Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections

M. Carey Thomas Papers - Bryn Mawr School Papers

The Bryn Mawr School, a girls’ preparatory school in Baltimore, Maryland, was founded in 1885 by M. Carey Thomas and four other Baltimore women, Mary E. Garrett, Julia R. Rogers, Elizabeth T. King, and Mary M. Gwinn. Constituting themselves into a Board of Managers, the five women established the academic policies of the school and closely supervised its day to day operations. Not until 1896 was the first headmistress (Edith Hamilton) engaged. Prior to that the chief administrative officer had been styled "secretary," a post filled by Eleanor A. Andrews (1885-1889), Mary Noyes Colvin (1889-1893), Mary Buckingham (1893-1894), and Ida Wood (1894-1895).

Prompted by a concern that Baltimore girls should have an opportunity to attend a first-rate preparatory school, the Board of Managers stressed excellence in both the academic and physical education programs. As a requirement for graduation, each student had to pass Bryn Mawr College’s entrance examinations. During the period covered by these papers, the school was not financially self-supporting. Mary Garrett, an heir to the B. & O. Railroad fortune, advanced money for construction of the school building and made up its annual operating deficits.

The Bryn Mawr School Papers are divided into two subseries: Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers. Correspondence (1881-1906), comprised mostly of recipient copies with small amounts of drafts and carbon copies, is filed chronologically and microfilmed on Reels 210-213. The miscellaneous material, consisting of financial records, class schedules, library accession records, inventories of art reproductions, attendance lists, etc., is filed topically and microfilmed on Reels 214-216.

A small lot of papers has not been included in the microfilm of this series. This consists of duplicate printed items, a few records of individual students’ grades, and credit reports on the parents or guardians of applicants (1901-1909). The Board of Managers apparently commissioned these credit investigations prior to admitting students from families with whom they were not personally acquainted. These reports provide information regarding occupation, residence, property holdings, character and reputation, credit worthiness, and in every case, the religious affiliation of the subject.

In addition to the papers in this series, there are widely scattered items in the M. Carey Thomas Personal Papers (particularly in her correspondence with Mary Garrett) and Official Papers regarding the Bryn Mawr School.

Unlike Series I and II, the correspondence in Series III has not been indexed nor have fragmentary items been targeted as such.

Reel 210: Bryn Mawr School Papers; Correspondence. 1881 - 1888

The predominant subjects of extant Bryn Mawr School correspondence from its earliest years are the opening and staffing of the school. Both the earliest and most numerous of these letters consist of applications for teaching and administrative positions, testimonials and credentials of applicants, and evaluations of candidates. In addition, there are letters to and from each member of the Board of Managers and Eleanor Andrews about the operations of the school and about policies and procedures advocated and adopted.

Reel 211:. Bryn Mawr School Papers; Correspondence. 1889 - 1892

Letters regarding faculty and staff form the bulk of correspondence on Reel 211, with the members of the Board and the Secretary, Mary N. Colvin, being the most frequent addressees and writers. Other subjects discussed include gymnasium apparatus, furniture and supplies, operating expenses and accounts, and the John Hopkins University Medical School fund drive (slight). Of particular note are letters of November 1890 regarding an article in the Jewish Exponent about the school's admissions policies.

Reel 212: Bryn Mawr School Papers; Correspondence. 1893 - August 1895

Correspondence on Reel 212 is somewhat more diverse in subject matter than that on the preceding reels. Although letters regarding faculty matters (salaries, recruitments, dismissals, etc.) remain heavy, academic policy, examinations, scholarship awards, school teas, library acquisitions, decoration and furnishing of the school building, and the day to day operations of the school are also covered. There are a few letters from 1893 about the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in which the Bryn Mawr School had an exhibit. Documentation of Mary E. Garrett's involvement in charitable organizations in Baltimore is present. In April 1895, the first letters regarding the appointment of Edith Hamilton as Head-mistress appear.

Reel 213: Bryn Mawr School Papers; Correspondence. September 1895 - April 1897

Compared with both earlier and later periods, Bryn Mawr School correspondence during the school terms 1895-96 and 1896-97 is exceptionally heavy. The increase in volume was due in part to the decision of the Board of Managers to appoint Edith Hamilton as headmistress, an appointment which they foresaw as a long term one. The process of reaching an agreement with Hamilton generated a great deal of correspondence. From the outset there were a number of misunderstandings and conflicts of ideas between the prospective headmistress and the Board which are documented in this and later correspondence. From the time she assumed her duties in the fall of 1896, however, most of Hamilton's numerous letters to and from Mary Garrett, Carey Thomas, and Mamie Gwinn seem harmonious in tone and routine in subject matter. They concern administrative matters, funds, staff recruitment, pupil applications and placement, etc.In addition to the correspondence between Edith Hamilton and the Board of Managers, there are scattered letters from faculty members, contractors and suppliers, and outside examiners. (The latter were college professors who wrote and graded examinations of Bms students in the areas of their specialties.) Letters to Mary E. Garrett from officers of the Association for Improvement of Conditions of the Poor and the Managers of the Charity Organization Society also are present.

Reel 214: Bryn Mawr School Papers; Correspondence. May 1897 - 1906

Except for undated letters and fragments, correspondence in the Bryn Mawr School Papers is concluded on Reel 214. Most of the types of correspondence which appeared earlier continue on this reel . These include faculty applications, testimonials, contracts, etc.; letters regarding Mary Garrett's charitable activities; correspondence of Edith Hamilton and the Board of Managers regarding educational policy, admission of students, and the day to day administration of the school. There are several items of special note: M. Carey Thomas's letter of March 22, 1897 to Edith Hamilton congratulating her on her sister Margaret's outstanding academic record; four April 1898 letters from Ida H. Hyde regarding the possibility that she might accept a teaching position at the School; a letter of March 19, 1901 from Margaret Hamilton to Mary Garrett reporting that Edith was ill. After 1898 the correspondence becomes sparse, and for the last few years of the run it is very light.

Reel 215: Bryn Mawr School Papers; Miscellaneous Papers

Reel 215 is made up of three separate and unrelated groups of materials: undated and fragmentary correspondence, inventories of the School's art reproductions, and contracts. Microfilmed at the beginning of the reel are undated and fragmentary letters, filed alphabetically by author, with unidentifiable fragments at the end of the group. Among the considerable body of undated correspondence, the letters of Mary N. Colvin are the most numerous. In addition, Edith Hamilton, Mary M. Gwinn, and Mary E. Garrett are each the source of a sizable number of these letters.The second unit of material, comprising approximately 400 frames, consists of inventories of casts, prints, architectural details, etc. used in the interior decoration of the Bryn Mawr School Building. Arranged by room and frequently accompanied by mounted photographs, these inventories provide a comprehensive record of the art reproductions owned and displayed by the School. The reel concludes with contracts of Bryn Mawr School teachers (1889-1912) filed chronologically.

Reel 216: Bryn Mawr School Papers; Miscellaneous Papers.

Concluding the Bryn Mawr School Papers, a sundry group of miscellaneous records, filed topically, are microfilmed on Reel 216. Included are such types of papers as bank statements and other financial records, class lists, outside examiners' reports, book lists, circulars and advertisements, and small collections of published materials relating to other preparatory schools and to gymnasium equipment and programs. A list of subject headings of files microfilmed on this reel follows the reel note.

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Last Update: January 23, 2018 , Special Collections at