Book Celebrates Baltimore Girls’ School That Challenged Conventional Ideas About Women's and Girls’ Education

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Bryn Mawr School was a pioneer in creating a program that focused on developing intellectuals and scholars rather than nurturing young women to be good wives and successful volunteers.

Alumnae and Trustee Emeritae Jennie Lee Williams Fowlkes and Betsy Strobel Wilgis, Headmistress Maureen E. Walsh, Author Elizabeth Di Cataldo, and Board Chair Julie R. Rubin

“We stand on the shoulders of all these pioneering women who believed in a woman’s worth as an intellectual, a professional, and a national and world leader,” said Maureen E. Walsh, headmistress of Bryn Mawr.

The history of The Bryn Mawr School and, not coincidentally, Johns Hopkins University, was dominated early by Mary Elizabeth Garrett’s strong-armed philanthropy. As one of the heirs to the B&O Railroad fortune, she employed her considerable philanthropic might to create The Bryn Mawr School, to fund Bryn Mawr College, and to finance the new Johns Hopkins Medical School, with the condition that the medical school be open to women.

Bryn Mawr has just announced the publication of Ex Solo Ad Solem: A History of The Bryn Mawr School, which celebrates the five women founders, including Miss Garrett, who combined the forces of idealistic dreaming, extraordinary will, and the resources necessary to start a revolution in girls’ education, and their legacy is thriving today.

At the very core, Bryn Mawr School was created to afford young women of Baltimore the opportunity to pursue a demanding academic curriculum in preparation for higher education. Bryn Mawr was a pioneer in creating a program that focused on developing intellectuals and scholars rather than nurturing young women to be good wives and successful volunteers. “We knew simply and without question,” writes Bebe Cadwalader, Class of 1934, “that Bryn Mawr was the best. Others could be finishing schools or country boarding schools; they could teach manners, art, piano, horsemanship; we were all out for brains.”

“We stand on the shoulders of all these pioneering women who believed in a woman’s worth as an intellectual, a professional, and a national and world leader,” said Maureen E. Walsh, headmistress of Bryn Mawr. “It is both daunting and thrilling to imagine what our current students will see in their lifetime, and what they will become themselves.”

Other notable women in Bryn Mawr’s history:

  •     Rosabelle Sinclair, the first woman inducted into the Lacrosse Hall of Fame, brought girls’ lacrosse to Baltimore when she became Bryn Mawr’s “Director of Out-Door-Sports” in 1925.
  •     Edith Hamilton, one of this country’s greatest classicists and Bryn Mawr’s first headmistress, was often questioned about the school’s founding vision mission during those early years. Why would women need to be educated for anything more than a domestic life? Why should girls study science, mathematics and Latin? Why would they need or want to learn how to play basketball? Hard work should lead to joy, suggested Miss Hamilton, whose relentless focus on what we now call the liberal arts established Bryn Mawr’s rigorous and empowering curriculum that continues today.
  •     The Bryn Mawr School was the brainchild of M. Carey Thomas. She was steadfastly dedicated to creating a school specifically to prepare girls for college.

About The Bryn Mawr School
The Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, MD, is an independent, nonsectarian, college-preparatory school for girls from preschool through grade twelve. Within a nurturing environment, Bryn Mawr's rigorous academic curriculum inspires a passion for intellectual curiosity and emphasizes the delights and demands of learning. In the classical humanistic tradition, Bryn Mawr promotes the full development of mind, body, and spirit. The school cultivates respect for diversity and engenders habits of moral and ethical leadership and a sense of responsibility to the broader community. For more information, visit http://www.BrynMawrSchool.org.

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Stacy Williams
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