical than politicians such as President Lincoln who disagreed with Brown's raid in Harper's Ferry. According to historian Allen Guelzo, "Lincoln publicly condemned Brown."[51] In contrast to Lincoln, Tufts, Moulton, and Cheney seem to have shared a particularly passionate form of abolitionism.
Although this passionate form of abolitionism was probably prevalent among the other trustees, it is difficult to verify this assumption because less archival information exists about other trustees. Trustees such as Moulton and Tufts were probably more active in the day-to-day life of the college than celebrity trustees who were often in Washington D.C., such as Senator William Frye, Governor Nelson Dingley, and Secretary of State James Blaine, who "permitted his name to be used as a Trustee of the Institution for thirty years, from 1863 to 1893."[52] (Governor Garcelon is a notable exception, as he was very involved with the College). Although famous politicians may have technically served as trustees of the College, the more active shapers of the institution were likely Cheney and other local Free Baptist trustees such as Reverend Moulton and Reverend Tufts. Large numbers of early trustees were Free Will Baptist pastors, because it was "clearly understood that the rightful owners of the institution were Free Baptists."[53] Of the original 50 members of the College's Board of Trustees in 1863, 28 were ministers (almost entirely Free Will Baptists).[54]Free Will Baptist attitudes on abolitionism were likely reflected by these pastors, who made up the majority of the Board.
Early faculty members at Bates were also largely opposed to slavery, but often with seemingly less ardor than Cheney and other abolitionist trustees. In Bates College and its Background, Anthony describes how "Levi W. Stanton, 'Uncle Johnny' Stanton, Professor Stanley, Professor Hayes, Professor Angell and Professor Rand—were 'the old guard;' they were the teachers who gave instruction and made the College…an educational institution of a high order."[55]Of these six core professors, Angell, Hayes and Stanley wrote diaries, which have survived and hint at the early faculty's views on race and abolitionism.
Thomas Angell, a professor of language and literature at Bates from 1869 to 1903, kept a diary throughout much of his life, in which he discussed his political views. In 1859, before coming to Bates, Angell wrote that he "attended a Republican meeting"[56] while a student at Brown, and he later frequently stressed his approval of Abraham Lincoln. In 1860 Angell wrote that he "heard the Hon. Abraham Lincoln make a splendid address" and "all of his arguments were so sound and fair that no one could refute them"[57] Furthermore, Angell's scrapbook contained a receipt for his ballot cast during the 1860 election for President Abraham Lincoln. Historian Allen Guelzo claims that Lincoln "was not enough moved by American slavery's singular injustice to its African captives to call for their immediate emancipation."[58] Although Lincoln may not have been an abolitionist, he was in his own words "might near one," and perhaps Thomas Angell was mighty near one as well, as he was obviously an ardent supporter of Lincoln.[59] Other newspaper clippings in Angell's scrapbook also hinted at his political views. An article, which expressed concern over the recent Dred Scott decision, is included in the scrapbook, and another article about the fall of Fort Sumter is pasted nearby. Angell also included several humorous articles about a character named Artemus Ward. One article described how Ward was driven out of the South by violent, whiskey drinking "seseshers" who wanted to "hang the bald-headed aberlitionist [sic.]."[60] Clearly Angell was a partisan in the debate over slavery as seen by his preference in newspaper articles and political candidates.
Although Angell was certainly a supporter of the early Republican Party and Lincoln, he seldom mentioned slavery directly in his diary. He seemed to agree more with Lincoln's fairly moderate even conservative anti-slavery views than immediatist abolitionist views of Oren Cheney. Angell did not enlist in the U.S. Army at the outbreak of the Civil War after being dissuaded by his father from enlisting, and instead Angell finished his studies at Brown.[61] In 1862 he joined the Rhode Island militia, which apparently was stationed in Rhode Island during the War.[62] Angell seemed less determined to enlist and fight than many of his peers. Angell also seemed to be less vocal an abolitionist as Cheney and the trustees at Bates, although he was a Free Will Baptist and must have at least nominally supported the abolitionist movement.
Other faculty members such as Benjamin F. Hayes shared similar views to Angell. Hayes was a Freewill Baptist minister, and from 1865 to 1906 he taught modern languages, rhetoric, literature, philosophy, science, and theology at Bates College.[63] Hayes' sporadic journal entries from the 1850s through the 1870s recorded several references to slavery. Hayes' references to slavery were largely retellings of notable stories he heard and striking articles he read, and did not directly state his own personal opinions. In one story, Hayes described how:
[o]ne Capt. [f]rom Maine was imprisoned in Williamsburg, N.C. because a Negro who had free papers had been hired aboard his ship. The papers were pronounced stolen, and the Capt. was only released after a tedious lawsuit at a cost of $2000. Capt. Carr of Maine also was imprisoned for a like accident and having less money—died in jail![64]
Because Hayes recorded this story it is likely that he thought it particularly poignant. It is interesting that Hayes' stories tend to describe white victims of the slave system, such as the two ship captains mentioned above, rather than brutality towards the actual slaves. Perhaps it was easier for Hayes to empathize with white victims rather than black ones. This attitude was often typical among white audiences in the nineteenth century as Allen Guelzo reports, even Abraham Lincoln "when he spoke against slavery, he was speaking against the institution, and not necessarily for its black victims."[65] The stories in Hayes' diary may indeed reflect some of this mainstream white, nineteenth century viewpoint.
Hayes' journal also contains a loose piece of paper with a note and a red piece of cloth attached to it. The note claims "This is a piece of the flag which was raised over the mansion house in Alexandria by Col. E. E. Ellsworth just before his assassination."[66] Colonel Ellsworth was celebrated as the first conspicuous casualty of the Civil War, and he was shot while removing a Confederate flag from a tavern in Alexandria in May 1861.[67] It is unclear how this relic came to be owned by Prof. Hayes, but his ownership suggests that he may have felt strongly about the cause for which Ellsworth died, which was the support of the union of the United States, not to end slavery. Ending slavery was not a primary reason for fighting the War until Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which "[w]hen issued it was…hailed as an epoch making revolutionary document, as a clarion call for human freedom."[68] Therefore, if Hayes truly supported Ellsworth's cause, he may have been a stronger supporter of the Union than of simply the abolitionist movement.
Professor Benjamin Hayes also addressed the broader issue of race in his journal. Hayes wrote about the unity of the races claiming:
No characteristics have yet been found by which mankind can be classified distinctly into races. And with all the differences of color, hair, and skull or language which now suffice for purpose of nomenclature it remains true that there is nothing to choose between the hypothesis that we constitute only one species and that we constitute several… we may believe that the genus homo is 'made of one blood.'[69]
This statement hints that Hayes may not have believed in superiority or inferiority based strictly on race. Throughout his notes in the journal, Hayes dismissed the idea of scientifically distinct races. Although Hayes' reasons for supporting the War seem ambiguous, he was relatively progressive on his ideas about the construction of race. He believed that people show prejudice mainly because "they refuse to be conversant but with one sort of men, books, notions."[70] Professor Hayes also discounts pseudo-sciences such as phrenology, which justify racism, as having "absolutely no foundation in facts."[71] In his writing, Reverend Hayes was among the most outspoken of the early Bates faculty in claiming that there was no valid scientific or social justification for racism. In his call for a unity of the races, Hayes was not simply asserting that blacks and whites should be separate but equal, but actually be united as humans.
Another Bates professor, Richard C. Stanley, expressed views that were visibly supportive of the abolitionist movement as well. Although Professor Stanley did not mention taking an active role in the abolitionist movement himself, he did mention his feelings on the issue. While in New York City, Stanley wrote about attending sermons by Henry Ward Beecher and George Thompson about the evils of slavery. [72] Stanley eventually professed that "only a constitutional amendment forever prohibiting slavery will work its ruin"[73] After going to Washington D.C. as a delegate to the Sanitary Commission, Prof. Stanley continued to express his political sentiments in his diary.[74] Stanley celebrated seeing Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner in Congress, and he labeled other politicians such as Wood and Brooks as "the last of the notorious Copperheads."[75] Stanley also rejoiced after he "received a polite bow" from President Lincoln.[76] Even though Professor Stanley may not have been an active abolitionist, he certainly related to the radical Republicans and supporters of the abolitionist movement. Stanley probably held similar opinions to this group of legislators.
Professor Charles Stanley also seemed fairly progressive in his views on race relations. While in Washington, D.C. during the Civil War, Stanley wrote that he "stepped into a Negro prayer meeting."[77] Stanley seemed to enjoy joining this group, although this seems like his first time doing so, and it is possible that this was more of a spectacle than a means of worship. Other than this instance, Stanley rarely mentioned African Americans in his diary except indirectly when he spoke of the radical Republican politicians whom he supported, such as Thaddeus Stevens.[78] By Stanley's willingness to worship with African Americans, he was either expressing some level of acceptance or simply observing what he deemed to be a curiosity. Stanley did not mention performing any overt actions in support of African American civil rights, and his record on race relations seems relatively ambiguous.
The racial attitudes of the founders and early faculty of Bates were generally tolerant toward African Americans compared to the mainstream attitude of the era. All of the early administrators, trustees, and faculty discussed in this chapter appeared supportive of the abolitionist movement although in varying degrees. Nearly all of the people discussed in this chapter were Free Will Baptists and general supporters of the policies of the mid-nineteenth century Republican Party. Some faculty outwardly expressed their affirmative views on racial equality, while others were relatively silent on that topic. As a group these people seem largely representative of the fifty or so trustees, and half a dozen other major faculty members who were at the institution during the 1850s through the 1870s. Although Cheney appears to have been the most ardent abolitionist (regardless of certain contradictions), other faculty undoubtedly supported the abolitionist movement. While Cheney and his peers sought to improve the lives and education of African Americans, they sometimes showed paternalistic feelings towards these same individuals. Although from a 21st century perspective this attitude often seems limited, it was likely a relatively progressive approach considering the intellectual mainstream of the day.
Next section >> Chapter 2: Race Relations on the Bates Campus
[1] Emeline Cheney. The Story of the Life and Work of Oren B. Cheney (Boston: Morning Star Publishing, 1907), 32.
[2] Emeline Cheney, 32-33.
[3] Emeline Cheney, 34.
[4] John R. McKivigan, History of the American Abolitionist Movement: A Bibliography of Scholarly Articles (New York: Garland Publishing, 1999), 1.
[5] Herbert Aptheker, Anti-Racism in U.S. History: The First Two Hundred Years (Westport, CT: Praeger: 1993), 6.
[6] James M. McPherson, The Abolitionist Legacy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975), 201.
[7] McPherson, 200.
[8] Anthony, 162.
[9] Emeline Cheney, 249.
[10] Anthony, 162.
[11] Emeline Cheney, 269.
[12] Alfred Williams Anthony, Lewiston Evening Journal, January 28, 1904, 4.
[13] Emeline Cheney, 4-9.
[14] The Underground Railroad in New England (American Revolution Bicentennial Administration, 1976), 17-18.
[15] Emeline Cheney, 32.
[16] Emeline Cheney, 45.
[17] Emeline Cheney, 34.
[18] Emeline Cheney, 45-48.
[19] Emeline Cheney, 48.
[20] Underground, 18.
[21] Underground, 18.
[22] Thomas D. Hamm, Church History, December 1994, Volume 63, Issue 4, 557-567.
[23] Emeline Cheney, 48-73.
[24] Oren Cheney, "Salutatory," Morning Star, 5 October 1853, 1, Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections, Bates College (hereafter referred to as MASC)..
[25] Emeline Cheney, 97-180; and Oren B. Cheney, Papers of Oren B. Cheney, Box 1, folder "Diary from 1864," MASC.
[26] Burgess, G.A. and J.T. Ward, Free Baptist Cyclopedia (Chicago: Free Baptist Cylcopedia Co., 1889), 21, MASC.
[27] Emeline Cheney, 97.
[28] Aptheker, 157.
[29] Emeline Cheney, 97-98.
[30] Miscellaneous Box of Charles Sumner materials at Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library, Folder: "Material Relating to the Sumner Chair," MASC.
[31] Thomas Dublin, Lowell: The Story of an Industrial City (Washington, DC: National Park Service, 1992), 20.
[32] Bates College Catalog 2004-2006 (Lewiston, ME: Bates College, 2004), 5-6.
[33] C.F. Penny, "Her Work in Augusta," Bates Student, June 1886, 140, MASC.
[34] Emeline Cheney, 149.
[35] Emeline Cheney, 149- 150.
[36] Emeline Cheney, 150.
[37] Emeline Cheney, 150.
[38] Emeline Cheney 257-258.
[39] Emeline Cheney, 258.
[40] Emeline Cheney, 151.
[41] Emeline Cheney, 151.
[42] McPherson, 200.
[43] Emeline Cheney, 162.
[44] A.K. Moulton, A Peep at the Peculiar Institution with Hints as to the Duty of Northern Christians and Citizens (Dover, NH: William Burr Printing, 1848), 15, MASC.
[45] Moulton, 1-12.
[46] Moulton, 20.
[47] Moulton, 15.
[48] Samuel N. Tufts, A Sermon: Slavery and the Death of John Brown (Lewiston, ME: Journal Office, 1859), 19, MASC.
[49] Tufts, 17.
[50] Tufts, 17.
[51] Guelzo, 16.
[52] Anthony, 127.
[53] Anthony, 178.
[54] Catalogue of Bates College 1863 (Lewiston, ME: Journal Office, 1867), 3-4, and Eaton, 4-13, MASC.
[55] Anthony, 259.
[56] Thomas Angell, The Thomas Angell Papers, Box 1, Folder "Thomas Angell Diary Jan. 1, 1859- July 20, 1866," April 4, 1859, MASC.
[57]Angell, February 28, 1860.
[58] Allen C. Guelzo, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation (New York: Simon & Shuster, 2004), 22.
[59] Guelzo, 22.
[60] Richard C. Stanley, Miscellaneous Manuscripts, Box 1, folder "Richard C. Stanley Scrapbook," MASC.
[61] Angell, 271.
[62] Angell, 271
[63] Anthony, 255-257.
[64] Benjamin F. Hayes, Miscellaneous Manuscripts, Box 1, folder: B.F. Hayes Journal, "Slavery," MASC.
[65] Guelzo, 23.
[66] Benjamin F. Hayes, Miscellaneous Manuscripts, Box 1, folder: B.F. Hayes Journal, (loose paper in journal), MASC.
