Making (Women’s) History: An Illustrated Look at Hathaway Brown’s Beginning

Commemorated annually during Women’s History Month on March 8, International Women’s Day is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural, and political achievement of women. This year’s campaign theme is gender parity.

In the spirit of celebration and reflection, we’re sharing an illustrated look at Hathaway Brown School’s own role in women’s history and equality, beginning with its founding in 1876 by five courageous young women. The scenes throughout the video are adapted from the Upper School’s Legacy Day 2015 performance, and we invite you to share it on your social networks with the hashtags #InternationalWomensDay and #IWD2016.

Imagine five neatly gowned, gloved, and bonneted young ladies arriving in front of a handsome school building on Cleveland’s Sibley Street about a decade after the Civil War. The location was Brooks Military Academy, an all-boys school to which these five girls wished to be admitted. The proposition likely surprised and even consternated the school’s principle.

But these five young women faced more than a reluctant principal; they faced a culture set of prejudices and values that made it extremely difficult to expect an education comparable in quality to that of boys. Yet they persevered. So highly regarded was their pressing need that their names were recorded in the 19th-century accounts of the incident. Yielding to their persuasion, John White permitted Grace Fay Hooker, Carrie M. Smith, Clara M. Lyon, Dolly Glasser, and Carrie A. Tisdale to take classes in the afternoons after the boys had gone home. In a short account, published well after the fact, an alumna slyly noted that “the boys, who heretofore had attended school in the morning only, now suddenly became very studious, and came every afternoon to study as well.”

A girls’s school whose origins came from five girls who simply “could not find any school in the city to which they wished to go” evolved in fits and starts to become one of the nation’s premier independent schools and a twenty-first century model for girls’ education.

The principal’s concession served as the opening wedge through which Cleveland girls advanced toward becoming educated women. Since afternoon classes for girls seemed to answer a need, a separate school was established in 1876, “which afforded all the advantages of the school for boys.” So began the school for girls that would become Hathaway Brown.

Rather than fading away like so many private schools of that era, the school for girls gradually achieved a permanence and stature that no doubt would have surprised and pleased its early advocates. Ironically, the highly touted and well-financed Brooks Military Academy did not survive the 19th century.
Learn more about HB through the decades in the Winter/Spring 2016 issue of HB Magazine, coming soon! 

> Support Hathaway Brown School 

Source: Tradition and Transformation: A History of Educating Girls at Hathaway Brown School, 1886-2006


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