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Grace Hutchins and Anna Rochester were born into wealthy New England families seeped in privilege and respectability. They grew up amidst spacious homes and summer cottages, wearing fine clothes and attended by maids and nannies. They had tutors and attended private schools, enjoyed dance lessons and horseback riding, and were able to travel all over the world. These childhoods prepared them for a life of privilege, and indeed, this is what they enjoyed. However, as adults, Hutchins and Rochester did not lead the bourgeois lives of their families and instead used these privileges to live by ethical principles without worry about material concerns and financial need. Yet still this upbringing brought with it profound contradictions that would help mold their later years.
For families such as the Hutchinses and Rochesters, the last decades of the nineteenth century were marked by times of flux and change. The bourgeois values of self-reliance, honesty, and frugality were being stretched by rapid industrialization and the emergence of vast urban centers. Old established families attempted to keep a grip on their moral edge in the face of social, economic, and technological changes through both industrial investments and public roles in religious and charitable organizations. The respectability granted to such wealthy families of this period was not unlike that afforded to European landed gentry; in response these families often acted as though they were the moral guiding forces behind their communities and took their leadership roles seriously.Alongside their philanthropy as leaders of and participants in charity organizations, such roles also included being "upholders of the faith," translated in New England families of the era into strong affiliations with the Anglican or other Protestant denominations. For children such as the young Grace and Anna, being born into these families meant being raised with a strong moral sense of duty to God, family, and community.
During the nineteenth century when boys were expected to go out in the world and perfect such virtues of classical masculinity as strength, honesty, and industry, girls were constrained by the gendered expectations of piety, purity, and domesticity often dubbed the "cult of true womanhood." By the end of the century, however, middle-class women were transposing these virtues to suit themselves, such that the association with the private sphere of the home was broadened to include a nurturing and care for the wider community: "the conscience and the housekeepers of America." These politics of domesticity allowed some women to expand their influence beyond the sphere of their immediate households into a kind of "municipal housekeeping" at the same time that the establishment of women's colleges facilitated the education of middle-class girls in preparation for a life of service to community.
Hutchins and Rochester were products of this era in being able to access the class privileges and social standing accorded to the offspring of elite families as well as enjoy a space to develop beyond the Victorian expectations for the daughters of such New England "first families." They witnessed the massive social upheavals of a rapidly industrializing society with its economic dislocations and uncertainties and responded with motivations and skills that were a result of their upbringing. Well schooled in the genteel behaviors expected of young upper middle-class women, they displayed a devotion to their families, to God, and, although often expressed in benevolent and patronizing ways, to the wider community. Since their early years followed a pattern of training in femininity with emphasis on service to others, they grew up expecting to be of use to the wider society and engaged in productive work. While this helped provide a basis for their radical humanitarianism as adults and their commitment to the improvement of society, it also gave the foundation for the paradox of their joint lives: how might they disrupt the very society that gave them the privilege to be disrupters in the first place?
Angel of Joy and Comfort
An only child, Anna Rochester was born in 1880 on March 30 to Louise Agatha (Bamman) and Roswell Hart Rochester. While there is less information about Anna's mother, Louise, her father, Roswell, was renowned as the grandson of Colonel Nathaniel Rochester who founded the city that was his namesake. The Colonel died in poverty on the family farm, the same place where Roswell Rochester was raised. Roswell began work as a clerk at the Western Union Telegraph Company in Rochester and eventually became the treasurer of the company, amassing a great deal of wealth along the way. Baby Anna was born in the family home on Fifty-sixth Street and Seventh Avenue, New York City, and moved with her family to Chestnut Cottage in Englewood, New Jersey, when she was three years old. As an only child of older parents (Louise was thirty-five and Roswell forty years old when she was born), Rochester was surrounded by doting family, attendants, and servants. Named after her aunt, the baby was welcomed into a household with all the material securities and comforts of the time.
Louise recorded her daughter's life in a journal called the "AR Annals." Full of sentimental musings, this astonishing journal documented Anna Rochester's life from birth until young adulthood. It reflected a time when motherhood was justified as a full-time commitment and the family was increasingly being seen as a safe refuge from a cruel society. The writing in the journal is sentimental, includes notions of esteem, love, duty, and benevolence, and is heavy on pathos, the rhetoric of sympathy, pity, or compassion. However, even though the "AR Annals" is framed by cultural expectations and clichés of doting mothers and dutiful daughters, it is still very useful, not only because of the bulk of information about Rochester's childhood in terms of names and dates and activities, but also because it gives a glimpse of how an upper middle-class Victorian mother might have wanted to represent the normative expectations of motherhood. A reader besides Louise was expected since as the name "AR Annals" implies, it is a record of her daughter's life, not a personal journal.