[67] Bell I. Wiley, "Southern Reaction to Federal Invasion," The Journal of Southern History, November
1950, 491.
[68] Mark M. Krug, "The Republican Party and the Emancipation Proclamation," The Journal of Negro
History, April 1963, 98.
[69] Hayes, "Races."
[70] Hayes, "Prejudice."
[71] Hayes, "Phrenology."
[72] Richard C. Stanley, Miscellaneous Manuscripts, Box 1, folder "Richard C. Stanley," 11, MASC.
[73] Stanley, 47.
[74] Stanley, 110.
[75] Stanley, 116.
[76] Stanley, 175.
[77] Stanley, 114.
[78] Stanley, 116.
Chapter 2: Race Relations on the Bates Campus
Shortly after Bates College was founded, students at nearby colleges allegedly declared that it was a so-called "school for niggers and women."[1]This insulting and contemptuous claim was of course meant to deride the young College, yet Bates' legendary egalitarianism later served as a source of pride and strength for the College community. Bates' faculty held relatively progressive stances in regard to immediatist abolitionism and, to a lesser extent, racial equality. Yet the degree to which the Bates community actually accepted African Americans (and all non-whites) as equals at the College needs to be further examined.
This chapter will analyze how Bates' white students, white faculty, and black students viewed race relations on the campus. To understand the attitudes of these individuals, this chapter will utilize evidence from faculty and student diaries, the Bates Student and Seminary Advocate, the Bates Bulletin and other official sources that hint at early race relations at Bates College. Using these sources, this chapter will argue that Bates was generally supportive, albeit often paternalistic, in its attitude toward its minority students from 1855 to 1877. To present this argument, I will first give a brief description of the atmosphere regarding higher education for African American students in the antebellum era, then I will describe the atmosphere into which the first African Americans at Bates were entering, and finally, I will look in depth at the individual experiences of the first three African American graduates of Bates College.
At the time that Bates was founded, only a handful of colleges in the United States were accepting African American students, and at these schools African Americans were often not seen as equals. Middlebury was the first college to graduate an African American in 1823.[2] Bowdoin College had only one African American graduate before 1864 and a handful of black students in its medical school. "[F]ew other Northern colleges enrolled non-white students until this century [twentieth]."[3] Even at the schools that accepted African Americans, there was often an animosity felt toward them by white students and faculty. For example, Bowdoin Professor William Sweetser wrote about some of the first black students at Bowdoin's medical school before the Civil War, claiming that:
We have Ray & another coloured student here. They behave very modestly, & no exception has, I believe as yet been taken to them, even by our Southern pupils—at least no open objections have been made, though I think many of the class, would a little rather, have them away. Indeed I much doubt the policy, under the present state of prejudices in regard to colour in this country, however wrong such prejudices may be, of receiving blacks at our medical schools—I feel convinced from cautious observations that, in the end, they would lose more than they would gain by it.[4]
This passage reveals a limited amount of hostility from both faculty and students at Bowdoin as there seems to have been a common feeling that many students "would a little rather, have them [the African American students] away."[5] This is not surprising because according to a Bates Bulletin from 1910, "in most if not all, of our New England colleges, [other than Bates] sympathy with Southern slaveholders was prevalent and even dominant. At least two of these colleges were presided over during the Civil War by men whose hearts and, so far as prudent, whose voices, were with the South."[6] Although these attitudes of Southern sympathy and of uneasiness around African Americans were undoubtedly bigoted and clearly unacceptable from a twenty first century perspective, schools such as Bowdoin were among the more progressive colleges of the nineteenth century in accepting black students for admission. Prestigious American colleges, such as Princeton, the U.S. Naval Academy and the University of Virginia did not enroll their first African American students until 1947[7], 1949,[8] and 1960,[9] respectively. These late integration dates reveal how comparatively liberal the admission of African Americans actually was in the nineteenth century.
Bates was among the first handful of colleges to admit African Americans, and this decision was clearly affected by the religious affiliation of the College. George Chase, the second president of Bates, wrote that "at the outset Bates was modeled after Hillsdale."[10] Hillsdale College in Michigan was founded in 1844, and like Bates, was founded by Free Will Baptists as the first institution of higher learning controlled by the denomination.[11] Scores of Free Baptist clergymen associated with Hillsdale and Bates, including Bates founder, Oren B. Cheney, were vocal abolitionists and ardent opponents of racism.[12] Social historian Herbert Aptheker claimed that "[t]he impact of the prophetic quality in religion upon the history of anti-racism has been profound; this is, perhaps of greater consequence than any other influence."[13] Furthermore, "[t]he concept of human oneness and equality is a tenet of both Catholic and Protestant teaching…today it is called of theology of liberation."[14] Cleary, the anti-slavery, anti-racist values of many evangelical Christians such as the founders of Bates and Hillsdale were deeply rooted in their moral theologies. Practically all colleges in nineteenth century America had religious ties because it was believed, as historian James McPherson puts it, that "[j]ust as religion without education was an empty shell, education without religion would impart only information without conscience."[15] Because Bates was affiliated with the Free Will Baptist denomination, progressive, abolitionist, Baptist morals seem to have prevailed on the early Bates campus.
Cheney's connection to the evangelical abolitionist movement certainly influenced his egalitarian vision for Bates College, and this vision was all the more surprising due of the demographic makeup of the Lewiston area. With the assistance of Ebenezer Knowlton, President of the Trustees, Cheney made sure that no restrictions on admitting students were based on race in the charter of both the Maine State Seminary (1855) and later Bates College (1864).[16] Although Cheney worked to ensure that Bates was open to students of all races, relatively few non-white students attended the Seminary and the College in its early years. Perhaps this is not surprising, as the 1860 U.S. Census reported that 99.8% of Maine's population was white, and only 1,327 of 628,279 people were identified as "colored."[17] Androscoggin County was even less diverse than the state as a whole with only 11 "colored" residents out of a population of 29,726 and none of these eleven African Americans lived in Lewiston or Auburn in 1860.[18] Considering how racially homogenous (white) the area surrounding Bates was, it was notable that by 1877 Professor Stanley could write that Bates had "given most cordial welcome to young men of color, from the first. It has had in its various departments nine colored students, six of whom had been slaves."[19] For an area with a population that was completely white in 1860, these nine African American students would have provided the first instances of racial diversity in the Lewiston or Auburn area. How these students came to enroll at Bates College is unclear, but because Bates was affiliated with the national Free Will Baptist denomination, it seems likely that they may have heard of Bates College's liberal admission policies through Free Baptist churches and publications such as the Morning Star. President Cheney traveled extensively across the country, visiting various churches for fundraising and recruiting students, so these earliest minority students were likely drawn to the College through his recruitment.[20]
It is difficult to determine the identities of these earliest minority students at the Seminary, because no early Seminary yearbooks or relevant institutional records seem to exist. The first students who would qualify as a racial minority at Bates were likely Cubans, and it is unclear as to whether they were seen as "black." The Seminary Catalogues from 1857 to 1869 record three students as residing in Cuba. Although these students may very well have been regarded as white at the time, they fit the current (2005) United States government definition of Hispanic as:
A self-designated classification for people whose origins are from Spain, the Spanish-speaking countries of Central or South America, the Caribbean, or those identifying themselves generally as Spanish, Spanish-American, etc. Origin can be viewed as ancestry, nationality, or country of birth of the person or person's parents or ancestors prior to their arrival in the United States.[21]
The first mention of a Hispanic student at Bates was in the 1858 Catalogue, where Manuel de J. Gutierrez listed his residence as Villa Clara, Cuba.[22] Also, in the 1866 and 1867 Catalogues of the Academical Course, Francis A. Hechavarria listed his residence as Santiago de Cuba, and Francis Olano listed his as Bolondron, Cuba. [23] These three references seem to be the lone archival sources about these early Hispanic students at Bates. The 1880 U.S. Census recorded a Francisco Hechavarria living in Pennsylvania and married to a woman from Maine, hinting that this was indeed the same person who attended the Seminary.[24] This man listed his race as white (the Hispanic category did not exist on the 1880 Census.) Because these Hispanic students may have been regarded as white (although little evidence exists beyond this census data), they do not warrant further attention in this chapter as students of color.
The first verifiable African American student to enroll at the Maine State Seminary was John W. Dunjee (Dungy), who attended the Seminary from 1866 to 1868.[25] Dunjee's "race" can be verified by the 1880 U.S. Census, which listed him as a "mulatto."[26] Dunjee had been born a slave in Virginia, and "escaped via the URR in 1860, [and] made it to Canada. [He] [r]eturned to the US in about 1865 or 66."[27] Why Dungee enrolled at the Maine State Seminary in 1866 is unclear. As Dungee was a Baptist, it is possible that his religious affiliation may have brought him to study at Bates. Lewiston's proximity to Canada may have also impacted his decision. After attending the Maine State Seminary (Bates), Dunjee went on to study at Oberlin College and then traveled to "many locations in the South and later in Oklahoma… to establish Baptist churches for blacks in rural areas."[28] Other members of Dunjee's class in 1866 were likely black as well, such as Dunjee's roommates in Parker Hall, Hamilton E. Keyes from Front Royal, Virginia, and Alexander Sanders from Fortress Monroe, Virginia.[29] Fortress Monroe was a Union military base in Virginia to which hundreds of slaves fled after General Benjamin Butler issued his famous contraband order.[30] This order allowed the government to take slaves from their owners because they were considered rebel property.[31] That Bates College was attracting former slaves as students in its earliest days reveals the relative openness of the school during this period. Bates must have been communicating that its doors were open to black students very early in its history in order to attract several students of color within its first decade of existence.
It is difficult to know much about the social experience Dunjee and his roommates had at Bates, but several pieces of evidence hint at prevalent racial attitudes on campus. An article by future Bates President George Colby Chase, who attended the Seminary and College from 1862 to 1868, described an incident involving one of the earliest African American students at Bates. Chase wrote that:
A colored student from Virginia encountering a 'a gentleman from old Kentucky' was violently pushed from the sidewalk into the ditch. In scarcely more time than is required for the story he was arrested by a policeman, ha[u]led into the municipal court and in the presence of fifty Bates boys was sharply fined for his cowardly and insolent assault upon one of their number.[32]
This passage by Chase hinted at the attitudes of the white members of the early Bates community toward the first African American students and also described the backlash from those outside of the Bates community. It is, however, unclear who the African American student was in this article, and when the incident occurred. The College, Seminary, and Nichols Latin (Department of the College) catalogues recorded students from Virginia or West Virginia (presumably African American) in all of the catalogues from 1866 to 1879, so the event could have occurred at any point during these years. If Chase's story is indicative of the school's general attitude, it seems as though many white Bates students attempted to support the black students as they faced various prejudices during their time in Lewiston. Fifty Bates students would have been approximately a quarter of the student body in 1867-1868 (there were 46 students in the College[33] and 172 in the affiliated Seminary and Latin School).[34] While the incident reveals sympathy towards African American students, it also describes racial attitudes outside of the direct Bates community. Other such attacks on African Americans in Lewiston were recorded in the 1860s.
Even though few African Americans lived in the Lewiston area in the mid-nineteenth century, the Lewiston Evening Journal mentioned several similar assaults. For example in 1867 the Journal reported that:
Charles Smith was complained of for assaulting one Jackson Lewis, a gentleman of color—Smith probably has prejudices against colored individuals which the war has not fully eradicated, and it being a holiday, he took occasion to give vent to his peculiar political biases by commencing an assault upon the unoffending colored boy, who proving the better man of the two, knocked Smith down and then went to his place of business. The Judge fined Smith two dollars and costs.[35]
Interestingly, this article was published by Nelson Dingley, a future Congressman, honorary degree recipient from Bates College, and an early trustee of the College.[36] Dingley's paper sympathized with the African American man in this article and condemned "prejudices against colored individuals" even though it referred to Jackson Lewis as the "colored boy." It appears as though Lewis was an adult as he "went to his place of business." This kind of benevolent, paternalistic attitude was not unusual among northerners who sympathized with African Americans. As McPherson puts it, many northern teachers "believed slavery to have been an infantilizing process,"[37] and therefore referring to black men as "boys" may have been common among such reformers. Other than this paternalistic phrase, the sympathetic views of Dingley's newspaper generally reaffirmed the supportive attitudes of the Bates community that Chase previously mentioned.
While the evidence about actual race relations on campus is thin, we can get an idea of the attitudes of Bates students' attitudes about race and the national debate over slavery by examining an article from the Seminary Advocate written during the Civil War. A short article published in the April 1863 Seminary Advocate expressed the abolitionist sentiments of an individual student. The unnamed student asserted in the article that "we [the students at the newspaper] are in favor of the proclamation."[38] By supporting the Emancipation Proclamation and "freemen,"[39] the author was clearly taking a stance in the battle over slavery. For this student, preserving the Union seems to have been a secondary reason for continuing to fight the Civil War. For this individual and likely other students who went on to fight slavery, ending slavery was primary reason for prosecuting the War. Although this does not necessarily indicate sympathy for African Americans on campus it does tell us that some students (and an official school publication) supported the Emancipation Proclamation at a time when most Americans in the northern states were opposed to it. According to historian Allen Guelzo, "outside Radical and abolitionist circles, enthusiasm was in ominously shorter supply [for the Proclamation]."[40] If the Seminary Advocate decided to publish an article supporting the Proclamation, those students involved with it may very well have been members of "Radical and abolitionist circles."
The actions of individual Bates students during the War may also be indicative of their racial attitudes. Emeline Cheney reported that as of November 1864, the Seminary and College "sent one hundred and seventy-five of its young men to the war."[41] Bates' students seem to have overwhelmingly supported the Union during this era. The April 1863 edition of the Seminary Advocate claims that only two former Seminary students (Lyman E. Brooks and A.W. Murphy) from Columbus, Georgia, were "said to be in the rebel army."[42] Whether this majority fought primarily to preserve the Union or to abolish slavery is unclear, although it is probable that many students were fighting for both causes. Most students consciously enlisted on the Union side, and according to a later Bates Bulletin:
The number of men entering the first class in 1863, was diminished one-half by the call To Arms! By flag and country. Those student volunteers went marching from Hathorn Hall to the railway station to the music of drum and fife…some of them returned…and more of them fell where they fought, cheerful martyrs to Union and Freedom.[43]
This passage reveals that a substantial portion of Bates students studying during the War actually enlisted, and if this article is accurate, they did so enthusiastically for both "Union and Freedom."
