Tag Archives: College Archives

Catherine Emma Robbins, A Long Trail-blazer

In honor of the inauguration of Laurie L. Patton as the seventeenth president on Sunday, October 11, 2015, Special Collections & Archives will feature remarkable women from the College’s history in eight temporary exhibits spread across campus, now through October 5th. Catherine Emma Robbins can be found in the Virtue Field House and in Atwater Dining Hall.

Catherine Robbins Long Trail 2
The Three Musketeers on the Long Trail at Hazens Notch (left to right Catherine Robbins, Hilda Kurth, and Kathleen Norris)

Four years after graduating from Middlebury College in 1923, Cornwall, Vermont, native Catherine Emma Robbins became the first woman to hike the Long Trail in its entirety—without a male guide. She, along with her two companions—Hilda Kurth, who fled to the mountains to avoid a man who wanted to marry her, and Kathleen Norris, who, despite her father’s death, resolved to make the trip on her own—made headlines across the country as “The Three Musketeers.” Robbins’ motto for the trip, “The Musketeers must get there!,” embodies the camaraderie and drive that inspired her both as a hiker on the Long Trail and as a three-sport athlete and Theta Chi Epsilon sorority member at Middlebury.

After the hike, she continued teaching in Vermont high schools. She died at age 97 but not before her two granddaughters, Cara Clifford Nelson and Amity Clifford [Robichaud] reprised the hike in 1997, seventy years after Robbins blazed the trail, raising funds for the Green Mountain Club’s Long Trail Protection Campaign.


Catherine Robbins yearbook
Catherine Robbins’ Yearbook Photo 1923
The 1924 Long Trail Guidebook used by Robbins on her hike with her notes, provided by granddaughter Cara Nelson 
Catherine Robbins Clifford with granddaughters Amity Robichaud and Cara Nelson, (and a Middlebury poster in the background). Photo provided by Cara Nelson
Final page in Catherine Robbins’ Long Trail scrapbook; provided by Cara Nelson

Davis Library Fall atrium exhibit: Old Friends and New: Writers in Nature, 1847-2000

Two new exhibits have cropped up in the library this week – “Old Friends and New: Writers in Nature, 1847-2000” in the atrium and “Reading Nature” in the lower level Harman Reading Room. Both feature books that explore literary and scientific human interaction with the environment to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Environmental Studies at Middlebury College.


The main floor exhibit “Old Friends and New” contains books and archives produced by authors deeply rooted in the natural world.

From Henry David Thoreau to John Freidin, this collection showcases the importance of nature as it exists outdoors as well as within the minds and pages of these authors.

John Muir and John Burroughs, 1909
RERobinson in woods
Artist, naturalist, and writer Rowland Evans Robinson (1833-1900)

















Title page, Julia Butterfly Hill's The Legacy of Luna, 2000
Title page, Julia Butterfly Hill’s The Legacy of Luna, 2000

Nobly Served Exhibit: Mary Annette Anderson

Mary Annette Anderson was the first woman of color to graduate from Middlebury College and the first woman of color to be inducted into Phi Beta Kappa honor society. She was born in Shoreham, Vermont to William Anderson, a former slave who traveled north after the Civil War and purchased his own farm, and Philomine Langlois of French Canadian and Indian heritage. Her formal education began in the Shoreham School, continued in the Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies in Massachusetts, and culminated at Middlebury College, where Anderson graduated as valedictorian of the Class of 1899. As Valedictorian, she delivered a Commencement address
entitled “The Crown of Culture.” Additionally, she was the first woman to address the distinguished guests—the College president, trustees, alumni, and professors—at the “Corporation dinner,” and her graduating class sang a poem she penned at their Class Day celebration.

After graduation, she moved to New Orleans, Louisiana where she taught at Straight University for one year before joining the Howard University faculty in Washington, D.C. She taught English and Rhetoric there until 1907 when she married fellow faculty member, Walter Lucius Smith. Eventually she returned to Vermont with her husband, who completed postgraduate work at the University of Vermont. She died in 1922 at age forty-seven.

As a part of our exhibition, “Nobly Served: Leading Women of Middlebury College,” banners of Mary Anderson can be found in Axinn and Bicentennial Hall now through October 5th.

Nobly Served Exhibit: May Belle Chellis

In honor of President Laurie Patton’s inauguration, Special Collections and Archives will mount a campus-wide exhibition showcasing eight exceptional women throughout the College’s history. Our community is thrilled that President Patton has joined the ranks of these founders, marking a momentous step in Middlebury College history.


We first recognize May Belle Chellis, one of the first three women admitted to Middlebury College in 1883 and the first woman to graduate in 1886. Chellis’ presence and accomplishments forced the trustees to make accommodations – including a special curriculum, dedicated study and living space, and awards for scholarship – so that women could attend the College. “The faculty were not going to require us to do the regular work that the boys had,” Chellis reminisces, “but [May Bolton, Class of 1887, Louise “Daisy” Edgerton, Class of 1887, and I] insisted that we ought to do it just the same.” Chellis captured the highest rank in Greek at the end of her freshman year, graduated Phi Beta Kappa, and delivered her essay “The Growth of Criticism” at the 1886 Commencement.

She went on to become Preceptress at both Black River Academy in Ludlow, Vermont and Gates Academy in Neigh, Nebraska, and Principal at St. Peter High School in Minnesota. She married Joseph Andrew Doremus in 1898 and raised five children.

Keep an eye out for our exhibition around campus and additional posts featuring more iconic Middlebury women!

Bread Loaf menu options, from the Archives

In honor of the return of the 2015 faculty plenary meeting and lunch to the Bread Loaf campus, we have some recipes to share. Late this summer, Patti McCaffrey from Dining Services delivered a mildly corroded metal recipe box to the Archives. Uncovered during the Bread Loaf renovations, the box was likely the property of Alfleda DeGray, a longtime cook at the College and Bread Loaf. (Alfleda’s start day was July 1, 1945 and her last day was February 9, 1987. We’ll do the math: that’s forty-two years of feeding mouths at Middlebury and at Bread Loaf.) At the time, female cooks were responsible for cold salads, punches, and appetizers rather than main dishes, which were the territory of male cooks. We’re not sure what’s on the menu for this year’s lunch, but we offer a few options from Alfleda DeGray’s Bread Loaf recipe box: A “Thirst Inviting” dip; Wagon Wheel Cheese; and a Fruited Cheese Salad with lemon and strawberry gelatin. Enjoy!




From the College Archives: Middlebury Commencement Through History

We are thrilled to introduce a new series, From the College Archives, curated by Josh Kruskal, ’15. In the weeks of his last semester, Josh, a prized Special Collections staff member, scoured 200 years of Middlebury Kaleidoscopes in search of historic and day-to-day moments. In Josh’s inaugural post: Commencement. In his photo essays to come, look for themes such as Students and Their Dogs, Downtown Middlebury, Halloween Costumes, and many more.  Congratulations Josh, and enjoy…



















Clothing Guide 1944-45, from the Archives

For the 1944-45 school year, the Student Union published these handy HELPS AND HINTS as part of a clothing guide (for women). For example, “No Rubber Boots are to be worn to the dining-rooms, or to lectures and concerts unless the weather is very severe and there is no opportunity to change.” And don’t get us started on shorts. “Shorts are never to be worn in the dining rooms…they are never to be worn downtown unless one is going through town on a bicycle. Then don’t stop to shop or have a coke. Plan those shopping or coking expeditions for sometime when you don’t have shorts on.” Unless, of course, you remembered your leg make-up.