With many religious appeals to a higher power, the writing style in the "AR Annals" is lofty and, interestingly, incorporates British spelling: a reflection of the Rochesters' elite status in New England society or perhaps Louise's birth origins. Louise refers to her daughter as "the dear child" long past her daughter's childhood, uses the third person to describe herself, and alternates between the proud mother, sick wife, and long-suffering widow. She writes of numerous health problems that included surgery on her eyes in 1884 and the removal of her left eye a year later in the hope of relief from headaches. Her health had especially deteriorated after a visit to Bermuda in 1887, a deterioration that left her fragile and chronically ill. These early years are full of Louise's domestic responsibilities managing a household and her daughter's care and education, her religious commitments, and entertaining and visiting. Summers were spent at various summer resorts and homes with family and friends, and traveling abroad. Roswell diligently worked long hours at the Western Union Telegraph Company and in philanthropic endeavors in New York and Englewood. Anna's arrival into this family came as a blessing and a disruption: a coddled, yet stubborn and willful child.
From the very beginning, Louise Rochester paints a picture of her daughter as very intelligent and strong willed. Anna was a determined toddler who grew into a bright and opinionated child. Louise reports that when her daughter was eighteen months old she had very clear convictions as to her wants and needs, demonstrated a particularly strong will with little patience and perseverance, and was unduly overassertive on many occasions. In response, Louise disciplined Anna in accordance with the expectations of respect and submission accorded to girl children of this era, and tried to bend the will of her determined little daughter with various forms of corporal punishment. Such obedience and respect for parental authority was socialized early into Victorian children by a combination of fear associated with physical punishment and the internalization of strict moral codes. Inappropriate behavior by children, and especially by daughters, who strayed from this path of submission to parental authority was dealt with quickly and sternly. For Anna, discipline was administered through appeal to a strict moral and religious code. Certain passages from the Bible were chosen to illustrate positive behaviors, and recitations were necessary to make sure that the principles of those behaviors were understood. It is not clear whether, by late twentieth-century standards, such "willful" demeanor might barely have evoked comment. For young Anna, however, these were important disciplinary lessons for the future.
Throughout her childhood, Rochester's strength of character continued to be an issue for Louise: it reflected the classic scenario of the mother who marveled at the strength of intellect and opinion of her daughter, yet wanted to mold her in her own image in order that the child and growing woman might avoid the pitfalls of a society that did not reward assertive and independent behavior in girls. Louise often articulated what she saw as a delicate balance of willful determination and stubborn principle in her daughter, exclaiming proudly that while young Anna showed great persistence in trying to carry her own point, there was always firm adherence to principle in all her actions. This principled aspect of her nature was to be a central organizing feature for Rochester's adult life.
The molding of little Anna's character and behavior in accordance with the expectations of upper middle-class daughters was strongly influenced by the family's devout religious faith. Louise documented her daughter's spiritual development carefully since such development was an important and expected part of feminine middle-class gentility. Christened in May 1880 in the Protestant Episcopalian Church of St. Paul's in Englewood, Anna attended her first church service at age five years, and was confirmed a couple of weeks before her fourteenth birthday. Going to Sunday School and saying her prayers were important aspects of her early life; biblical lessons were meant to provide guidance and build an honorable character. At her daughter's confirmation at St. Paul's in 1894, Louise remarked that "for so young a girl, she understands the reality of the sacrifices of the Savior and struggles very hard to overcome her faults." This religious observance of the moral codes of Christianity provided a structure for the "good" (i.e., simple, modest, decent, and in service to others) life: a lesson that was taught to her from a very early age, and, again, one serving as a strong guiding influence for her adult life.
In April 1883, the family moved to Chestnut Cottage in Englewood in order "to try the experiment of country living." Louise Rochester soon discovered that while Anna might be opinionated and willful, she was also very intelligent. When repairs and alterations were being made to the new house, Anna, then three years old, completely astonished her parents by drawing an accurate description of the cess-pool and describing it in an intelligent way. Louise continued to report on the precocious intellectual development of her daughter. One of her concerns was that she might become a mathematician, hardly a respectable occupation for a girl of her class and era: "Arithmetic is postponed because she knows too much of mathematics for her years and exercises her reasoning faculties more than is good for her."