One Bates student who responded to this "call to Arms" was Major Holman S. Melcher, and his views may hint at a typical student's motivations for fighting. Melcher attended Bates (Maine State Seminary) from 1858 to 1862, but eventually dropped out and enlisted with the 20th Regiment of Maine. He left a diary and letters hinting at his motivations for fighting. Most of Melcher's writings dealt with everyday details of army life and his role in various battles (which included leading and possibly initiating the legendary charge down Little Round Top). Melcher did not directly state his specific reason for enlisting, but it can be inferred that fighting to end slavery was not his top priority when he initially enlisted in 1862, which was relatively early in the War. Melcher frequently described how he was fighting to "restore the Union" and was "inspired with Patriotism."[44] Melcher would thus have been a lot like other Maine soldiers who fought for similar reasons. Charles Calhoun has written that "few of the young men who went to war from Maine in 1861 and 1862 had any notion of freeing the slaves, but they were determined to crush the rebellion."[45] Melcher only refers to slavery once in his three years of writing. On February 3, 1865 Melcher expressed joy that "the 13th Constitutional Amendment passed Congress on the last day of January—119 to 56—so we are at last a Free Nation with the approval of the States. Thank God!"[46] Melcher emphatically approved of the abolition of slavery with the 13th Amendment although he hardly seems to have dwelt upon the issue very extensively in his everyday musings during the War. Melcher's supportive but not overly zealous attitude towards abolition may be indicative of Bates students' feelings during the Civil War era. Determining the attitudes of other presumably white Bates students on campus during the Civil War era is much more difficult because few writings by early students survived.
Fortunately some faculty diaries, letters and records have survived which reveal more about the first African Americans at Bates. The abolitionist ideals of Bates' founder, Oren Cheney (as discussed in the previous chapter), were largely acted out as he recruited the earliest African American students for the school, including Henry Chandler the first African American graduate of Bates College. In a diary entry from March 1, 1864, Cheney mentioned stopping in Bath, Maine, to see an African American acquaintance, and he recorded that "Bro. Chandler['s] (colored) son and daughter will 'go through' the college."[47] Almost exactly ten years after Cheney wrote this, Henry Wilkins Chandler of Bath, Maine, graduated from Bates College in 1874 as its first African American graduate.[48] It seems almost certain that Henry Chandler was the son referred to in the 1864 diary. This is significant because it means that President Cheney was already recruiting African American students during Bates' first full year with collegiate powers, 1864. It is likely, though, that Chandler was not the first African American student Cheney recruited. Professor Stanley reported in 1877 that Bates "has had in its various departments nine colored students."[49] Most of these other African American students (John Dunjee, Hamilton Keyes, Alexander Sanders, Archibald Johnson, Alexander Stuard and others) seem to have enrolled in the Seminary Department or Nichols Latin School, other departments of the College. Chandler was, though, the only black graduate of the College proper listed as of 1877. Regardless of the specific numbers, it is certain that Cheney was actively seeking African American students, such as Chandler, in the earliest days of the school. Because of Cheney's recruitment, it seems reasonable to assume that at least some of the early faculty welcomed Africans to Bates, and this is perhaps indicative of the racial atmosphere at the institution.
Other faculty members at Bates such as George Colby Chase also briefly mentioned the first African American graduate of the College. On August 27, 1870 Chase wrote in his diary:
I have heard my class recite twice. It will number about twenty. A colored boy named Chandler bids fair to be among the first. I reluctantly consented to hear the Freshman class in Greek instead of Latin, which I expected to teach.[50]
Chase refers rather nonchalantly to Henry Chandler in this passage, and his sole reference to Chandler provides relatively little information. It is unclear exactly what Chandler "bids fair" (appears likely[51]) to be the first at. Perhaps Chase believed that Chandler may be among the most promising students in the class. Interestingly, Chase referred to Chandler as a "boy" although he was eighteen years old in 1870 and only eight years younger than Chase.[52] It is possible that Chase used this term in a derogatory way, although he often referred to the other students (presumably white) as boys as well. As historian James McPherson points out: "'[t]he colored people are yet children, and need to be taught everything,' was a typical comment"[53] after the Civil War among many white educators of African Americans. Therefore Chase's comment may not have been unexpected during that era. Besides this reference, Chase did not mention Chandler in his diary. He certainly did not seem to be nearly as vocal, radical and committed as President Cheney was in his dealings with African Americans.
In order to understand race relations at Bates, the experiences of the first three African Ameican graduates of the College, Henry Chandler '74, Thomas Bollin '79 and Daniel Grice 83' must be examined in more detail. Fortunately the Bates Student mentioned all three of these individuals in articles from the 1870s and 1880s. Henry Wilkins Chandler, Class of 1874, seems to have experienced relative acceptance during his time at Bates. As the first black graduate of the College, it would be expected that Chandler might have experienced some animosity from his peers and been excluded from extracurricular activities. The surviving evidence does not suggest this, however, and Chander seems to have been fairly active and accepted in campus life. As a student, Chandler was one of the founding editors of the Bates Student in 1873.[54] He also gave a Declamation during the 1873 Commencement,[55] and in his senior year was elected as an officer of the Executive Committee of the Eurosophian Society.[56]
The climate at Bates that supported Chandler may also have supported other African American concerns. For example during April of 1874 when Chandler was a senior, the senior class invited Frederick Douglass to speak to Bates students and community members at the Lewiston City Hall about John Brown.[57] The event was well publicized and the Lewiston Evening Journal wrote about the speech, claiming that "Mr. Douglass is the best representative of the colored race, and probably its best known member."[58] Inviting Frederick Douglass to speak is perhaps indicative of Bates' attempt at racial egalitarianism during Chandler's time at Bates. Considering that there were only eighteen members of this class, it is likely that Chandler knew about Douglass's speech and may have had a part in inviting him. It is also possible that President Cheney may have also had a role in inviting Douglass, as he had met him several times previously. Clearly, Chandler did not seem to have been directly ostracized by his peers from the social and academic life at Bates College. After graduating, Chandler went on to a successful law and political career in Florida, serving as a state senator and Republican Party delegate in later years.[59] It seems as though Chandler's education from Bates served him well in his professional life. Chandler's acceptance into college activities resembles that of other African Americans at Bates.
The next African American graduate, Thomas James Bollin '79, seems to have had a somewhat comparable experience to Chandler at Bates, although their backgrounds were quite different. According to the Bates Student from 1879:
Bollin…was born in Lexington, Va., April 23, 1846. He was a slave until his eighteenth year, or until the Emancipation Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln. On his arrival in the North, at Lewiston in 1866, he began his education. He fitted for college at Nichols Latin School [which was connected to Bates College] and entered Bates College in the fall of '75.[60]
It seems likely that Bollin began his education when he was twenty years old because his childhood was spent in slavery. Despite this handicap, Bollin appears to have succeeded at Bates. In 1875 he was elected Toast Master of the 1879 class,[61] and in 1877 the Polymnian Literary Society admitted him as a member.[62] In his senior year Bollin was elected class president.[63] In 1879 Bollin also wrote two articles in the Bates Student expressing his view on race. In an article titled "Social Equality," Bollin eloquently claimed that social equality "is not equal rights before the law…is not the equality of riches …nor is it an equality in the simple right of franchise….social equality is the brotherhood of man in every condition."[64] In this essay Bollin asserted that one can be technically equal but not truly seen as such by their peers. Perhaps Bollin was addressing his own experience with racial equality or inequality while a student. Although he may have been accepted by his peers as seen by his involvement in various activities, Bollin may have still felt a lacking of absolute brotherhood with his classmates. The fact that the Bates Student published his views, however, demonstrates at least some sympathy for his perspective.
The next African American graduate of Bates College, Daniel Grice '83, seems to have experienced similar belonging and distance with his classmates. Although Grice entered Bates slightly after the Reconstruction era, his story is particularly poignant and relevant, and perhaps indicative of earlier African Americans' experiences at Bates. Grice entered Bates in 1879 as a member of the class of 1883. At Bates, Grice lived with his family in Lewiston, in contrast to many of the area students listed in the catalogues who lived at Parker Hall or rented rooms nearby.[65] It is possible that this was a means of cutting costs. In his sophomore year Grice was elected orator of his class.[66] That same year, 1881, the editors of the Bates Student published an article about Grice stating:
We wish to call the attention of all the students to the fact that D.N. Grice of '83 is prepared to accommodate all who have baggage to be carried to and from the depot. For obvious reasons he has not the same opportunities to make money that his fellow students have. He cannot easily obtain a school. How many of us would escape bankruptcy if we hadn't any more resources than he has? …. When we come back in the spring let us drop him a card telling him when to meet us. We can, by this means, greatly assist one of our own number, a more worthy person, to continue his college course. This is written entirely without the knowledge of Mr. Grice, and simply because it seems to us a duty to assist one so deserving, and so appreciative of all favors. He can be seen at the college any day.[67]
This article suggests that Grice was discriminated against in finding employment in the Lewiston area for "obvious reasons," namely his race. Because this is supposed to be obvious to the audience, it can be assumed that Bates' students understood that racist hiring practices were the norm in the region. Daniel Grice was certainly carrying baggage out of necessity, and it is easy to imagine that Grice would have been appreciative of this article, but possibly embarrassed as well. Although Grice's classmates were apparently well meaning with their article, Grice was singled out by the author for sympathy. The article rings again of both white paternalism (perhaps too harsh of a term) and a desire to do "good" as measured by the author's own likely Christian morality. James McPherson points out that northern Christian groups after the Civil War often claimed that "the colored man is our brother…We must take care of him, educate him, help him, and lift him up into a higher life, that he may be a brother on whom we shall look with satisfaction and pride."[68] This article in the Bates Student surely reflected some of these types of Christian paternalistic attitudes. While the editors seem to have meant well, their tone reveals a possible naiveté about their own preconceptions and paternalism, as it does not appear that the editors even asked Mr. Grice if he wanted their assistance (although they apparently thought that this non-communication was a good idea). By carrying his classmates' baggage at Bates, Grice was acting more like a servant than an equal, even though such actions provided him with support. If Grice's experience is typical, other minority students at Bates may have also faced both support and well-meaning paternalism from their white classmates. Although Grice seems to have faced challenges during his time at Bates, he went on to a career as an instructor and lawyer in Richmond, Virginia.[69]
Although absolute equality may not have existed between African Americans and white students on campus, Bates College was certainly relatively tolerant in its attitude toward African Americans in the early years of the school especially in comparison with other schools. Oren Cheney actively worked to create a college that was open to all students regardless of race, and he was somewhat successful in this work. The faculty and the student body seem to have been distinctly supportive of this ideal. Regardless of their paternalistic undertones, they spoke up for social equality and assisted minority students in times of adversity. This early progressive stance led many outside critics of the College to denigrate the school in its formative years, but at the same time led many progressive members of the Bates community to take pride in the College's tolerance. Professor Stanley wrote in 1877 that "[e]very one of the nine [first African American students], I think would testify that he had never received on account of his color, the slightest discourtesy from any one connected with the College."[70]Although Stanley's claim that none of the black students had received "the slightest discourtesy" may be exaggerated, little evidence exists to contradict this claim.
Certainly Bates' attitude toward race was very progressive by nineteenth century standards. Already by 1881 the radical abolitionist and civil rights advocate, Wendell Phillips, acknowledged in a letter to President Cheney:
I am familiar with the history of Bates College and acquainted with its officers. In the old times of bitter pro-slavery feeling the College gave earnest and effective support to the anti-slavery movement and was among the very first to open its doors to the colored man.[71]
If radical speakers such at Wendell Phillips considered Bates to have progressive admissions policies in regard to race in the nineteenth century, it is probable that Bates was among the most forward looking colleges in the country at the time. Although instances of white paternalism are evident at Bates as they were at most other institutions, the fact still remains that Bates opened its doors to people of African descent while other more prestigious colleges and universities refused admission to blacks until the 1950s and 1960s.
Next section >> Chapter 3: Women at Bates College
[1] Bulletin of Bates College (Lewiston, ME: Bates College, 1910), 13 (277), Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library, Bates College (hereafter referred to as MASC).
[2] Charles C. Calhoun, A Small College in Maine (Brunswick, ME: Bowdoin College, 1993), 163.
[3] Calhoun, 163
[4] Calhoun, 164.
[5] Calhoun, 164.
[6]Bulletin (1910), 8 (272).
[7]Jonathan Williams, "Looking Back at Brown v. Board," Daily Princetonian, February 24, 2004,
[8] Susan D. Hansen, "The Racial History of the U.S. Military Academies," Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. Winter 1999, 115.
[9] "The University in the 1960s" University of Virginia,
[10] Bulletin (1910), 34 (340).
[11]Alfred Williams Anthony, BatesCollegeand Its Background (Philadelphia: Judson Press, 1936),
[12] Bulletin (1910), 7 (271).
[13] Herbert Aptheker, Anti-Racism in U.S. History: The First Two Hundred Years (Westport, CT: Praeger: 1993), xiv.
[14] Aptheker, xiv.
[15] James M. McPherson, The Abolitionist Legacy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975), 151.
[16] Bulletin, (1910), 14.
[17] Eighth Census of the United States 1860 (New York, NY: Norman Ross Pub., 1990), 200.
[18] Eighth Census, 200.
[19] Richard Stanley, "Historical Sketch of Bates College," Bates Student, June, 1877, 164, MASC.
[20] Emeline Cheney, 120-180.
[21] US Census, "Hispanic,"
[22] Catalogue of the Maine State Seminary (Lewiston, ME: Journal Office, 1858), 9, MASC.
[23] Catalogue (1866), 12.
[24] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "Census 1880,"
[25] Catalogue of the Maine State Seminary (1866), 12.
[26] "Census 1880."
[27] Peggy Brooks Bertram, "Research Query: John William Dungy," http://www.afrolumens
[28] Peggy Brooks Bertram "Druscilla Dunjee Houston" University of Buffalo,
[29] Catalogue of the Maine State Seminary (1866), 13.
[30] Allen C. Guelzo, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation (New York: Simon & Shuster, 2004), 29-30.
[31] Guelzo, 29-30.
[32] Bulletin of Bates College, (Lewiston, ME: Bates College, 1909), 18 (196), MASC.
[33]Catalogue of the Maine State Seminary 1867-1868 (Lewiston, ME: Journal Office, 1867), 15, MASC.
[34] Catalogue of Bates College 1867-1868 (Lewiston, ME: Journal Office, 1867), 9, MASC.
