Edith Hamilton Library


September 21st marks the anniversary of the first day of school at Bryn Mawr in 1885, when two dozen girls and seven highly qualified female instructors entered the building which formerly housed Friends Academy on Eutaw Street in downtown Baltimore.

Formulating the plan for the school
"The Committee" as M. Carey Thomas, Mary Elizabeth Garrett, Mamie Gwinn, Bessie King, and Julia Rogers referred to themselves, was determined to elevate the education of women and their role in Victorian era society. M. Carey Thomas had crafted a daringly rigorous new standard of education as the Dean of Faculty at the newly forming Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, but knew that few girls were receiving the education required to face the curriculum. Armed with Mary Elizabeth Garrett's money and putting the social standing and reputation of their families in Baltimore at risk, these five young women chose to open a school that would prepare local girls for something they knew many families did not yet want--intellectual challenge on par with that available to boys.

Quietly, The Committee contacted both male and female professors at the finest colleges, asking for referrals for the first female faculty. Letters came from all of the major universities--Harvard, Cornell, Michigan, Oxford--as well as from indivdual instructors who had heard of the intended new school and wanted to be part of it. In the spring of 1885, the board of Bryn Mawr College agreed that they could use the name for the school, and in May The Sun ran the first news of the school's opening:

LOCAL MATTERS, The Sun, page 4, May 23, 1885: Girls’ School Movement.— Plans have been made for starting in Baltimore a girls’ school preparatory for college, under the patronage of Miss M. Carey Thomas, Miss Mary M. Gwinn, Miss Mary E. Garrett, Miss Elizabeth T. King and Miss Julia R. Rogers. Among the members of the faculty will be Miss Alice Goddard, of Cornell, Miss Mary S. Locke, of Smith College, Miss Eleanor A. Andrews, of Newnam College, England, and others. Among those who have promised to act as examiners are Prof. Gildersleeve, of Johns Hopkins University, Miss Scott, of Bryn Mawr, Prof. Remsen, of Johns Hopkins, and Prof. E.B. Wilson, of Bryn Mawr.

By September they had the full faculty in place and young girls ready and eager to begin. Take a look at the school's first catalog here for a description of the school's expectations and offerings. Note that some of the instructors are still filled in by pen!
Located in Baltimore, Maryland, The Bryn Mawr School is a private all-girls kindergarten, elementary, middle and high school with a coed preschool for ages 2 months through 5 years. Bryn Mawr provides students with exceptional educational opportunities on a beautiful 26-acre campus within the city limits. Inquisitive girls, excellent teaching, strong student-teacher relationships and a clear mission sustain our vibrant school community where girls always come first.