|Dummer Academy Class of 1901|
|Ebenezer Greenleaf Parsons|
|Perley Leonard Horne|
“…various prizes were awarded as follows. For elocution, to Miss Abbie J. Hale and William Durgin, the Kent medal, for faithfulness, Miss Alice Nelson; for scholarship, Miss Sarah Wheelwright; and for composition, to Miss Carrie G. Knight; and one was also given by the instructor to Miss Eunice Hale. Miss Eunice G. Knight and Miss Emma A. Hale graduated, being the first female graduates of the school.”
Although subjects such as math and science were not included in the newspaper article, only one male was even mentioned in the awards list. If the female students were not as important as the male students, then perhaps the females would not have been listed at all. To attest for their acceptance at Dummer Academy by both faculty and students alike, a male student expresses his delight on the front page of The Dummer News:
“Those who are in this community for the first time carried away with them a splendid impression of the young ladies’ ability in a social way and of the young ladies personally while the old boys had their former impressions confirmed. May the ball be kept rolling now that it is started and the Dummer boys will show their appreciations.”
|1901 Student Body|
Female students were warmly welcomed at the Academy, as demonstrated in newspaper articles in and outside the school. Another example that proves that fact was the creation of the Dummer Allies. Carrie Knight Ambrose, who was one of the first female graduates at the Academy, and Carrie Dummer founded the female group as a way to show their undoubted support and loyalty to the school. Their admiration provides further insight of the community at Dummer throughout the 19th century. Although female education during Parsons’ and Horne’s headmastership was considered only necessary for financial stability and was not a result of a new found progressive stance, the girls there stood as equals in the hearts and minds of the other students and faculty.
Boarding schools are unique in that community is of the utmost importance. That is one thing that has never changed about The Governor’s Academy. So while female students were accepted as a part of the greater community at the Academy during a time of extreme controversy over women’s rights, how was it that coeducation eventually failed? For one thing, the amount of public schools steadily increased towards the mid to late century as a way to provide greater access to free education. Perhaps the female students at Dummer were not fighting for continued coeducation because they were able to get their education in nearby towns such as Newburyport, Salem or Rowley. With the improvement of the railroad system in the greater Boston area, people were able to travel further in a quicker amount of time. Some may have chosen to study elsewhere or find jobs in the cities. Coeducation did work at some schools, however. Pinkerton, for one, was coeducational before many schools, and it was the school that Principal Parsons and Principal Horne had worked at previous to Dummer. The founders implemented coeducation soon after it first opened in 1814. It was one of the first private schools to become coeducational in the 19th century. Franklin & Marshall College began as a secondary school when it opened and perhaps was the first private school to allow coeducation. About one third of the student population in 1787 was female, which included the first Jewish female student to attend school in the United States. The Westtown School, also located in Pennsylvania was founded as a coeducational institution in 1799. Quakers founded Westtown, and because their faith deems men and women as equal, coeducation was never a controversial issue for them. However, complete integration of male and female students did not occur until the mid 1800s. Similarly, Franklin & Marshall was founded by Lutherans, who had a more progressive view of the female role in society. Other boarding schools had female academies but they were not integrated with the males until the 20th century because most private schools in New England had enough funds to purchase land and buildings to separate males and females. The main reason why coeducation may have failed at Dummer was not necessarily because its founders were of a different faith, although that may have contributed to it being all boys at the beginning, but Dummer Academy had become an elite private school that had to compete with other leading institutions. The male role flourished at schools like Dummer. There was a brotherhood at the Academy and schools like it. The Sons of Dummer and the Dummer Fraternity are perfect examples of the attitude men at those schools had about themselves and how they compared to women. For example, after 1904, when coeducation at Dummer was officially abolished until 1971, The Archon was founded in order to inform alumni and students about exciting events and news about the school. In the 1906 Archon, one of the first editions to be published at Dummer, the alumni section of the magazine only lists males, including the Sons of Dummer. Though there may have been mention of females who attended in later years, the absence of female alumni suggests that life at Dummer did in fact go back to “first principles” as it had done under Principal Perkins in 1882. The male dominant role had been challenged at Dummer because girls were seeking higher education themselves. Going back to basics and emphasizing the brotherhood that formed at the Academy was a way for male students to establish their superiority. If women infiltrated places of higher learning, where politicians, lawyers and bankers were being educated, then it would disrupt the power order.
Though female integration at the Academy in the 19th century proved women had the same academic and social abilities as their male counterparts, it seemed that Dummer was destined to be an elite male force in the private school arena. It was not until the late 20th century that the school, and society as a whole, would come to accept females as equal in stature due to the changing times. Governor Dummer Academy had been experiencing another period of financial instability at the beginning of the 1970’s due to an economic recession that heightened inflation and decreased enrollment. Social movements were also common during that era, especially the second-wave feminist movement. Both the economic hardship of the school and the women’s rights movement may very well have contributed to the permanent decision to implement coeducation at the Academy. The social structure of society was changing, just as it had done a century before that, leaving behind a legacy that continues at the Academy to this day. While the school may have been excessively male elitist two centuries ago, today it lives up to its modern day reputation as a school built on community values and equality in all respects.