[35] "Municipal Court," Lewiston Evening Journal, 5 April 1867, 3.
[36] Mabel Eaton, General Catalogue of Bates College and Cobb Divinity School: 1864-1930 (Lewiston, ME: Bates College, 1930), 6, MASC.
[37] McPherson, 185.
[38] "The Advocate," Seminary Advocate, April, 1863, 4, MASC.
[39] Advocate, April, 4.
[40] Guelzo, 154.
[41] Emeline Cheney, 146.
[42] "Students in the Rebel Army," Seminary Advocate, April, 1863, 4, MASC.
[43] Bulletin, (1910), 14 (278).
[44] Holman S. Melcher, With a Flash of his Sword (Kearny, NJ: Belle Grove Publishing, 1994), 200.
[45] Calhoun, 160.
[46] Melcher, 194.
[47] Oren B. Cheney, Papers of Oren B. Cheney, Box 1, folder "Diary from 1864," MASC.
[48] Eaton, 42.
[49] Stanley, 164.
[50] George C. Chase, Papers of George C. Chase, Box 2, Folder "Diary 1868-1871, MASC.
[51] "Bid," The American Heritage College Dictionary (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997), 135.
[52] Eaton, 42.
[53] McPherson, 185.
[54] "Alumni Notes," Bates Student, November, 1874, 238.
[55] "College Items," Bates Student, June, 1873, 160.
[56] "College Items," Bates Student, September, 1873, 190.
[57] "College Items," Bates Student, 1879, 211, 262.
[58] "Frederick Douglass at City Hall," Lewiston Evening Journal, 18 April 1874, 3.
[59] William J. Simmons Men of Mark: Emminent Progressive and Rising (Cleveland, OH: Geo. M. Rewell & Co., 1887), 257-258,
[60] "Editors' Profile" Bates Student. June, 1879, 149.
[61] "College Items," Bates Student, October, 1875, 209.
[62] "Locals," Bates Student, October, 1877, 215.
[63] "Editors' Portfolio," Bates Student, September, 1879, 182.
[64] "Social Equality," Bates Student. April, 1879, 85.
[65] "Census 1880." and Bates College Catalogue, 1881.
[66]"Editors' Portfolio," Bates Student, September, 1880, 121.
[67] "Editors' Portfolio," Bates Student, November, 1881, 159.
[68] McPherson, 185.
[69] Eaton, 67.
[70] Stanley, 164.
[71] Emeline Cheney, 200.
Chapter 3: Women at Bates College
In addition to taking pride in its early position on minority students, Bates College celebrates its place as the first New England college to admit women, and one of the first co-educational colleges in the United States. Although women were present at Bates since its inception, it cannot be assumed that women and men interacted as equals and were viewed as such by the College community. In this chapter I explore the degree to which white women were accepted into the Bates community and describe how students, faculty and other institutions viewed this integration from 1855 to 1877. The conclusion, which I draw from an examination of evidence from the Bates Student, College Catalogues and first hand accounts, is that, regardless of certain exceptions, Bates was relatively egalitarian in its acceptance of women into the community.
In order to understand gender issues at Bates, it is helpful to consider the context of nineteenth century gender dynamics, especially in regard to higher education. Middle class gender in nineteenth century Americawas largely seen as being comprised of a woman's sphere and a man's sphere. According to historian Nancy Woloch, woman's sphere "stressed the significance of domestic roles and maternal influence,"[1] while its male counterpart was "the opportunity to rise in the world."[2] Nineteenth century society assessed the worthiness of activities for men and women based largely upon this assumption of spheres. Interestingly, higher education was not necessarily seen as "a male bastion," because, while "college education may have been a frontier for women…for men it was a retreat from the 'real' world of business."[3] While the college world was therefore not as intensely male as the army or other professions, it was sufficiently male dominated to discourage the participation of women. It was into this male "backwater" that American women first treaded in the 1830s at Oberlin College.[4] Oberlin historian John Barnard wrote that "Oberlin…acquired some unusual features such as coeducation, a policy of admitting Negroes, an intense and constant support for abolitionism and other moral and social-reform causes, [and] adherence to a mild form of Christian perfectionism."[5] These practices were largely repeated at other progressive, predominantly evangelical colleges throughout the northern United States. Bates College was founded in 1855 and followed the path of western colleges such as Oberlin (Ohio) and Hillsdale (Michigan) in regard to co-education.[6]
Many early Bates students became Free Will Baptist ministers and the Free Baptist church's decision allowing women to enter the ministry may have impacted the decision to make Bates a co-educational school. The Lewiston Evening Journal reported in 1867 that "[s]tatistics were read from about 40 colleges, which shows that Bates College has the largest percentage of its students preparing for the ministry."[7] Bates College and Hillsdale Collegewere both founded by the Free Will Baptist denomination and educated many Free Baptist clergy members. According to Emeline Cheney, there were in the early nineteenth century, "a number of women preachers and evangelists in the denomination [Free Will Baptist]."[8] This likely influenced both Hillsdale and Bates in their decisions to accept women as students. As Bates College was largely educating Baptist ministers in its early days, it is not surprising that women were accepted as students. They had already been accepted into the Free Baptist ministry earlier in the nineteenth century.
According to historian Glenda Riley, another factor that may have influenced colleges in admitting women was that at many of the first co-educational colleges:
Women teachers were willing to work for low wages and to accept seasonal employment. As men deserted the teaching profession for better paying jobs in industry or to take up western homesteads, women gladly filled the void. This in turn put pressure upon existing colleges to admit women as students.[9]
It is also easy to see how predominantly male colleges could make the transition to accepting female students if females were already teaching at those institutions (as was the case at the Maine State Seminary). The hypocrisy of rejecting female applicants and accepting female teachers would have been blatantly obvious to those associated with the colleges.
In choosing to admit women, Bates ran against the conventions of the time. Significant social barriers existed to admitting women to colleges for the first time. As feminist historian Anne Scott points out:
In the beginning there were so few girls prepared for college that these institutions had to organize preparatory departments. Nor did women's colleges win wide public approval. It was seriously suggested that education was physically detrimental to women, that they would get brain fever, and that –anyway---their minds would not be able to cope with hard subjects. Other critics claimed that college women did not marry and therefore the education of women would lead to race suicide.[10]
With critics using "scientific," health and racial arguments to invoke fear in order to support their cause, it is not surprising that many colleges refused to admit women until well into the twentieth century. Prestigious private colleges and universities such as Princeton and Bowdoin refused admission to women until 1969[11] and 1971,[12] respectively. Perhaps because of this public pressure against co-education, relatively few women in the general population attended college. According to Nancy Woloch "in 1870, when 1 percent of college-age Americans attended college, 21 percent were women"[13] and most women attended all female schools or public land-grant colleges which "welcomed women because doing so cost less than creating separate institutions for them."[14] Clearly, higher education in the nineteenth century was an elite enterprise for men and even more so for women, and private co-educational colleges such as Bates, Hillsdale and Oberlin were especially rare at the time.
When Bates College was chartered in 1855 as the Maine State Seminary, it did not, however, seem to be outwardly breaking gender barriers. Oren Cheney founded the Maine State Seminary in 1855 to replace the Parsonfield Seminary that burned down in 1854.[15] Parsonfield Seminary and many other seminaries in United States at that time admitted both male and female students. These seminaries were somewhere between colleges and preparatory schools in caliber, and many of the male seminary graduates later enrolled in regional colleges.[16] It was not until 1863, when Bates became officially incorporated as a college, that the institution started breaking larger gender barriers.
The fact that women attended Bates does not mean that they received the same educational experience as men. Although the Maine State Seminary opened its doors in 1857 to both men and women, students were treated differently because of gender. Male students typically enrolled in the three-year "College Preparatory Course" resulting in a diploma for "those who are fitted for college."[17] Female students, on the other hand, enrolled in the "Ladies Course" which resulted in a "Classical Diploma" or "Scientific Diploma" for those "who complete their entire course, except the Ancient Languages."[18] The two courses seem to have been relatively similar but the "Ladies Course" was one year longer and had more electives and fewer language requirements than the "College Preparatory Course."[19] Because no colleges existed for women in New England (Mt. Holyoke and other institutions were still seminaries[20]), it seems unlikely that any female graduates of the Maine State Seminary went on to attend college (unless they enrolled at Oberlin or Hillsdale) until Bates College was officially incorporated in 1863. The different requirements for men and women thus may have resulted from the expectation that this was a terminal diploma for women and simply a preparatory diploma for most men. Knowledge of Latin and Greek was a necessary prerequisite at many colleges, and therefore prospective college students needed to master these languages.[21] This was not necessary in the "Ladies Course."
Although most American women apparently did not attend college during this era, three of the eight original faculty members of the Maine State Seminary in 1857 were female.[22] Their educational backgrounds are unclear, although they are all listed as teachers, and likely had at least a seminary level education. "Miss Rachel J. Symonds" was the "Preceptress, and Teacher of Modern Languages."[23] "Miss Jennie W. Hoyt" was listed as a "Teacher of Botany, and Assistant Teacher of Latin" and "Miss Mary R. Cushman" was the "Teacher of Ornamental Branches, and Assistant Teacher of Mathematics."[24] Although these instructors apparently taught classes of both men and women, it is unclear if they were paid equally and treated equally with their male counterparts. Little evidence survives to answer these questions. Two of the three female teachers are listed as an "Assistant Teacher," although none of the male teachers are listed as such. This may suggest that there was an educational or social gap between the male and female faculty. After the College was incorporated in 1863 no women were listed as professors, although many of these women continued on as teachers at the school. Their presence may very well have influenced Bates' decision to admit female students from the beginning.Outside of the classroom, the first female students at the Seminary were literally separated from their male counterparts. In its first year, the Seminary put into place strict rules governing male and female relations. This is not particularly surprising because most of the students were teenagers. The 1857 Seminary Catalogue stated that "Young ladies and gentlemen are not allowed to walk or ride in company without special permission from the faculty"[25] and "Ladies and gentlemen may meet each other at such time and places as designated by the faculty."[26] Men were also required to pay for their laundry to be washed, while "ladies who wish can do their own washing on Saturdays" or they could pay.[27] These rules seem to have reflected cultural mores of the era. Although women and men were both present at the Seminary, they were clearly relegated to separate locations and spheres and had distinct obligations and "opportunities." This strict social separation seems to have continued after the Seminary became a College in 1863.
In 1862 "sixteen young men and seven women petitioned the trustees of the Seminary for collegiate instruction, and in September of '63 Bates Collegeopened her doors to them."[28] (Bates was not considered a college until 1863). It is significant that women as well as men called for a college education. The seven women who lobbied the trustees were hoping to create a co-educational college, something that was unprecedented in the Eastern colleges at that time.[29] According to Emeline Cheney, President Cheney supported this idea of co-education, although he realized that the new College would have "to brave the criticisms from other Institutions because of what would be called an erratic course."[30] Cheney understood that the path to a co-ed college would not be a smooth one, and indeed there was a great deal of controversy surrounding the first female students in New England as they crossed into the male sphere. Twenty years later in the Annual President's Report, Cheney wrote:
How much it cost the college [Bates] in standing and influence to admit a woman…before it had graduated a class—I very well know. But the change in public opinion during the last twenty years on the question of admitting women to college is wonderful. The porches of some of the conservative colleges are now open for women to enter. If women, however, may enter the porches of colleges why not the colleges themselves? That they are to be allowed to do this—that all the colleges of our country will welcome women to their numbers—is only a question of time.[31]
Cheney obviously saw Bates as a pioneer in breaking gender barriers in the field of higher education, and recognized the loss of "standing and influence" (at least in the short term) that resulted from this decision. Cheney also accurately foresaw the future of American higher education in predicting that "all the colleges of our country will welcome women." This was a bold assertion to make when Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Dartmouth, Williams, Tufts, and all the other New England colleges were still closed to women. Bates was clearly not modeled after any of these schools. As the Bates Bulletin from 1910 put it, "at the outset Bates was modeled after Hillsdale [a Freewill Baptist college]…[and] [t]he first Charter of Bates guaranteed to women students equal opportunities with men; and as we have seen, six women were members of the first Freshman class."[32]
In the fall of 1863 six women and sixteen men (all of them were presumably white) enrolled at Bates in the first freshmen class, but none of the women stayed at the College.[33] All six of the women eventually dropped out by 1867, and only eight men graduated that year. There is a conflicting story about why the first women dropped out of the class. Early alumnus George C. Chase, class of 68, wrote that "I suppose it was because some of those in authority had a subtle influence upon them to the effect that they began to regard themselves as out of place in College."[34] This statement assumes that the faculty or administration did not welcome the earliest female students at the College because of their gender. In contrast, Professor Alfred Anthony interviewed male and female members of the first class and concluded that although their sex affected the decision, the first women were not asked to leave strictly on account of their sex,
but because the women who presented themselves had… been moved up out of the Seminary into the College without due preparation for the studies of collegiate grade, as they had not read all of the required Greek and Latin, nor studied mathematics as far as had the men; and the men thought they had reason to believe that the women were enrolled with them, not because of qualification, but because they were women and were to be favored in order to keep the purpose of the College plainly apparent to all who might see the catalogue, because here were women actually listed with men in the same college, the first college in New England to receive men and women without distinction as to sex![35]
Anthony believed that the male students were opposed to this early kind of affirmative action by the College. This account portrays the faculty or administration as wanting to enroll female students to gain the distinction of being the first co-ed college in New England, while the male students were not in favor of the admission of these women. They were even resentful of their presence. This account also reveals how the College did not accommodate the female students in regard to prerequisites they may have needed and was unwilling to expand its preparatory training to allow them to be brought up to necessary level.
Clearly, it was difficult for the person(s) who caused the women's dismissals to take responsibility for their actions. This avoidance of blame indicates that the rejection was somewhat of an embarrassment for the College and hints at both support for and ambivalence about female students. Emma Rand, class of 1881, who was married to Professor John Rand, class of 1867, a member of that first class, recorded a slightly different account of the situation, as her husband explained it. Randdescribed how her husband and the other "young men never thought of objecting"[36] to the women, but that it was actually President Cheney's decision to ask the women to leave. According to Rand, Cheney thought that it was a mistake that "the young women had not been required to have Greek for entering or to take it in the College"[37] and "if it was to maintain its standing as a college, the scholastic requirements must be the same for young women as for the young men."[38] Therefore, Cheney asked the female students to leave, claiming that "the young men objected."[39] Cheney thought it was "only fair to ask the sixteen young men…to assume the burden"[40] because if he "had taken it all upon himself, he would have stood alone."[41] Clearly, Rand's account places responsibility for the withdrawal of the first women on Cheney's shoulders. While this story seems credible, it is nearly impossible to verify the veracity of its claim, and it is unclear if the faculty (Cheney) or male students were primarily responsible for the women dropping out.