While the reports of Anna's superior intelligence might more accurately have reflected the perceptions of a doting parent upon an only child, Rochester did grow up to become an accomplished scholar. And, despite the lack of encouragement in mathematics, she became a well-respected economist with a penchant for statistics. However, as a child she was definitely encouraged to exercise her analytic capabilities in her study of music. Louise reported her young daughter's love for the piano and her numerous recitals and developing musical expertise.
When Rochester turned nine years old she left the comfort of her private tutor and the local primary school to enter the Dwight School for Girls in Englewood. Here she followed a typical college preparatory course with a focus on the humanities and languages, and a strong emphasis on propriety, feminine decorum, and the social graces. By the time she was fifteen, she had made the decision to attend Bryn Mawr College because of its scholarly reputation, and, from then onwards, her studies were oriented toward the entrance exams, which she took and passed with flying colors. These academic gifts were rewarded by her position as class president during her senior year at Dwight and the winning of a scholarship for Bryn Mawr College: a prestigious academic honor and a substantial sum of money.
The material circumstances of Rochester's family allowed her to travel at a young age. These experiences were probably very formative for her as a child, giving her important educational experiences concerning the world around her and providing confidence and competencies that helped her mature. They also would most likely have reified her privilege as a white bourgeois American since such travel tended not to challenge the late-Victorian sense of world order. Like Hutchins, who also spent time abroad as a girl, Anna Rochester's world was expanded and her pleasures multiplied by the opportunity to travel. On the recorded trip to Great Britain, France, Switzerland, and Germany when Anna was sixteen years old, Louise made some interesting observations about her daughter:
She proved "a good traveller" in being exempt from sea-sickness, in adapting herself to irrecircumstances, in learning promptly and accurately what to do and how to do it, where to go and how to get there. She acquired a good acquaintance with architecture and the Fine Arts, with History and customs, as could reasonably be expected under the circumstances and in the time available.... But, although seriously warned before leaving home of her then gravest fault: imperious disposition, overwhelming confidence in her own judgment—lack of respect for other peoples' opinions if in any way opposed to her own—determination to carry her plans over all opposing opinions and obstacles. She assumed and re-assumed generalship in spite of rebukes to a degree exceedingly trying to others and discreditable to herself. It is very pleasant to note that, since her return home—assisted, doubtless by the sense of relief from responsibility!—she has radically reformed her manner in those respects and has suppressed herself in a very encouraging degree. [original emphasis]
Rochester's opinionated nature that led her to assume "generalship" was indeed very trying for her mother. Needless to say such behavior might be within the bounds of acceptable behavior, or even perhaps encouraged, should she have been a boy. However, as a girl, her "imperious disposition" contradicted the modesty and delicacies of acceptable feminine behavior. Louise often reported these gendered shortcomings alongside comments on her daughter's strong principles. One gets the impression that while Louise approved of the principle, she disapproved of its forthright expression. Such a tension continued in the relationship between Rochester and her mother throughout the daughter's young adulthood as the strong will and principled character matured, exacerbated most likely by the fact that Rochester took responsibility for a mother whose refined gentility and physical frailty rendered her relatively incompetent much of the time. The following describes young Anna at age eleven:
When she makes her rather frequent trips to the city with her mother for dentistry and other necessary business, she assumes responsibility which would be ridiculous except for the pathetic apology that her mother is timid in crowded streets on account of her blindness on the left side and Anna is sympathetically conscious of that but too considerate to mention it.
Louise seemed to have given her daughter mixed messages by socializing her in traditional ways and expecting her to undertake all the obligations of a dutiful daughter at the same time that she encouraged her intellectual growth (in certain areas). Years later Rochester recalled her mother giving her incentive for social activism: "Anna," she once said, "if I had your ideas, I'd want to do something about them." Perhaps in some way Louise was living vicariously through Anna since she herself most likely had received little to no education outside of private tutors. While these mixed messages might have bred resentment in Rochester, they seem not to have been publicly articulated. Probably this situation facilitated ambivalence toward Louise on Rochester's part, encouraged no doubt by Louise's own ambivalence about being female in a patriarchal culture. Certainly Rochester took this to heart and lived a life quite different from her mother's.
