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.

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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.

 

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

Exhibition curated by Rebekah Irwin, designed by Danielle Rougeau, with production support from Joseph Watson. 

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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.

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John Muir and John Burroughs, 1909
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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

Davis Library Fall lower level exhibit: Reading Nature

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

Exhibition curated by Mikaela Taylor, designed by Danielle Rougeau, with production support from Rebekah Irwin. 

brown pear signs less text“Reading Nature” on the lower level of the library features books by scientists, botanists, naturalists, artists, and poets from the beginning of the 18th century to the 20th century. Each captures nature in a new way, redrawing the frames through which we understand the natural world.

 

Pages from Annie M Ward's "Notes on Botany," 1850-1860
Pages from Annie M Ward’s “Notes on Botany,” 1850-1860

 

"Cloud Crystals: A Snowflake Album Collected and Edited by a Lady" by Frances Chickering, 1864
“Cloud Crystals: A Snowflake Album Collected and Edited by a Lady” by Frances Chickering, 1864
Butterfly diagram from "The Aurelian" by Moses Harris, 1840
Butterfly diagram from “The Aurelian” by Moses Harris, 1840; Recent Gift of Julia Emerson, Class of 1965

 

 

 

 

Eleanor Sybil Ross, A dean with “visions of what Middlebury should be to her daughters”

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Leading up to 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. Eleanor Sybil Ross can be found in Sunderland and her own Ross Fireplace Lounge, now through October 5th.

Alumna, English Professor, and Dean of Women, Eleanor Sybil Ross wore many hats at Middlebury College. After graduating in 1895, Ross taught at North Wales Academy in Pennsylvania, Rutland High School in Vermont and Boise High School in Idaho before responding to President Thomas’s urgent need for a Dean of Women with intimate experience at the college.

Letter from Eleanor Sybil Ross to President Thomas
Letter from Eleanor Sybil Ross to President Thomas

In a letter to Ross he writes, “I have wondered if the sensible thing to do [is] to take one of our own graduates, who knows the college and Vermont girls and Vermont homes and Vermont ideals…and work sensibly…for the things Middlebury wants done.” With her own “visions of what Middlebury should be to her daughters” and her drive to “bend every effort in this direction,” Ross returned to Middlebury in 1915 to serve as an Assistant Professor of English and as the Dean of Women for the next 30 years, making her Middlebury’s first alumna administrator. As one of the earliest members appointed by the president to the Advisory Board of the Women’s College, she raised awareness of the problems within and recommended changes necessary for improving women’s education. In 1953 she died in her hometown of Rutland, Vermont.

See what Ross looked like as a student and more here!

Ross in 1932
Ross in 1932

Rhoda Mabel White, “A builder of a college for women”

RMW portraitLeading up to 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. Rhoda Mabel White can be found in Sunderland and Ross Fireplace Lounge, now through October 5th.

Rhoda Mabel White graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1906. As a doctoral fellow in Sociology at the University of Wisconsin, Rhoda Mabel White became Middlebury’s first Dean of Women and simultaneously its first woman faculty member in 1909. She served as Assistant Professor of Sociology and Dean of Women until 1911.

In her introductory letter to President John Martin Thomas

Introductory letter from Rhoda Mabel White to President Thomas (May, 1909)
Introductory letter from Rhoda Mabel White to President John Martin Thomas (May, 1909)

she writes, “I believe I could serve your College and its young women as a ‘builder of a College for women’.” This manifested both in her support of female students and in the physical makeup of our campus when, at the president’s invitation, White consulted with architect W. Nicholas Albertson to design the interior layout of Perasons Hall. Erected in 1911, Pearsons became the first building designed exclusively for women.

 

She demonstrated her self-proclaimed “unbounded enthusiasm for the higher education of women” in her contributions to the American Association of University Women, constantly striving for the advancement of women in higher education.

Charlotte May Johnson, Class of 1901: “One girl, […] a missionary 2,000 miles into the interior of China”

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.

