Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections. September 21 - December 20, 2001

"THE VERY BEST WOMAN'S COLLEGE THERE IS":
M. CAREY THOMAS AND THE MAKING OF
THE BRYN MAWR CAMPUS

In 1884, M. Carey Thomas, a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Zürich, became Dean of a small, soon-to-be opened women's college in the Philadelphia suburbs. For the rest of her life, she strove to make Bryn Mawr not simply a successful women's college, but one equal to the finest research institutions in the world. For her, the achievement of this goal required not only a distinguished faculty and ambitious students, but also a campus with the appearance of a great university.

On the occasion of the College's twenty-fifth anniversary in 1910, President Thomas discussed the importance she had placed on the look of the campus:

We have come to believe that the power of a college to influence its students for good is vastly increased if it gathers them together for four impressionable years in the midst of beautiful surroundings in buildings built and furnished in accordance with the best architectural and decorative traditions and administered in accordance with the civilized traditions of well-bred households.

This exhibition examines how M. Carey Thomas worked with a group of distinguished designers, architects and artists to create a look for Bryn Mawr that mirrored her academic ambitions for the college - to make it, as she wrote in an early letter to her mother, "the very best woman's college there is."

Bryn Mawr College - Founders and First Presidents


Bryn Mawr College
Campus Plan - Hutton, Vaux & Olmsted
 Collegiate Gothic - Cope and Stewardson
Details & Interior - De Forest
Paving Tiles - Mercer
Decorative Sculpture - Ashbee & Miller

Exhibition Credits