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the two vital forces which animate the girls be given full power to rule themselves. life of this little group of girls among the The thing was tried; it is now almost Pennsylvania hills.
thirty years old. She has brought into existence one of the Dr. Joseph Taylor, a Quaker gentleman most perfectly constituted democracies of the old school, was founder of the colthat exists. It is a democracy such as lege and, in early days, its president. In men and nations might afford the time to charge of its classrooms he placed a corps pause before and examine. It is nothing of young bachelors, who were to guide more or less than a self-government of the young and charming students along 430 young women, the sort of wholesome, the briery paths of Greek, biology, and level-headed, outdoor young women who calculus. This was the situation which make up our best type of college girls. Miss Thomas, then in her twenties, faced They are no less human than girls of all in 1885. Hardly more than a girl hertypes the world over; temptation in the self, her task was to look to the conduct form of dinner dances in study hours, and of these other girls. May-day idleness when there are examina- The task did not look easy. Her keen tions to be prepared for, besets the Bryn eyes, with a Welsh ancestry behind their Mawr girls just as often as it besets young keenness, set to work to investigate, and femininity elsewhere; yet they meet it and her brain to reflect. Ruling these girls come off victorious. They sit in judgment by rigid, boarding-school-missish regulaupon one another, keeping order in their tions appeared futile. They were an own halls, sternly refusing one another independent and mentally advanced type, permission for undue gaieties, suspending and inclined to rule themselves. one another, even expelling one another, Only a mind of big initiative and daring with never an older head to advise. Where would have risked the thing which Miss rules issued and punishments meted out Thomas risked twenty-seven years ago. by faculties fail, the government of these But it was just that sort of mind. Take girls by themselves succeeds.
a glance back over its accomplishments, Self-government in colleges, and even and the situation looks clearer. in lower schools, is no longer new; but First, when Martha Carey Thomas was Bryn Mawr College earned the title of a little girl she had agonized in prayer over pioneer. Before any other had dared this what we now call the woman question – radical form of government, Miss Thomas, at that time hardly vexed enough to be then a very young woman and dean of the termed a question at all. She had suffered institution, had urged that this group of from awful doubts as to whether women
were physically and mentally fit for col- above a whisper. Miss Thomas mainlege — to be sure, she couldn't find any tained a firm chin and continued her study. proof to the contrary, but people said they She passed from the University of Leipzig were unfit. And through all this storm to Göttingen and Zurich. and stress she had held to the underlying She was still in her twenties, and yet belief that she could go to college and she could look back over years of achievelearn what men learn, and the event of ment and realize that through them all her life was her meeting with a college she had been
she had been a self-governed, selfwoman - a Vassar graduate.
responsible individual. This surely exShe drank in this wonderful creature. plains why it occurred to her that other "She's exactly like other delightful wo- girls had a right to rule themselves just men," was the summing up.
as she had done. If she had been by Here, then, was a proof. Woman could instinct a conformist herself she would do it. To the young girl, born in conserva- have demanded hide-bound rules for tive Baltimore, trained in private schools, others. But if you should see her to-day this meeting was a great dramatic situation. you would read in one glance the fact that
She was beginning to shake herself free. she never was one. There is too high a
She announced that she would go to brow under her white hair to permit her Cornell University. This was not what to accept others' explanations until she a Baltimore young lady usually did, but has probed them with her own mind. Miss Thomas bore off a degree in 1877. There is a determination in the chin that
Next she spent a year at Johns Hopkins. never succumbed merely because it was
Next she decided to go to Leipzig for told to do so. And there is too much advanced study. Perhaps the going was humor twinkling in her dark eyes to miss even less significant than the fact that she the joke that lurks in accepted standards. did the deciding for herself. In that And therefore, when higher education point lay the real pioneering. After she for women under any conditions was so reached Germany, the first news from home new as to be a bit shocking, what did this was that family friends were preserving mind of initiative and daring do but rise sort of hush regarding this unconventional up and recommend self-government in a daughter in the presence of her mother, little Quaker college for girls. For, aland hardly spoke of her, as if she had though the institution was undenominabrought some sort of disgrace upon the tional in name, it was strongly Quaker in family and was to be mentioned barely atmosphere at that time.
In 1886, then, Miss Thomas, exercising establish a permanent government of her authority as dean, gave informally their own. The president and trustees into the hands of these girls their own gladly gave the girls in letter what they conduct. At that period, when the col- already possessed in spirit; and in their lege for women was not far removed from constitution it is to be read that “to the the young ladies' seminary in spirit, we Bryn Mawr Students' Association for can picture the authorities of other col- Self-Government the president and dean leges looking on with tremulous alarm shall entrust the exclusive management of while they waited to see this foolhardy all matters concerning the conduct of young school wreck itself. But the wreck
But the wreck students in their college life which do not did not occur. A venture is counted fall under the jurisdiction of the authorities foolhardy, or not, according to its out- of the college or of the mistresses of the come. For this reason educators look halls of residence." And upon closer back upon Bryn Mawr's pioneering in inspection one finds that the matters self-government as an event which has which are left to the faculty are pracmade history. From East to West to- tically all academic, and that the misday the college girl is coming to be recog- tresses of the halls are concerned no more nized as a responsible human being who with discipline than are hostesses in a can control her own conduct and who will houseful of guests — only with the matcontrol it far better if it be left in her own ters which, without question, belong to the hands, on the principle that the only fun management of the household. As for in breaking rules lies in having rules to the behavior of the girls, that is attended break. It was Miss M. Carey Thomas to by proctors of their own appointing. who first pointed this out.
Now observe the workings. Take, for But although other colleges and schools example, a young freshman, we will say have followed, Bryn Mawr still stands Miss Minerva Smith. She has been unique in the completeness of its democ- reared in a conservative family, this is racy: for it admits no member of the her first going-away, she hears that the faculty even in an advisory capacity to faculty does not discipline, and a glittering its board of discipline. Miss Thomas vision of liberty suddenly dazzles her eyes. does not lead liberty on leash. In 1892, On the first available day she takes a train when the experiment was about a half- for Philadelphia, and devotes herself to dozen years old, the girls asked that a shopping. Later on she meets old friends, charter be given to them which should dines, stays over night and spends Sunday with them, reaches the station in time for the situation on the way out. She says the nine-forty-five train, and half an hour nothing to the young lady. But the next later is at Bryn Mawr.
day she speaks casually to one of the Now it so happens — both Minerva and officers of the Association. the case are hypothetical, you understand “Miss Minerva Smith, that new student, - it so happens that Miss Thomas is on came out on the nine-forty-five train last the same train. She has observed the evening,” she observes, and that is all. freshman slipping aboard. She considers Absolutely all. She dismisses the matter