Although President Cheney may have asked the first women at Bates to withdraw, presumably because of "inferior" credentials, he seems to have been fully supportive of the next female student to enroll at the College. In 1865, Mary Wheelwright Mitchell applied to Bates College and "instead of the negative reply that was given to Mary A. Livermore by a New England college President, Mary W. Mitchell was assured that she was in Bates Collegeto stay."[42] Four years later she became the first female graduate of a New Englandcollege.[43] According to Emeline Cheney, Mitchell was "well qualified to enter and, if character were to be considered, a young woman, who by working in the mill had earned money to pay off the mortgage on her father's farm and then to fit herself for college, surely showed energy and ability worthy of any development she desired."[44] President Cheney appeared to have done everything in his power to ensure that Mitchell graduated from the College. Knowing that Mitchell was still working in a cotton mill to support herself, Cheney "went to Augusta and made a personal request to the Governor for a scholarship for his protégé,"[45] and he was successful in his lobbying. The 1865-66 College Catalogue prominently recorded that "a State Scholarship has been awarded to Mary Wheelwright Mitchell of the Freshman Class."[46] Although Cheney attempted to present Mitchell with this scholarship, she declined it, asserting, "I cannot take that, Mr. Cheney. Give it to the brethren. I can take care of myself."[47] Mary Mitchell continued to work at the cotton mill and to pay her own way through college, graduating with honors in 1869.[48] Mitchell apparently rejected what seems to have been a relatively paternalistic attempt by President Cheney to make her journey easier. Although he tried to make Mitchell's times at Bates easier, Cheney later realized that Mitchell's presence at Bates was, in his own words, "the great struggle in the history of the College…relating to its rank among New England colleges beginning in 1865 and ending in 1869 [the years of Mitchell's attendance]."[49]
Mitchell's graduation from Bates was recognized as a significant event at the time. During Commencement Week of 1869, Professor Thomas Angell wrote in his diary that "Bates graduated first—lady in a N.E. Coll."[50] This is the first of many mentions within the Bates community of the first female graduate of Bates College. With regard to this accomplishment, President Cheney wrote in 1885 that Bates "has the honor of leading the way in New England on this subject, an honor that can never be taken away"[51] Mitchell went on to become a professor at Vassar College and to found a school for girls in Boston, Massachusetts, before her death in 1898.[52]
Although Mitchell was largely celebrated by for expanding the women's sphere, she and other early female students attracted detractors of the school as well. All male colleges, such as Bowdoin, used the early female graduates of Bates as a means of de-legitimizing the school during this period. The first fifteen graduating college classes (1867-1881) only had eight women (3.14% of the total graduates), but this did not prevent Bowdoin and other schools from denigrating Bates. Shortly after Mary Mitchell gained attention for turning down the governor's scholarship in 1865, "friends of another college" created a bitter joke about Bates.[53] One of these friends asked, "How many College students have they down at Bates Seminary?" and the other responded "Five and a nigger and a woman."[54] Emma Clark Rand, class of 1881, recorded that Bates' first female graduates caused "the Bowdoin men to jeer at 'Bateses Seminary'" and to "suggest more feminizing of the college."[55] By the 1870s when Emma Rand enrolled at Bates, the Seminary was no longer an entity (it had dissolved into the Nichols Latin School and Maine Central Institute ten years previously), and therefore the jeers of the Bowdoin students were obviously meant to insult Bates' women, African American students and the former institution. [56] Because seminaries were assumed to be of a lower educational level and often all female, this insult was particularly painful for Bates' male students as well as the female students. These offensive quotations provide further evidence that mainstream male colleges such as Bowdoin were much more skeptical of co-education and more resistant to change than Bates.
Bowdoin students may have been more conservative than its administration. Bowdoin's President, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, claimed in his 1871 inaugural address that "woman too should have part in this high calling. Because in this sphere of things her 'rights,' her capacities, her offices, her destiny are equal to those of man. She is the Heaven-appointed teacher of man, his guide, his better soul."[57] Although Chamberlain seemed to approve of women having some part in Bowdoin's future, he did not specify his goals and does not appear to have acted upon this urge, as co-education at Bowdoin was not seriously considered until well into the twentieth century. As Bowdoin historian Charles Calhoun has written, "women probably could be found at nineteenth-century Bowdoin—on the edge of the crowd as the academic processions passed or seated amid the flock of genteel ladies who endured hour after hour of the young men's 'exhibition' speeches and recitations."[58]In contrast to Bates, Bowdoin remained closed to female applicants until 1971, when women immediately started enrolling at the school. [59]
Although President Cheney and other faculty members may have desired that Bates be a co-educational institution, evidence from the Bates Student in the 1870s suggests that the Bates student body was decidedly more mixed on the issue. In 1873 and 1874, a series of articles in the Student written by both male and female students voiced support for and opposition to for female enrollment at Bates. In the June 1873 Bates Student, an unnamed male editor published an article opposing co-education. The author wrote that although women should receive a college education, "we do not believe that the training given to young men in our colleges is just the kind needed by young women"[60] and "our second reason for a negative reply…is to be found in the fact that the influences of many kinds, which affect a young woman who enters one of our colleges for young men, are not always the most pleasant and beneficial."[61] This student believed women at Bates were suffering from an educational and social atmosphere that was geared more towards men, and therefore women and men should be educated separately through "the establishment of more colleges for young women."[62] The author did not suggest that Bates should bend its policies to make women feel more comfortable. He clearly believed that innate differences existed between how male students and "the gentler sex"[63] learn, and that separation was the best way to accommodate these alleged differences.
Not surprisingly, a female writer presented a counterargument to this article. The September 1873 Bates Student carried an article entitled "Woman in College." It is not clear who the author was, but after Mary Mitchell's graduation in 1869, one woman graduated in 1873 and, two in 1877.[64] Therefore, several female students were enrolled at Bates during 1873 year, so the author may have been one of these individuals. In her essay, the author claimed that the first article "though clothed in courteous language, has a slight soupcon of bigotry and selfhood."[65] The author went on to attack the male writer for failing to point out how his proposed women's curriculum should differ from the current course. She also pointed out that he overlooked the fact that men and women are already educated together in public schools, and "why should the propriety and expediency of such co-education suddenly cease at the college threshold?"[66] In addition to these criticisms, the author included several of the benefits of educating women, especially female teachers. She stated that "if the mental moulding of Young America is to be so largely accorded to women, let it be seen to that the republic suffers no detriment by neglect to give these educators the fullest and widest intellectual development."[67] The author seems to be using the Republican Motherhood argument, in which, according to feminist historian Glenda Riley, "the ideology of the new nation demanded 'Republican Mothers,' whose primary task was to train their sons for future citizenship and their daughters for future domesticity."[68] The author's assertion assumes, however, that separate education is not equal education for women, something the first writer clearly believed. The author finished her article stating that "Bates College solved this problem for New England,"[69] and "I propose that the women of New England shall endow a Professorship in this, the first New England college to disregard the unpopularity of such a concession."[70] This anonymous author correctly predicted that co-education would be the future of college education in America.
Not surprisingly, the male editor (there do not appear to have been any female editors during this period) wrote several other articles defending his stance on the subject. In November 1873, he published another article attacking the female author for assuming that he believed in the "entire unfitness and incapacity of women for the course of training and culture usually pursued in college."[71] The editor stated that he was in favor of higher education for women, but "[l]et males be educated in male colleges and females at their own colleges."[72] Perhaps more revealing is what he said in the December 1873 edition of the Student. In this paper the editor published a disclaimer about his personal views stating that "the editorial was not an expression of the views of the College authorities, and of many of our students" and that "the editorial did not represent the general opinion of the College"[73] It seems as though the author was under pressure from students and faculty to let it be known that his views were not condoned by the community, and that other Batesies frequently opposed his views. This suggests that this particular student was perhaps more of an anomaly on campus than a mainstream member of the Bates community.
Indeed, by January 1874 another anonymous male student or faculty member had written an article supporting co-education and refuting the editor's arguments. This author claimed that no physical harm is done to female students as opponents of co-education claimed. He cited a report from the University of Michigan that showed that there was no "evidence that their (the young ladies') success in their intellectual pursuits is purchased at the expense of health."[74] The author also refuted the argument that differences in the male and female mind necessitate separate colleges for each sex, by arguing that "[n]o two individuals are alike…If this objection is to have any force, why not let it be urged against the admission to colleges of men who are unfortunately endowed with feminine traits of character?"[75] It would be impossible for a college to have identical students, and the exclusion of women is not justified, the writer comments. The third argument used against co-education was that women would be corrupted by "the influences of college-life."[76] This argument was weak if true, according to the author, because "the refining influences of female society are needed in our colleges,"[77]if this is the case. The author seemed convinced that there was no legitimate reason to oppose co-education, and that the root cause of this opposition was unjustified prejudice against women. As seen by this debate in the Bates Student, some prejudice seems to have been present in the student body at Bates College, but resistance to that prejudice surfaced as well.
A later Bates Student article from June 1878 recorded that out of the members of the graduating class (all male), "9 favor co-education, 8 opposed."[78] If this poll and the articles are indicative of other Bates students' attitudes, it appears as though the male students were relatively divided over the issue of co-education during this time period, with some visible dissenters voicing their prejudices.
Emma Clark Rand, class of 1881, noted some of this early prejudice in her "Reminiscences of Bates College." Rand was the seventh female graduate of Bates College and she grew up near the College before enrolling in 1877. Rand mentioned that many New Englanders at the time believed that college training for women "would make them coarse, unattractive and man[n]ish."[79] After having applied to Bates, one of Rand's friends (presumably from outside of the College) stated, "You'll find they won't comb their hair, they'll cut it off; they'll go without corsets and won't lace up their boots."[80] This was not the case at all according to Rand, as "many a romance"[81] developed among male and female students. (It is also possible, of course, that the men simply appreciated this loosening of decorum.) Historian Nancy Woloch notes that this seemed to be an exception because only "a bare majority of late-nineteenth-century women college graduates married [and] they married later than non college women."[82] Although some relationships undoubtedly developed at Bates among male and female students there was still, according to Emma Rand, "a very definite desire to keep them [women] in a decided minority."[83] Rand claimed that this was natural considering that almost all of the early alumni were men, and "we [female students] had prejudices to overcome that were unknown in the west where co-education flourished from the first."[84]
Alfred Anthony, a Bates professor of religion, described additional institutional prejudices against co-education. Professor Anthony claimed that a quota system was utilized to limit women in the early years of the college. In Bates College and Its Background, Anthony asserted:
The policy was early adopted of limiting the number of women in proportion to the total expected size of the class, so that the ratio of women to men should be about that of three to five, or at the most of four to five…It may have at times made it a little more difficult for a woman to gain admission than for a man, but probably with no ultimate loss to either men or women.[85]
Anthony's assumption was that having more men than women in the College would be beneficial to both parties. This assumption of limited female numbers and influence provides further evidence that men were attempting to dominate the College in the 1800s while still allowing women to attend the institution in limited numbers. The College seems to have been worried about its reputation among other more prestigious schools in later years; therefore, this quota system is not at all surprising. In the 1860s and 1870s the number of women enrolled at Bates came nowhere close to three to five ratio mentioned by Anthony, and this quota system must have been instated in the 1880s or later (the last all male class was in 1879).[86]
Even though there were relatively few women attending Bates before 1880, animosities certainly surfaced. George Loring White, class of 1876, recalled some of this tension in an article titled "My Life at Bates College." During his time at Bates, White asserted that there were no girls in his graduating class, but
[w]e felt that the class of '78 must be a martyr class, a long-suffering class, as it had imposed upon it two of the female species. They seemed to be well-behaved girls. They stepped on the toes of none of the '76. I think the boys of '78 looked out pretty well that none of the members of the other classes had anything to do with their girls.[87]
In this passage, White revealed some of the attitudes of early male students toward their female counterparts. White expressed both disdain for and tolerance of female students, as long as they did not step on any "toes." As long as the women stayed somewhat within their prescribed roles or sphere, White and his male counterparts tolerated their presence at the College. White's description seems to have reflected the attitudes toward co-education that appeared in the Bates Student articles from the 1870s.
Even after the Reconstruction era, various prejudices against women at Bates were evident. Ella Knowles, Class of 1884, became an attorney and was appointed the Assistant Attorney General of Montana after being defeated in the Attorney General race of 1892.[88] Knowles gained national fame for winning the nomination for this office, and in 1892 the New York Times gave a description of her educational background, asserting that:
she went to Bates College, Lewiston, Me., from which she was graduated in the class of '84 with high honors…when she entered Bates College there were only four other girl students there. The prejudice against admitting female students was still strong at the college, but not so strong as it had been some years before, when the only girl there was forced to leave because the boys decided to strike in a body unless she did. So Miss Knowles has gone through all the various degrees of ostracism which attend the efforts of women to make their way in fields which the had been in the habit of considering peculiarly their own…Still she is not a man hater. It is also to be noted that during her time at Bates College she was the only woman in a party of eight who took part in a political debate, and she carried off the prize.[89]
This New York Times article reveals several interesting details about co-education at Bates College, although sources used for the article are not given. The article mentioned that prejudice was still "strong" at the College, reaffirming what Emma Clark and others claimed. Like many of the other female students, Knowles seems to have succeeded at Bates, graduating with high honors and winning the prize at a political debate. The author also mentioned that previous to Knowles' enrollment at Bates, a female student was forced to leave because of the boys' threats to strike. It seems as though the article is referring to the incident with the Class of 1867 when all of the girls "dropped out" allegedly because of the boys' complaints. This provides further evidence for the hypothesis that the male students were to blame for that particular case. Interestingly, the New York Times article also refutes what appears to have been a common assumption at the time, that many educated women were "man haters." Nancy Woloch confirms this common assumption by claiming that colleges and professions were places where a nineteenth century woman "would risk her feminine identity."[90]
Despite or because of these prejudices that women may have encountered while students at Bates, most of the early female graduates went on to successful careers after graduation. Mary Mitchell, class of 1869, became a professor at Vassar. The next female graduate, Hannah Haley, class of 1873, was "ordained and traveled as an evangelist" until her death in 1897.[91] Other graduates of this era such Ella Knowles, class of 1884, went on to careers in politics, business and law.[92] Many of Bates' early alumnae seem to have led careers that were clearly not within the so-called women's sphere of the nineteenth century. It seems as though their experiences at Bates College played a role in shaping their future careers, or else perhaps they were more willing from day one to break gender barriers than many of their contemporaries.