In Vera Brittain and Winifred Holtby: A Working Partnership, Jean Kennard proposes the psychoanalytic theory that romantic friendships like those between British writers Brittain and Holtby, or Hutchins and Rochester, result from an incomplete separation between mother and daughter and the ambivalence toward the mother on the part of the daughter. Following Chodorow's theory that the resolution of this conflict occurs through the reproduction of mothering as women work out their relationships with their mothers in relationships with their daughters, Kennard suggests that in this case the desire for connection is instead resolved through close female friendship:
A close friend can help to resolve the ongoing struggle of the woman with her mother. The friend as a second self provides a way of separating from the mother without rejecting the female self-image she represents, for the friend is after all a similar image. The friend, like the mother, provides connectedness but not a connection that is an obstacle to independence.
Kennard's suggestion is intriguing but not convincing. I have less faith in psychoanalytic explanations for a whole host of reasons; certainly, the realities of ambivalence on the part of the daughter toward the mother and the rewards of close female friendships are self-evident. The connections between these two are less clear. But female friendship would function to encourage female maturity, and especially autonomy, without breaking the bonds with the mother. A more likely sociological explanation is that women like Rochester and Hutchins experienced the myriad contradictions between the ideals of family life and the realities of the patriarchal family through the ambivalence they felt toward traditional motherhood. These early experiences of dissonance may have ultimately encouraged a rejection of such traditional roles and facilitated a different vision of womanhood, especially when it was a vision that could, and had, materialized for many women of the Progressive era.
Concerning Rochester's nontraditional journey, Louise wrote briefly of her fourteen-year-old daughter's somewhat rocky social development: "she takes as much pleasure in the society of grown people as in those of her own age. She is very critical of her acquaintances and has ceased to have special intimacy with any of her associates." But by Thanksgiving of that same year Louise reported that her daughter had given an evening party for both boys and girls, and, when Anna was sixteen, Louise said that "she is now—and has been for some time past—regarded as having a handsome face and fine carriage, but is apparently devoid of vanity as to her personal appearance. She has many warm friends of her own age and sex but shows little interest in general society." Louise implied here that Anna had girlfriends but displayed little interest in the social whirl of dating and courtship that probably filled the heads of many upper-class girls. Louise was quick to emphasize her daughter's "handsome face and fine carriage" (note she does not use "pretty" here; handsome is usually reserved for an older woman or someone male), and this phrase was juxtaposed with a description of Rochester's lack of vanity. All this paints the picture of a serious young woman, unimpressed perhaps by the superficialities of nineteenth-century femininity. This was in character with the adult whom Anna Rochester would become: an adult who would have little patience for "general society" as it related to the social scene, but much interest in general society meaning social and economic relationships. This latter entry by Louise in the "AR Annals" occurred right after the family had returned from their travels abroad in Europe. It was relatively common among prosperous families like the Rochesters to take a daughter on a grand tour of Europe prior to her "coming out" and entrance on the marriage scene.
A First-Family Boston Daughter
Grace Hutchins was born on August 19, 1885, in Boston, Massachusetts, in a large, gracious Beacon Street home lined with books and portraits. She was the third of three daughters born to Susan Barnes Hurd and Edward Webster Hutchins, although her sisters Louise and Helen died in 1887 when Grace was two years old. The cause of death of these children is not clear, although most likely they succumbed to one of the fatal childhood illnesses so common during this era. Two more children were born, both sons: Henry in 1889 and Edward in 1890, making Grace the eldest child and only daughter. The family was affluent and aristocratic, claiming colonial ancestry on both sides of their lineage. Grace's father was born in 1851 and graduated from Harvard Law School before entering his father's law practice. This firm, founded in 1844 by Henry C. Hutchins and Alex Wheeler, was one of the oldest and most prestigious in New England. Grace's mother, born in Charlestown in 1860, was a Colonial Dame and the daughter of Julia Edwards and Major Charles H. Hurd, a veteran of the Civil War. The Hurd/Hutchins families boasted ancestors who traveled to America prior to 1640 and who fought in both the American Revolution and the Civil War. Susan and Edward were married in Boston in December 1880.
