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.
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.
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. 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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 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!