The degree to which women such as Mary Mitchell and Ella Knowles were accepted into the Bates community seems to have been somewhat limited in the earliest years of the College. Although women were enrolled at Bates since its inception, they obviously faced prejudices from their male counterparts and society in general. Clearly, many Americans believed that higher education for women would be detrimental to their health, their gender and society. Because of these preconceptions, the small numbers of female students at Bates were often discriminated against in admissions policies and in social relations. Despite hostility and some well-meaning paternalism by certain individuals, Bates was among the more progressive institutions in admitting women alongside men, when many other colleges refused to do so for another century.
Next section >> Chapter 4: Class at Bates College
[1] Nancy Woloch, Women and the American Experience (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994), 119.
[2] Woloch, 116.
[3] Woloch, 276.
[4] Woloch, 276.
[5] John Barnard, From Evangelicalism to Progressivism at Oberlin College, 1866-1917 (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 1969), 3.
[6] Bulletin of Bates College (Lewiston, ME: Bates College, 1915), 18 (196), Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections, Bates College (hereafter referred to as MASC).
[7] "City and County," Lewiston Evening Journal, 1 March 1867, 3.
[8] Emeline Cheney, 16.
[9] Glenda Riley, Inventing the American Woman: A Perspective on Women's History 1607-1877 (Arlington Heights, IL: Harland Davidson, 1986), 130.
[10] Anne Firor Scott, American Woman (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1971), 59.
[11] Tom Fernandez, The Trentonian, (11/01/2004).
[12] Charles C. Calhoun, A Small College in Maine (Brunswick, ME: Bowdoin College, 1993), 232.
[13] Woloch, 276.
[14] Woloch, 277.
[15] Anthony, 5.
[16] Anthony, 134.
[17] Maine State Seminary Catalogue, (Lewiston, ME: Maine State Seminary, 1861), 17, MASC.
[18] Maine State Seminary Catalogue 1861, 17.
[19] Maine State Seminary Catalogue 1861, 17.
[20] Woloch, 277.
[21] Maine State Seminary Catalogue 1861, 17.
[22] Maine State Seminary Catalogue 1857, 7.
[23] Maine State Seminary Catalogue 1857, 6.
[24] Maine State Seminary Catalogue 1857, 6.
[25] Maine State Seminary Catalogue 1857, 16.
[26] Maine State Seminary Catalogue 1857, 17.
[27] Bates College Catalogue 1864, 37.
[28] Emma Clark Rand, Box: Bates Reminiscences, Box 1, 1939, 2, MASC.
[29] Rand, 3.
[30] Emeline Cheney, 148.
[31] Oren Cheney, Bates College President's Report (Lewiston, ME: Bates College, 1885), 1, MASC.
[32] Bulletin (1910), 12 (276).
[33] Anthony, 274.
[34] Anthony, 272.
[35] Anthony, 273.
[36] Rand, 13.
[37] Rand, 13.
[38] Rand, 13.
[39] Rand, 13.
[40] Rand, 14.
[41] Rand, 14.
[42] Emeline Cheney, 149.
[43] Emeline Cheney, 150.
[44] Emeline Cheney, 150.
[45] Emeline Cheney, 150.
[46] Bates College Catalogue 1865-66, 13.
[47] Emeline Cheney, 150.
[48] Emeline Cheney, 150.
[49] Oren Cheney, "Eulogy on the Life of Benjamin Edward Bates," Bates Student, June, 1878, 148, MASC.
[50] Thomas Angell, "Commencement Week June 69," Thomas Angell Diary July 21, 1866- July 24, 1870, Box: Thomas Angell Papers, Box 1, MASC.
[51] Oren Cheney, Bates College President's Report (Lewiston, ME: Bates College, 1885), 3, MASC.
[52] Mabel Eaton, General Catalogue of Bates College and Cobb Divinity School: 1864-1930 (Lewiston, ME: Bates College, 1930), 34, MASC.
[53] Emeline Cheney, 150.
[54] Emeline Cheney, 150.
[55] Rand, 16.
[56] Anthony, 184-186.
[57] Calhoun, 189.
[58] Calhoun, 45.
[59] Calhoun, 232.
[60] Bates Student, June, 1873, 156.
[61] Bates Student, June, 1873, 156.
[62] Bates Student, June, 1873, 157.
[63] "Editors Portfolio," Bates Student, June, 1873, 157.
[64] Eaton, 31-58.
[65] "Woman in College," Bates Student, September, 1873, 175.
[66] "Woman," 175.
[67] "Woman," 176.
[68] Riley, 44.
[69] "Woman," 176.
[70] "Woman," 176.
[71] "Editors Portfolio," Bates Student, October, 1873, 214.
[72] "Editors Portfolio," Bates Student, October, 1873, 214.
[73] "Editors Portfolio," Bates Student, November, 1873, 237.
[74] "Co-education of the Sexes," Bates Student, January, 1874, 15.
[75] "Co-education," 16.
[76] "Co-education," 16.
[77] "Co-education," 17.
[78] Bates Student, June, 1878, 161.
[79] Rand, 14.
[80] Rand, 14.
[81] Rand, 11.
[82] Woloch, 282.
[83] Rand, 16.
[84] Rand, 16.
[85] Anthony, 277.
[86] Eaton, 53-55.
[87] George Loring White "My Life at Bates College" Box: Bates Reminiscences, Box 1.
[88] Eaton, 72.
[89] "A Woman Attorney General: Further About The People's Party Nominee in Montana," New York Times, July 17 1892, 5.
[90] Woloch, 270.
[91] Eaton, 40.
[92] Eaton, 72.
Chapter 4: Class at Bates College
Only a handful of Bates College graduates in the Civil War era were African Americans and white women. Early alumnus George Loring White, class of 1876, described Bates students during this period as "nearly 80 per cent…boys from Maine farms."[1]The composition of the student body is essential to understanding the dynamics of class at Bates College during this time. During the period from 1855 to 1877, Bates was a relatively under funded college attracting a student body comprised overwhelmingly of poor, rural, Baptist farm boys. Due partially to this demographic characteristic, Bates never developed a fraternity system, made tuition affordable and remained a relatively egalitarian institution during this period. Since Bates' class orientation was tied to its economic state, I shall first address the causes of Bates relatively weak financial standing (largely Free Will Baptist attributes), then describe the social makeup (class) of students who predominantly attended the college, and next describe the experience of that class of students and how it contrasted with similar colleges and the larger community. My argument is that although Bates' student body seems to have been relatively poor relative to other schools, the College was committed to providing educational opportunities regardless of class.
In order to understand my analysis of "class" at Bates during this period, the reader might find it helpful to consider the subject of class more broadly. Cornell historian Glenn Altschuler writes that "[t]hroughout much of their history Americans boasted that the nation, in contrast to Europe, was relatively free of fixed categories of social class."[2] Although social classes in the United States may not have been as rigid as those in a nation with a formal aristocracy, classes did indeed exist, even if they were focused on wealth rather than birth alone. Altschuler goes on to describe how in late nineteenth century America:
[t]he popular novels of Horatio Alger…appealed to people who abhorred the industrial city and wished to accept change without undermining values associated with the rural past…The honest and energetic heroes earn the rewards of Providence in the form of a chance to win the gratitude of a well-to-do merchant. Alger, and scores of writers who used the genre, asserted that success, defined as middle-class respectability, awaited those who could summon the will to grasp it.[3]
This romanticizing of upward mobility seems to have been aimed largely at a rural, lower-middle class audience, who believed that "the prosperous were virtuous and industrious, the poor vicious and indolent."[4] This rural upward-looking audience resembles the sort of people who largely attended Bates College in its first years, and the role of "well-to-do merchant" seems to have been filled by Benjamin Bates and others.
Many older American colleges were founded as relatively aristocratic institutions, but by the mid-nineteenth century when Bates was founded, a broader class of Americans was starting to go to college. Education historian Jergen Herbst claims that "the ante-bellum years opened the colleges to men and women who until then had never dreamed of entering academic life. The sons and daughters of middle-class and poor families in city and country sought out colleges."[5] This upward looking class was able to afford an education largely because, "[a]ided by their elders through voluntary education societies they availed themselves of private and of public generosity. They demonstrated their need and their determination to be educated."[6] As in many other institutions, Bates students were aided by this sort of benevolence, and this chapter will address the degree to which Bates students required and received assistance and employment to complete their education.
To understand how Bates was able to exist as an institution (funding tuition, salaries and other expenses), a general background of Bates' financial condition is helpful. This is relevant because the financial condition of the school was largely responsible for the "class" of students who were attracted to it. Bates was in relatively weak fiscal shape in its first decades, and a large part of Bates' modest financial situation was due indirectly to its religious connection. When Bates was founded as the Maine State Seminary in 1855 it was predominantly the creation of the Free Will Baptist denomination. The founder, Reverend Oren B. Cheney, was a Free Will Baptist pastor, and although the college was open to students of all denominations, it was run primarily by the Free Baptists into the twentieth century. In describing the Free Will Baptist connection to Bates, a bill in the state legislature in 1864 asserted that:
Bates College, though a purely literary institution, is under the care of the Free Baptist denomination. This denomination is not wealthy—is mostly confined to country towns. It has been but a few years since they have taken a general interest in the cause of education.[7]
Because the Free Will Baptists had a particularly large following among lower middle class, agrarian New Englanders in "country towns," it is not surprising that Bates drew a sizable number of students from this demographic group. Free Will Baptists had a less elite membership than the Calvinist sects that had dominated New England for centuries such as the Congregationalists (Puritans) and Calvinist Baptists.[8] The Free Baptists believed that salvation, grace, will and communion were open to everyone, in contrast to the Calvinists' more exclusive theology that emphasized an elect few.[9] Because of this difference in doctrine, those who were not necessarily in Calvinist communities (often poor and minorities), were generally included in the Free Baptist denomination, often as leaders.[10] The relatively socially inclusive atmosphere that pervaded in Free Will Baptist churches also influenced other institutions that were affiliated with the denomination such as Bates. Bates College was eventually founded to support the education of Free Will Baptists and others who did not necessarily want to be educated in the schools affiliated with the Calvinists, such as Bowdoin and Yale, which were affiliated with the Congregationalists.[11]
Because the Free Baptists as a denomination were relatively poor it is not surprising that the major benefactors of the institution were not Baptists, but were instead the State of Maine and Benjamin Bates. After the Parsonfield Seminary burned in 1854, Oren Cheney decided to build the Maine State Seminary (Bates College) as an institution run primarily by the Free Will Baptists.[12] Not surprisingly, Cheney raised some donations from Free Baptists throughout New England, but "little, very little comparatively speaking, of the material resources of Bates have come to her directly from Free Baptists."[13] Cheney's donations from the Free Baptists came mostly in small amounts. According to Emeline Cheney, "one of his [Cheney's] shrewdest moves for raising money for the Seminary…was through a call for an offering of one dollar each from the children in Sunday schools and elsewhere. Following Mr. Cheney's appeal, through the Seminary Advocate and Morning Star, a wide-spread interest was created, which proved to be of threefold value."[14] Although Cheney may have raised some funds through small individual donations from Free Will Baptists, his largest donations came from outside of the denomination. First, Cheney convinced the Maine State Legislature to pass "a bill appropriating $15,000 and …giving a charter to [the] Maine State Seminary."[15] In the mid-nineteenth century nearly all colleges were run by religious denominations, but received partial funding from the state.[16] After this initial state funding, Cheney solicited large donations from Franklin Company of Lewiston. From the Franklin Company Cheney received donations of cash and land on which to build the Seminary.[17] One of the primary investors in the Franklin Company was a Congregationalist named Benjamin Bates, who went on to become the College's major early benefactor.
Benjamin Bates was the largest of the early donors to the school even though he was not a member of the Free Will Baptist church. In addition to his early donations through the Franklin Company, Bates personally donated $100,000 to the Seminary and College and pledged another $100,000 to be paid after his death, assuming the College could match those funds.[18] Bates made his gifts at a time when, according to education expert John Thelin, "[c]olleges benefited from the world-view of wealthy entrepreneurs who acknowledged their obligation to be stewards of important educational endeavors."[19] Bates seems to have donated generously to the college out of a sense of duty to the community and "no hint had been given to Mr. Bates that the proposed College should be named for him."[20] Unfortunately, after Bates' death in 1878, a lengthy court battle between Bates College and Bates' heirs took place, and the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled against the College.[21] Therefore the school never received the second pledge of $100, 000 and remained financially burdened for quite some time.[22]
Regardless of its relatively poor financial health in its early years, Bates College continued to attract relatively underprivileged students and helped them to pay their way through the school. Bates stood in contrast to other New England colleges in regard to the class of people it attracted. The Bowdoin Orient in 1874 paints a picture of Bowdoin's student body asserting that:
Bowdoin claims to be an aristocratic College…We do not come here for the sake of being aristocratic, we come to fit ourselves so that we must, whether it is our aim or not, occupy a place among the aristocrats of the world.[23]
Bowdoin's reputation as an aristocratic training ground stood in sharp contrast to its relatively impoverished cousin in Lewiston.
George Chase, class of 1868, wrote that the founders of Bates wanted to ensure that the school:
embodied their protest against castes, classes, and social tyrannies, whether originating in human slavery or in human vanity, pride and snobbishness. It was their aim to establish an institution in which the rich and the poor, the highest and the humblest might mingle on equal terms in the spirit of mutual helpfulness[24]
Indeed Cheney's Free Baptist values seem to have been the driving force behind his desire for the College do "missionary work at home in opening the way for a large number of young men to acquire a liberal education who would otherwise remain uneducated."[25] This desire to destroy caste seems to have been sharply different from the ambitions of other colleges such as Bowdoin, which saw themselves as the educators of the "aristocrats of the world."