The house at 166 Beacon Street, with its maids and tutors, provided a comfortable and privileged place for Grace to spend her childhood. The Hutchins summer home in Brooksville, Maine, with its fresh air and large garden, gave similar blessings, as well as friendship with the likes of Polly Porter, life-partner of New Deal politician Molly Dewson, who summered close by. Porter was orphaned during adolescence and she developed a close relationship with Hutchins's mother whom she called "Aunt Susy." Porter and Hutchins remained very good friends throughout their lives. As an adult Hutchins was often referred to as gracious and dignified; her roots in respectable upper-class Bostonian society gave her an edge and a quiet confidence. This upbringing provided the training in bourgeois feminine behavior: delicacy, grace, modesty, and piety. Like Rochester, Hutchins's adult life reflected this early training.
Despite their wealth and social prominence, or because of it, Susan and Edward Hutchins were responsible philanthropists as well as upright Bostonians. There was a strong benevolent tradition among privileged Bostonians, which Armory, in The Proper Bostonians, quips "is given to settle the well-known ever-gnawing Proper Bostonian conscience." After the deaths of her two elder daughters, Susan volunteered at the Baldwinsville Hospital for Crippled Children and also at the Home for Aged Women. She was active in the Society for Colonial Dames and local gardening clubs. As such she provided young Hutchins with an early role model for civic responsibility. Hutchins's father also provided an example of upstanding civic duty, founding the Legal Aid Society in Boston and working on various boards. Born during the beginning of the Progessive era, a period that historians often mark as the onset of contemporary America, Hutchins witnessed the influx of women into reform work. Like Rochester, but even more so since she was five years her junior, Hutchins was surrounded by women involved in public service.
As a young girl, Hutchins seems to have been a perfect pupil; her Primary Report reads that the eight-year-old had excellent study habits and was an inspiration to her class in always being faithful, reliable, and honest. When she progressed to Miss Folsom's School for Girls in Marlborough Street, Boston, she continued to show herself as a willing and able pupil who received an excellent report, earned by faithful and persistent work. She also showed a penchant for writing at an early age: "The alder by the river shakes out her powdery curls. The willow buds in silver for little boys and girls. The little birds fly over, and oh, how sweet they sing to tell the happy children that once again it's spring." This was penned in the most beautiful handwriting by Hutchins when she was seven years old, and was kept as an example of her "first story." She also created a small magazine entitled Children's Weekly, a volume that issued several numbers during the spring and summer of 1896. It contained stories, verse, jokes and riddles, as well as a series of astute remarks about neighboring families and community events. Hutchins included stories written by her childhood friend Hildegarde Allen as well as her own writing, but saw herself as editor-in-charge. The weeklies show a confident, literate child with a budding sense of humor, as well as a developing social commentary. Having brothers, she no doubt was exposed to the rough and tumble of boys, and, despite her schooling in femininity, seemed to have enjoyed outdoor adventures. She must have been a relatively athletic child given her college career in athletics, and she comes across as energetic and outgoing. Letters written to and received from her parents during these early years suggest that Hutchins enjoyed a caring and affectionate relationship with both and was especially close to her father.
A girl child born into privileged circumstances might expect nothing less for herself than to be part of the public effort to elevate society; certainly this rapidly changing world offered opportunities the like of which had not been experienced before by women of earlier generations. Surrounded by the genteel comforts and delicacies of nineteenth-century bourgeois life, girl children were expected to develop their empathetic and pious natures toward the elevation of family and society. Femininity was seen as a natural marker of their role as the conscience of industrial-corporate greed and governmental indifference. These were the times of Hutchins's girlhood—times that constrained her clearly within normative standards of femininity, yet gave her permission to do good deeds within a limited public domain in the very name of womankind. These good deeds were circumscribed by Hutchins's religious faith; like many of Boston's social elite, the Hutchinses were members of Trinity Episcopalian Church. As Rochester's father had been a vestryman of their church and president of the local Bible Society, so also Hutchins's father was a vestryman and senior warden of Trinity Church of Boston.