Charlotte May Johnson was born in Jacksonville, Vermont and prepared for Middlebury College at Northfield, Massachusetts Seminary. Three years after her 1901 graduation, she traveled to Shanghai, China where she became Principal of the Bridgman Memorial School and Missionary and Middlebury’s first alumna to teach as a foreign missionary. After eight years, she returned to the U.S. to give lectures on China and later settled as a teacher in Denver, Colorado.
Despite her limited means as a missionary, she demonstrated her dedication to Middlebury by contributing $3 of her first paycheck in China to President John Martin Thomas’s fund for new buildings and faculty members. In his efforts to raise funds for this cause, President Thomas appealed to D.K. Pearsons (namesake of Pearsons Hall) to help finance new laboratories, a building, and teachers . . . without raising tuition. In a letter to Pearsons, Thomas mentions Charlotte Johnson as “one girl, [who] going as a missionary 2,000 miles into the interior of China, has promised me $3 from her first salary. That is the kind of stuff we are making.”

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Fundraising letter from President John Martin Thomas to D.K. Pearsons, in which Thomas mentions Charlotte May Johnson, a devoted alumna working as a missionary in China (1908)

Her contributions to the College were far from just financial. Her work after graduation impacted even the makeup of the student body. While in China, she advocated for an international student who later enrolled at the College with her help and the support of President Thomas.

Her ability to bridge international, cultural, and educational boundaries adds her to the ranks of outstanding women who have served Middlebury College through history.

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Letter from Charlotte May Johnson to President Thomas written while she was teaching at the Bridgman Memorial School and Missionary in Shanghai, China (1910)

 

Mary Annette Anderson, Middlebury’s first woman of color

Leading up to 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. Mary Annette Anderson can be found in Axinn and Bicentennial Hall, now through October 5th.

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.

Middlebury Commencement program, June 28, 1899

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.

May Belle Chellis, Middlebury’s First Alumna

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.

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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 Neligh, 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!

Davis Library spring exhibit, “Before the Selfie: A Century of Student Portraits”

Our spring exhibit features a century of photographic portraits of Middlebury students.

In other words, one hundred years of awe-inspiring facial hair and evolving fashion trends.

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How will you be remembered? Email a selfie to the Archives at specialcollections@middlebury.edu

Instagram #middleburyselfie

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Photo credit: Lewis Hemenway, Class of 1864, Middlebury College Special Collections & Archives and May Belle Chellis, Class of 1886.

Historic NYC Postcard Exhibit at Davis Family Library

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Who would guess that an artist born and bred on a Vermont farm would create some of the most iconic postcards of New York City? Rachael Robinson Elmer’s ground-breaking “Art-Lovers New York” postcard series is currently on exhibit at the Middlebury College Davis Family Library, on the upper level, through April 17th, 2015. The exhibition, on loan from RokebyWashington-Arch Museum and sponsored by Middlebury College Special Collections and Archives, presents all twelve cards, as well as biographical information, historical context, and the three postcards of London that originally inspired Rachael.

Rachael Robinson Elmer changed the aesthetic of American postcards. She pioneered the fine art city view card when her Impressionist paintings of popular scenes in her beloved New York City were produced as postcards by P. F. Volland in 1914. Her “Art Lover’s New York” cards were immediately copied by dozens of artists in New York and elsewhere.

artist Rachael Robinson Elmer was born at Rokeby to artist parents Rowland Evans and Anna Stevens Robinson in 1878. Her art education began before she had even started school and continued with a young people’s summer art program in New York City and later, at the Art Students League. She moved to New York as a young woman and commenced a successful career as a graphic artist. Rachael married businessman Robert Elmer in 1911 and died prematurely in February 1919 in the Spanish flu epidemic.

 

The Middlebury College Special Collections and Archives holds the extensive historical correspondence collection of the Robinson Family on long-term loan from Rokeby Museum.  The books of Rachael’s father, Rowland E. Robinson, are part of the Abernethy Collection of American Literature and the Flander’s Ballad Collection.  See our previous blog post, Reading Rowland Out Loud, for more on that.