Bates also differed from most traditional colleges in its rejection of the fraternity and sorority system. According to historian Charles Calhoun, at most colleges from "the 1840s on, students began to find the new "secret societies"—the origins of modern social fraternities—a…fulfilling experience."[26] In contrast, at Bates, "there were to be no cliques, no secret fraternities or clubs."[27] Although this statement may have exaggerated the egalitarian atmosphere at Bates, it appears as though no official fraternities or secret societies were ever sanctioned by the College, and the College's literary societies and other clubs were open to all students. This purposeful inclusiveness was of the utmost importance in understanding class issues at Bates. At most colleges with fraternities during this period, students were segregated socially because of the fraternity system. According to historian John Thelin, "[s]tanding in sharp contrast to the 'college men' and their extracurricular orbits [fraternities] were the 'outsiders'—students who usually were from modest economic backgrounds and were not offered membership in the established enclaves."[28] At Bates a hierarchical fraternity system was never allowed by the College administration, and the "outsiders" at other schools were the overwhelming majority of the student body at Bates.
The Bates Student recorded one instance of a failed rebellion against this policy of egalitarianism. Apparently, several students attempted to start a secret society in March of 1881. But as the January 1882 Student reported, "What has become of that secret society that the Seniors started so bravely last March? Did the cold March wind blow it away in its infancy, or did the publication of all its officers take away so much of its secrecy that they concluded to give it up?"[29] This brief passage appears to be the sole mention of a failed attempt at forming an exclusive society at Bates during its earliest years, and later College literature took pride in the fact that its clubs were open to all students in maintaining "the great Christian democratic purpose of her founders."[30]Although a small minority of Bates students may have desired more aristocratic company, they seemed to have had few sympathizers at the school.
The overwhelming majority of Bates students during this period seem to have been a far cry from the label "aristocrat." As President Chase described it, "these young men and women are from the common people, mostly from the families of small farmers where the wage-earning capacity is that of the common laborer. There are no 'favorite son's' positions awaiting them."[31] Indeed it seems to be the consensus among early faculty and students that Bates' first students were relatively impoverished, but that this hardship was a badge of honor. The Seminary Advocate from March of 1860 reiterated the message that poverty is nothing to be ashamed of, asserting:
If there is anything in the world that a young man should be more grateful for than another, it is the poverty that necessitates his starting life under great disadvantages. Poverty is one of the best tests of human character.[32]
The College seems to have celebrated the Horatio Alger-like struggle of the majority of its students, even though students often faced sizable challenges, and often this version of the American Dream clearly did not reach fruition.
Just how many students overcame these challenges, interacted with the few wealthier students, and could afford an education at Bates College presents a much more complicated picture. Several alumni, including Emma Clark Rand, class of 1881, hinted that several relatively privileged students attended Bates during her time at the school (1877 to 1881). Rand wrote:
In our class several of the young men, who had come from families where there was considerable social life and who in fine summer hotels had seen things done with elegance, were eager to try their hand at a really handsome party. So we had a delightful "Sophomore Exit" at the DeWitt Hotel: and the next night the Juniors had their party at the same place. For once we were just as elegant as we aspired to be; but when the Faculty learned of it they decided that such parties were too fine for Bates' purse so they were not repeated.[33]
Rand's reminiscence certainly implies that at least a few early students were from more well to do families with "considerable social life." It is possible that these members of the class of 1881 were the same students referred to earlier as attempting to start a secret society in 1881. Interestingly, Emma Rand suggested that the party, inspired by these young men, was open to the entire class, and therefore it does not seem as though it excluded the poorer students. It is also interesting that Rand noted that the class was finally "as elegant as we aspired to be." This certainly indicates a desire on the part of the students for Horatio Alger-like upward mobility towards elegance. Although more Americans were going to college, a nineteenth century college education was still a relatively elite activity. (Historian Nancy Woloch points out that in "1870… 1 percent of college-age Americans attended college.")[34] Although some Bates students may have recognized this privilege and seen themselves as a rising elite, they seem to have been in the minority. In Rand's example, it seems as though the faculty brought the students back down to reality with their assertion that "such parties were too fine for Bates' purse." This suggests that the College community was generally not a bastion of wealth and elitism during this era and that the school wanted to be seen as practical and down-to-earth.
The fact that many Bates students were not wealthy is suggested by many of the students' tuition struggles. Even though Bates was among the most affordable colleges in New England in the mid-nineteenth century, many students had a hard time paying tuition and worked as teachers to support themselves. Tuition at Bates was $36 in 1874,[35] versus $75 at nearby Bowdoin that same year.[36] Even at less than half of the cost of tuition of other schools, almost all Bates students worked to pay at least part of their way through school, and the main form of employment was teaching school during winter vacations. The Seminary Advocate from April 1861 reported:
To those students pursuing the course who find it necessary to be absent to teach school in the winter terms and at the same time are able to maintain a good standing in their several classes, permission will be granted.[37]
This trend of teaching school during winter break continued as Bates transformed from a seminary to a college. Often College students were "overburdened with the necessity of teaching country schools in the long winter vacations and toiling arduously on the farm in the summer."[38] Bates appears to have been relatively accommodating towards its schoolteacher-students and a large majority of students appear to have worked as teachers during their time at Bates. In 1878, Professor Richard Stanley reported that "some students have been absent from my classes by excuse, for the purpose of teaching; but all except one who have been absent for the present term, have satisfactorily made up the studies in my department."[39] The College was clearly accommodating the many students who were underprivileged and needed to work to support themselves.
At the same time, however, some faculty members were dissatisfied with the system of students teaching school, and felt it was detrimental to the students. Bates' Examining Committee, led by Rev. G. S. Dickerman reported:
One great hindrance to individual and class proficiency is the frequent and prolonged absences of students from the College. It is an injury not only to those who are absent, but to those who remain. It tends to weaken habits of study and to cultivate a spirit of restlessness. Yet these absences are mostly necessary; and while we deplore the inexorable necessity which compels many to rely so largely upon their own labor while in College for means to remain at College, we are thankful that our College system is such that they can enjoy its advantages to any degree.[40]
Although this faculty member may have opposed the student absences to earn money for tuition, he seems to have recognized the deplorable necessity of the situation due to the relative poverty of the students. The professor seems to have been primarily concerned about the quality of education that the students were receiving.
If the class of 1879 is indicative of the student body, it appears as though almost all of the students paid for a substantial part of their expenses at Bates by teaching. Of the eighteen students in the class, sixteen taught school to earn money.[41] Of the two who did not teach, one of them, Thomas Bollin, could not teach because of racial prejudice (as described in chapter 2). Only one of the eighteen students, Thurston Lombard of Auburn, Maine, could afford the luxury of not teaching while at Bates. The average graduating senior spent $1,292 and only earned $509 over their four years at Bates.[42] Although almost the entire class taught to pay for some of their expenses, only about 40 percent of their expenses were paid through their own labor. The other 60 percent of their expenses were likely paid with the help of family, scholarships and other aid. Almost all Eastern colleges such as Bowdoin, Harvard, and Yale charged much higher tuition than Bates, so inferences can be drawn that students at these schools were able to pay even less of their expenses by their own labor. Perhaps the students at these schools did not need to pay for their own expenses, as they likely came from wealthier families. Even at Western colleges such as Oberlin, which was in 1875 "less expensive than most comparable colleges,"[43] an investigation found that "33 1/3 percent were entirely supported by someone else."[44] That nearly all Bates students had to teach to support themselves suggests that Bates students were significantly poorer than students at other colleges, even relatively affordable ones in the West such as Oberlin. Interestingly, according to John Thelin, "as a general rule, tuition charges were not prohibitive anywhere. If a student was excluded from a particular college, it was more likely due to social, gender, ethnic, racial or religious discrimination than to the price of attendance."[45] It seems as though most colleges were relatively accommodating toward students during the mid nineteenth century, although the majority of Bates students still seem to have been less privileged than students at other American colleges.
Because such a high percentage of early Bates students (roughly 95% of the class of 1879) were struggling to pay their own way through the school by teaching, the College offered many scholarships to help make the already low tuition more affordable. The Bates Student of June 1877 reported the College has "nineteen scholarships, which regularly give free tuition to as many [and] the College has never refused free tuition to any worthy student who has asked for it….upwards of fifty are receiving charity in this way from the scholarships and liberality of the College."[46] One of these scholarships, founded "by the late Hon. Asa Redington, LL.D., is specially set apart for the benefit of a lady student, and is the only scholarship of such a character, it is thought in New England."[47] Clearly, Bates appears to have been working quite hard from its earliest years to open its doors to all students regardless of present economic standing.
Bates' commitment to providing an affordable education to underprivileged students (and women), through offering scholarships and allowing students to teach, did not escape the scrutiny of other more elite colleges. Bowdoin's student newspaper criticized Asa Redington after his donation of the aforementioned scholarship to Bates, and hinted again that Bates was of a lower social caliber than Bowdoin. The Bowdoin Orient from September of 1873 asserted:
Bates College recently conferred the degree of LL.D. on Hon. Asa Redington. Shortly afterwards the college received a donation of $10,000 from the same gentleman. Where is Bowdoin with her LL.Ds?[48]
To this slight, the December, 1873 Bates Student responded:
We would answer that Bowdoin if we remember rightly, is at Brunswick, ME., and her LL.D. is no other than the Hon. Jefferson Davis, chief cook and bottle-washer of the Southern Confederacy. We recommend that they call on him for a few Confederate stamps.[49]
Bowdoin had indeed given an honorary degree to Jefferson Davis when he visited Maine in 1858 and "as embarrassing as the degree was to prove in a few years, it made sense at the time, and the College never rescinded it."[50] The overly defensive post-Civil War Bowdoin paper wrote a lengthy rebuttal to Bates' attack in January of 1874 claiming:
The gentlemen of the Student…show themselves remarkably familiar with Bowdoin's LL.D.'s and yet these more important things appear to be forgotten. Perhaps some of our readers may stop with us to smile just here. Gentlemen of the Student, you have simply fallen into error, and lest you do the same again, we call to your attention this one fact: the gulf that rolls between the prestige of Bowdoin and that of Bates, is still so broad that it cannot be easily bridged by your little slips of memory.[51]
This final article from the Bowdoin Orient reveals certain nineteenth century attitudes about Bates' standing that were seldom recorded in official publications. The "gulf" of prestige between Bates and Bowdoin that the author mentioned may have had to do with the difference in age between the two colleges (Bowdoin was sixty years older), but it was also undoubtedly linked to the endowment and the class background of students at the two schools. While Bates was attracting primarily "needy but deserving young men [and women],"[52] according to Bates Professor Stanley in 1877, Bowdoin was building a reputation as a prestigious school, "especially for sons of the elite."[53] It is not surprising that a more privileged all-male institution would criticize the philanthropy of Asa Redington in donating a scholarship to its younger, poorer rival in Lewiston (especially a scholarship for a female student).
Another sign of the class gulf between Bates and Bowdoin is evident in examining the percentage of Bowdoin graduates who fought in the Civil War, which hints not only at abolitionist principles, but also at class issues. Students who were able to afford substitutes and commutation fees were generally more financially secure. According to Bowdoin historian Charles Calhoun:
[a]fter the war, the College took great pride in pointing out that a larger percentage of its alumni had fought for the Union than those of any other college in the North…25.02 percent, [although] such statistics are not entirely reliable, for the war records were not complete…In truth, the record is more ambivalent. Civil War service, especially for sons of the elite, was notoriously easy to avoid: you paid a $300 commutation fee or hired a substitute…it is striking how low the absolute percentages of military service are for the late antebellum classes.[54]
Bowdoin clearly seems to have relished if not exaggerated its myth as the most pro-Union school in the North. Although Bates College does not appear to have celebrated its own Civil War history as zealously as Bowdoin, there are many references to the high numbers of students serving in the War. Although there is only a partial list of Maine State Seminary and Bates College students who served in the War, it is possible to piece together a basic picture of the College during this period. The "Seminary Roll of Honor" (the most recent surviving edition is from July, 1863 Seminary Advocate) and the list of enlisted students from the 1862 Seminary Catalogue reported that 42 percent (26 of 62) of male Seminary graduates (college course from 1858 to 1862) served in the Union forces.[55] Furthermore, Emeline Cheney recorded that as of November 1864, the Seminary and College "sent one hundred and seventy-five of its young men to the war [including graduates and non-graduates alike]."[56] Additionally, at least nine Civil War veterans also enrolled as students at Bates College from 1865 to 1875, according to the General Catalogue of Bates College from 1930.[57] In percentage terms, Bates College (Maine State Seminary) could have very well sent a much higher percentage of men to the War than Bowdoin. This is not particularly surprising as Bates' students seem to have been relatively poorer and therefore less able to afford commutation fees or substitutes and been more motivated by principle.
Because of Bates' low tuition and small endowment, early professors were often disadvantaged as well and were often paid less than their counterparts at other schools. George M. Chase described in detail the financial hardships faced by the College after the depression of 1873 and the inability of Benjamin Bates to donate the second $100,000 before his death.[58] Chase claimed:
The only way they could think of to avoid closing the doors of the institution was to reduce the already meager salaries of the professors from fifteen hundred to twelve hundred dollars…Most…were ordained clergymen, and were able to supplement their scanty stipends by the sums received for…ministrations at country churches. [59]
Chase's comment shows the obvious financial difficulty facing the school in its early years, and it is telling that the administration continued to recruit talented yet underprivileged students even in the face of this adversity and with reductions in their own salaries. According to historian John Thelin, in mid-nineteenth century America, "[p]rofessors at the liberal arts colleges enjoyed both high income and high status within the community."[60] That Bates' professors were forced to accept a decreased income [in contrast to their peers elsewhere] reflects again on the dire financial state of the school. Professor Stanley wrote in 1877 that "the scale of expenses is low, and effort is made by all the College Authorities to keep it low, and to put students, by every means in their power, in the way of earning money whereby to help themselves. All habits of needless or extravagant expenditure would be immediately checked."[61] It is clear that the College stressed frugality in spending and that the faculty often sacrificed to keep tuition low for the students and to keep the college alive.
Because most Bates students were from Maine and were fairly poor, it is not surprising that there seems to have been relatively little class tension between the College and the city of Lewiston in the 1850s through the 1870s. This harmony in town-gown relations also seems to have been reaffirmed by a shared cultural background. The students appear to have been relatively homogenous in the nineteenth century. Also during this era, Lewiston and the surrounding area were comprised almost entirely of native-born whites. As of 1873, a "change in the character of the population was beginning. Already Yankee workers in the factories were being displaced by other races, and slums and patches were disfiguring various portions of the city. But Lewiston was still essentially an American community."[62] Indeed there appears to have been relatively little reason for tension between the College and the "American community" before the 1880s, as this somewhat nativist reminiscence from the 1920s reveals. Native-born whites were clearly the dominant population in the region during this period, making up approximately 90% of the Androscoggin County population in 1870 and 82% of the population in 1880, according to the 1880 census.[63] It would be expected that working class, white, native-born Bates students (95% of the graduates from 1867-1877)[64] would fit in with most members of the surrounding community very well.