Hutchins also had the good fortune to travel in her youth. This provided invaluable education in the culture, history, art and politics of other societies, and facilitated independence, confidence, and poise. The first recorded trip overseas for Hutchins occurred when she was thirteen years old and gave her over six months away from home. From September 1898 to March 1899 she traveled extensively on this "around the world" trip with her parents. Letters sent to "Aunty Grace" (Hutchins's mother's sister, Grace Hurd Howell) were later typed and bound in a brown leather-covered book with the following inscription: "Letters of Travels, Around the World, by Grace Hutchins, September 11, 1898-March 28, 1899." The letters give a wonderfully detailed travel log written from the perspective of a thirteen-year-old child; they move between naïve wonder and excitement, and arrogant ethnocentric judgment. Even at such a young age, Hutchins's very beautiful prose describing these new surroundings was written with great delicacy. The tone of the writing is interesting; it moves between a feminized rhetoric that takes on a somewhat tentative and often circuitous tone, describing experiences in ways that imply rather than state, and then bold exclamations and judgments that revealed her youth and confidence, and established her individuality as an adventurous young explorer. These exclamations often disrupted the more descriptive writing and suggest a bright child with keen powers of observation and frank insight who was learning to adopt the stylized language appropriate for her gender and class.
This writing also portrays the ethnocentrism and arrogance with which wealthy white travelers observed the indigenous colonized people of the world, and young Hutchins often came across as snobbish, elitist, and racist. Whether she was describing "loafing Indians," the "most hideous monkey looking Chinamen," or the "open mouthed [Japanese] natives, nearly naked," the enormous race and class privilege of her situation contextualized all this writing. She accepted being the voyeur of all these different cultures, exclaiming that the Chinese steerage passengers were "rather interesting to watch" and the Japanese were "the most unmusical people in the world." They became "others" through her eyes and ears—her glance reflected the privilege of her race and class, and "normality," be it the modalities of music, dress, or aspects of personal hygiene, became squarely centered in her white, upper middle-class reality. The writing also illustrates the strong patriotism Hutchins felt as an American, and, perhaps, as a Boston loyalist. As such, her patriotism was especially directed against the English, whom she perceived as overly stuffy and putting on airs, ironically, perhaps, a first inkling of her intolerance for inherited wealth and power.
Surrounded by servants, agents, and guides, the family traveled from North America to Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Ceylon, Egypt and the Nile region, and on to Italy, Central Europe, and England before returning home. Hutchins's father, Edward Sr., appeared to have some business along the way, but the trip was definitely one intended for pleasure and education. Since travel was then, as today, considered a most invaluable education for young people, the trip was most likely timed for Hutchins, positioned as she was on the brink of womanhood.
The "Letters of Travels" begin with a description of the train journey from Boston to Vancouver, where their ship was moored. Grace wrote of the poverty and sheer desolation of the homesteads and settlements crossing the prairies, and the Indians, whom she deprecatingly characterized as wild people and passive loafers, hawking their wares while surrounded by dirty children. Awed by the beauty of the countryside, she captured the majesty of the Columbia gorge area with its "magnificent mountains towering overhead, covered with snow and glistening in the sun. Mountain brooks poured down their sides, leaping precipices and roaring through canyons to join the river. The train wound round mountains on a narrow ledge, now shooting through a tunnel to rocks and emerging into the sunshine again, now crossing a chasm many feet deep. Far below us ran the Columbia River, rushing over rocks, and tumbling down rapids doing its best to reach the ocean."
Overall, while this travel broadened her horizons and provided a crucial education, it most likely consolidated her sense of privilege and her ethnocentric attitudes. I believe this travel and the other trips she was able to make throughout her childhood whet her appetite for travel and adventure and were an important influence on her decision to work in the overseas mission. An unquestioned sense of her own privilege and a benevolent attitude toward those less fortunate than herself, coupled with a strong sense of adventure and devout Christian beliefs, were all useful, if not necessary, ingredients for her future life as a missionary. After several weeks sailing along the Nile and visiting and sight-seeing in Europe, Hutchins reluctantly prepared for her return to Boston with the strong desire to travel again.
Bryn Mawr Years
Founded in 1885, Bryn Mawr was a very young college when Anna Rochester entered its halls in 1897. Like the other Seven Sisters Colleges, Bryn Mawr was able to provide strong academic training comparable to that received by men of this period. Hutchins and Rochester were among the first women in the United States who were "purposefully educated to be full `political persons'." For the most part, Bryn Mawr College provided a supportive environment where young women could be challenged intellectually and create for themselves the foundation for a productive public life. This was the Bryn Mawr that Anna Rochester entered in 1897 and Grace Hutchins in 1903. The college gave women opportunities to form societies and clubs, learn organizational skills, and create networks and mentoring relationships crucial for women's later activities in the political sphere. Such an education also facilitated rhetorical skills through course work in the classics, composition, and elocution, as well as through literary, law, debate and other societies where women were encouraged to practice and fine-tune their skills in speaking and writing. Such instruction was considered essential for maintaining a practice of informed discourse within participatory democracy. Teachers saw educated women as future civic leaders who would exercise their "natural" moral influence.