Thanks at least partially to a shared class and ethnic background, the students and residents from the surrounding area often interacted. In the 1860s and 1870s, several Bates students actually labored at the mills in Lewiston, such as Mary Mitchell, class of 1869.[65] Scores of other Bates students taught at local schools and were active in local churches in the community. When the school first opened in 1857 President Cheney reportedly "hoped that the citizens of this institution would ever preserve kindly relations with our citizens."[66] The inaugural speaker on that day claimed "that the citizens of this village had $15,000 invested in this Seminary; and he was assured that the hearts of Yankees would go where their investment was."[67] Indeed, relations seem to have started off well between the College and the predominantly Yankee community, and they were relatively cordial up through the 1870s. Since the community and the school had a good deal invested in each other and largely resembled each other, there appears to have been relatively little tension between the community and the College due to social status or cultural background.
As this chapter makes clear, Bates College during the period 1855 to 1877 was overwhelmingly comprised of relatively poor students who grew up on farms in the greater Lewiston area and paid much of their way through school. Due to Bates' early affiliation with the Free Will Baptists, this particular demographic seems to have been drawn to Bates for many decades, in contrast to other New England colleges. Largely because of the makeup of the student body and values of the founder, Bates never allowed a fraternity system to develop at the College, and therefore may have avoided the exclusive system that such a hierarchy would legitimate. Furthermore, because this area in Maine was relatively homogenous, there appears to have been little visible class conflict between the College and the city, and very little class conflict within the school itself. The primary source of tension seems to have been between Bates and other more "aristocratic" institutions such as Bowdoin College. Most of the "boys [and girls] from Maine farms" at Bates seem to have developed little of the elitist pretensions found at other New England institutions during the mid-nineteenth century and largely avoided the class strife prevalent elsewhere.
Next section >> Conclusion
[1] George Loring White, "My Life at Bates College" Box: Bates Reminiscences, Box 1, Folder: "George Loring White," Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library (hereafter referred to as MASC).
[2] Glenn C. Altschuler, Race, Ethnicity, and Class in American Social Thought (Arlington Heights, IL: Harlan Davidson, 1982), 79.
[3] Altschuler, 82.
[4] Altschuler, 76.
[5] Jergen Herbst, History of Universities Volume VII (Oxford, UK: Oxford Press, 1988), 55.
[6] Herbst, 55.
[7] Bates Reminiscences, Box 1, Folder "Maine Legislature 1864, 43rd Legislature House Document No.3," 2,.MASC.
[8] Anthony, 74-76.
[9] Anthony, 81-82.
[10] Emeline Cheney, 15.
[11] Anthony, 81-82.
[12] Emeline Cheney, 85.
[13] Bulletin of Bates College (Lewiston, ME: Bates College, 1917), 29 (377), MASC.
[14] Emeline Cheney, 106.
[15] Emeline Cheney, 91.
[16] Emeline Cheney, 85.
[17] Anthony, 113.
[18] Oren Cheney, "Eulogy on the Life of Benjamin Edward Bates," Bates Student, June, 1878, 143, MASC.
[19] John R. Thelin, A History of American Higher Education (Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins Press, 2004), 101.
[20] Richard Stanley, "Historical Sketch of Bates College," Bates Student, June, 1877, 164.
[21] Anthony, 235-237.
[22] Anthony, 238.
[23] Bowdoin Orient, 1874, 51.
[24] Bulletin (1910), 14 (278).
[25] Oren Cheney, "Eulogy on the Life of Benjamin Edward Bates," Bates Student, June, 1878, 145.
[26] Charles C. Calhoun, A Small College in Maine (Brunswick, ME: Bowdoin College, 1993), 125.
[27] Bulletin (1917), 26 (374).
[28] Thelin, 67.
[29] "Locals," Bates Student January, 1882, 10.
[30] Bulletin (1910), 14 (278).
[31] Bulletin (1909), 17 (205).
[32] "Poverty Not so Great a Curse," Seminary Advocate, March 1860, 4.
[33] Emma Clark Rand, Box: Bates Reminiscences, Box 1, 1939, 11.
[34] Nancy Woloch, Women and the American Experience (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994), 276.
[35] Bates College Catalogue 1873-1874, 23.
[36] Bowdoin Orient 1874, 51.
[37] Seminary Advocate, April 1861, 2.
[38] George M. Chase, George C. Chase: A Biography (Boston: Houghton Milton, 1924), 38.
[39] Annual Address of the President of Bates College (Lewiston, ME: Bates College 1878), 11, MASC.
[40] Annual Address, 20.
[41] "Editors' Profile," Bates Student, June 1879, 149-151.
[42] "Editors' Profile," Bates Student, June 1879, 150.
[43] John Barnard, From Evangelicalism to Progressivism at Oberlin College, 1866-1917 (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 1969), 17.
[44] Evangelicalism, 18.
[45] Thelin, 99.
[46] Stanley, 164.
[47] Stanley, 164.
[48] Bowdoin Orient, September 17, 1874, 80.
[49] "College Items,"Bates Student December, 1873, 269.
[50] Calhoun, 167.
[51] Bowdoin Orient January 28, 1874, 154.
[52] Stanley, 164.
[53] Calhoun, 172.
[54] Calhoun, 172.
[55] Catalogue of the Maine State Seminary (Lewiston, ME: Journal Office, 1862), 32-34.
[56] Emeline Cheney, 146.
[57] Mabel Eaton, General Catalogue of Bates College and Cobb Divinity School: 1864-1930 (Lewiston, ME: Bates College, 1930), 31-45.
[58] Chase, 54.
[59] Chase, 54.
[60] Thelin, 91.
[61] Stanley, 164.
[62] Chase, 52.
[63] "Compendium of the Tenth Census," Tenth Census of the United States, 1880 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1884), 425.
[64] Eaton, 31-50.
[65] Emeline Cheney, 149-50.
[66] "Opening of Seminary," Seminary Advocate September 1857, 3.
[67]"Opening of Seminary," Seminary Advocate September 1857, 3.
One of Oren B. Cheney's favorite books, a perennial bestseller, claims that the "world itself could not contain the books that should be written."[1] After completing my research for this thesis and leaving so many stories untold, I feel that I have better grasped the truth of this quotation. Although this work may very well have raised more questions than it has answered, I hope that my research may have provided an important interpretation of Bates College's early history from 1855 to 1877. It seems clear that by no means was Bates isolated from the prevailing cultural influences of the day. At the same time, however, Bates was a relatively progressive institution compared to other academic institutions.
Although Bates College seems to have welcomed and often defended its African American, white female, and underprivileged students, exceptions to this tolerance certainly existed. Sometimes paternalism and subtle prejudices were voiced by students and faculty members towards the first African Americans and white women at Bates. Occasionally, individual faculty members and students also expressed concerns about the prestige of the College and suffered from serving a relatively poor clientele. While white women and African Americans were present at Bates in its earliest decades, they were often found in extremely small numbers, and they faced hardships that other students did not experience.
Although these contemporary critiques of Bates' social inclusiveness occurred, they seem to have been the exception and not the rule. Bates' early diversity may seem quite limited in hindsight, but it was relatively progressive compared to the exclusivity of colleges such as Bowdoin, which did not accept women until 1971, or Princeton which did not accept African American students until well into the twentieth century. In addition, nineteenth century science and social science were often used to defend and reinforce commonly held prejudices which advocated for discrimination against women, African Americans, and the poor. In the face of these often overwhelming external pressures, Bates held its ground in regard to these issues and continued to admit African Americans, women and poor students throughout this period. Beyond simply admitting these students, often Bates attempted to integrate these students into the extracurricular activities and various other aspects of campus life. In the mid-nineteenth century, this particular brand of inclusiveness was found at only a handful of Western colleges such as Oberlin and Hillsdale and at no other Eastern college at the time.
Although this thesis has largely been the examination of a microcosm, the relevance of its conclusions is widely applicable. Bates withstood a barrage of criticism for its egalitarian values in the nineteenth century, and the small community's courageous response to this criticism provides an admirable example for future generations. Throughout the period examined in this thesis, Bates' basic values remained relatively intact, such as ancient Free Will Baptist commitments to open their churches and schools to virtually anyone and to seek the truth. Even a casual observer on the Bates campus in 2005 can view remnants of the impact of Bates' historical commitment to openness (particularly in admissions policies), as it is currently reflected in everything from the size of the current endowment to the substance of the yearly catalogue. In determining policies, Bates looked toward the values of its founders and supporters in its early years. In doing so, Bates often bravely ignored new intellectual trends and peer institutions in shaping its historical mission.
My second major conclusion is that it is dangerous for an institution to rigorously compare itself to other popular trends and institutions if it wishes to be seen as progressive in the future. Although I attempted to compare and contrast Bates with other colleges, I am grateful that the founders of the college did not attempt to do so in practice. If Oren Cheney had attempted to model Bates after any other popular New England college at the time, he would have likely tried to appeal to a white, all male, and well-to-do applicant pool. Courageously, early Bates leaders did not seem to obsess over the loss of prestige that may have resulted from the school's egalitarian policies. "Science" at the time, (including phrenology) from other institutions often claimed that women, African Americans and the poor were innately intellectually deficient. But instead of modeling Bates in the light of these scientific claims, Cheney rooted the school the school in a unique egalitarian value structure based on a Free Will Baptist sense of truth. Although some absolute "religious" convictions have their dangers (as seen by the Inquisition or the continuous struggle in Israel), basic ethical or religious values such as humility and open love definitely have their place in directing both scientific and humanitarian progress.
My third major conclusion is that Bates and similar institutions can justly describe themselves as having progressive histories. Although the Bates' early community certainly did not reflect twenty first century social norms (as reflected in the 2004 Catalogue), Bates was still a very forward-looking nineteenth century American college. Bates clearly was swimming against the prevailing intellectual current in mid-nineteenth century America and was by my own definition a progressive school. My definition was shaped, perhaps incestuously, by my own membership in the Bates community. Perhaps all institutions could label themselves as progressive as defined by their own unique community values, but institutions such as Bates were clearly pioneers in what would become larger social movements. Because there were exceptions to Bates' progressiveness, a humble pride (if such a thing is possible) in the predominant values of the College seems appropriate.
If some future historian of Bates College wishes to interpret the early history of Bates (albeit through a slightly different lens), I would recommend further researching the religious values of the early professors and collegians. In my research I have come across scores of sources dripping with religious rhetoric (the Morning Star, especially), which if interpreted more thoroughly, would contribute more to a better understanding of the basic values of the community. Historians researching during the Civil Rights era and the late Cold War (1970s and 1980s) were undoubtedly influenced by their environment to write about class, race and gender as the world was focused on the merits and flaws of communism versus capitalist democracies. Now, the focus of the intellectual world seems to have shifted more toward interpreting history through a religious lens, particularly after September 11, 2001, the war on terrorism, and the rise to power of the so-called "Christian Right." The likely emergence of the centrality of religion in interpreting cultural history does not mean that race, gender and class interpretations are obsolete (far from it), but only that these topics will probably be viewed more frequently through a religious lens themselves. It would be the utmost flattery to the author if the subject of Bates College were so analyzed in the future.
The evidence in my thesis supports the assertion that Bates was a progressive institution compared to its peer schools and to the intellectual mainstream. Certainly, exceptions to this ideal existed, but generally, Bates from 1855 to 1877 preserved the basic egalitarian values of its Free Will Baptist founders. My conclusions about Bates' courageous preservation of its core its core values, the dangers of comparing oneself to popular trends, and the legitimacy of Bates celebrating its progressiveness certainly may seem relevant today, but no doubt other useful conclusions may be extrapolated by later historians. In the last major history of Bates College in 1936, Professor Alfred Anthony put it well. He asserted, "[t]he writer has been heartened by the thought that, even if his work should be incomplete, or poorly done, yet a later hand might be benefited, and the work of future years become more easy because of these endeavors."[2] Like Anthony, I hope that my work may contribute to the perpetual process of seeking the truth by future generations.
AcknowledgementsI would like to thank my predecessors at Bates College for both making and writing about Bates history. This work has truly been a labor of love and has allowed me to gain much deeper understanding of the both the continuity and the changes at Bates. Without these individuals, this community and this thesis would not exist.
The overwhelming majority of my research was done at Bates College’s Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library, and first of all, I need to thank Elaine Ardia of Special Collections for her many hours of advice and assistance with sources. Without her breadth of knowledge of Bates College history and seemingly photographic memory of the archival sources, this thesis would have been much more difficult to complete. Also at the Archives, director Katherine Stefko and archivist Christopher Beam deserve sincere thanks for their work in making these archival materials accessible to researchers.
I need to extend the warmest thanks to Professor Margaret Creighton for the untold hours of reading and advice that she invested in this project. Professor Creighton truly knows how to ask challenging questions, and her knowledge of nineteenth century history, especially through the perspective of race, gender, and class has been invaluable. She is a unique asset to the Bates community and without her dedication, this work would have been impossible.
I would also like to express my appreciation to the reference librarians at Ladd Library at Bates College and the Special Collections staff at Bowdoin College for their cordial assistance. Other members of the Bates College community who deserve thanks include all of my professors over the past four years. Furthermore, I would like to acknowledge all of my friends and colleagues at the Bates Historical Society who have put up with my stories about Bates history over the past year!
I am also very thankful to Charles Clark, Marcus Bruce and Christopher Beam for taking the time to read my thesis and to form my defense panel. Their comments and questions were very useful and provocative.
My family also deserves a fair share of credit for this endeavor. My mother’s stories about her own Free Will Baptist, "Swamp Yankee" family from Rhode Island have undoubtedly influenced both my interest in history and my interest in the founders of Bates in particular. (Interestingly, while writing this thesis, I discovered that nineteenth century Bates professors, Alfred Anthony and Thomas Angell, were also from Rhode Island and both are distant cousins of my mother). The trips to historical sites that I went on with my father over the years also deserve credit for my passion for history. I need to especially thank my older sister, Ingrid Larson-Alexander, class of 1997, for proofreading the final draft of my thesis and introducing me to Bates College over ten years ago!
All text and images Copyright 2001-2006


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