Martha Carey Thomas (1857-1935), president of Bryn Mawr College from 1894 to 1921, was an exceptional woman who was devoted to furthering the advancement of women in society through education. Having received her B.A. from Cornell and her Ph.D. from the University of Zurich, Thomas became dean and professor of English at Bryn Mawr in 1885 and president of the college in 1894. She believed passionately that women should have the right to education and that they should find their "greatest happiness in congenial work." Hutchins reflected many years later, at her fiftieth class reunion, that Thomas encouraged them to think independently and be open-minded about new ideas and changes: "it helped us, I think, to have what has been called `the ability to meet whatever comes in the unknown tomorrow.'"
Suffrage clubs were present at all women's colleges, and at least at Bryn Mawr, the president of the college was enthusiastic about their presence. Indeed, Susan Walker Fitzgerald (Bryn Mawr class of 1893) was the recording secretary of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Many years later it was recalled that Hutchins developed suffragist sympathies while at college, and, even though these views seem not to have been acted upon in any official capacity, they were still distressing to her parents. Yet while young women's education during this period could hardly have avoided such important and timely issues as suffrage, for the most part this education was a classical one. Both Hutchins and Rochester took course work in history, languages, literature, and the classics, with a smattering of courses in the social and physical sciences. Hutchins majored in philosophy and English, while Rochester, initially interested in the classics, did not declare a major before she left the college in 1899.
For many students of this era, Christianity provided a moral code of conduct for thought and behavior and was an integral part of their lives. The Christian Union at Bryn Mawr provided a place for devout students to come together, study the Bible, pray, and organize lectures and speakers. When Hutchins entered Bryn Mawr in 1903 she seemed immediately to have found her niche in the Christian Union. Such an organization would have given her an immediate community, allowing an organized outlet for her religious devotion as well as a place for her to develop leadership skills and mature socially. She was an eager member of the union during her freshman year and was elected secretary for the Christian Union in 1904-1905. She then became the treasurer the following year, and president during her senior year. Presidential activities in the union involved making speeches, organizing lectures and sermons, and teaching Bible classes. The Recorder, published monthly by the Christian Union, also described its Christian-inspired social reform endeavors.
Hutchins was well known at college as an outstanding all-around athlete and, according to her, known more for her athletic prowess than academic accomplishments. These athletic accomplishments were impressive: avid tennis player and winner of the Tennis Tournament cup in 1906, captain of both the basketball and baseball teams for her class, and captain of the varsity basketball team. She played on her class hockey team all through college and, at least in 1905, for the varsity team. She was also a member of the committee for managing varsity practice times. She competed in track, participating in relay and tug-of-war, and threw the shot put 24 feet 6 inches, receiving second place in a 1906 tournament. Alongside athletics, Hutchins also participated in the Law Club, functioned as secretary in 1905, and was a regular debater during their debates. Life for her at Bryn Mawr sounded rich and full. Active in so many extracurricular activities, she seemed to have eagerly accepted leadership positions. She comes across as energetic, confident, and outgoing.
While there are no mentions in any of Hutchins's memoirs of any relationships with boys or potential male suitors during these years before or during Bryn Mawr (which of course does not imply that there were not any), Hutchins seemed to have had strong friendships with women. There is one scrap of a letter left from this earlier period that records an intense friendship with a girl named Margaret Reeve, whom Hutchins met at college. In a letter that dates to the fiftieth class reunion in 1957, Margaret Reeve Carey wrote of Hutchins's upcoming birthday to be spent at Rockport by the sea and recalled some fond memories of their times together at Cape Rosier near Castine, close to Hutchins's summer home, "Fir Cones":
But I hope for you as for me crying gulls on rocks bring back the wonderful picture of the rocks at Cape Rosier, those rocks scented with blue-berry bushes and sweet fern, and the gulls far below in the bay calling as we prayed and studied together and were in a beautiful communion with one another. Never do I see gulls clustered on rocks and crying their beautiful inimitable cry but I am back there with you. They were the days of a perfect friendship, of completely shared lives and thoughts, and forever they will be one of the most vivid and most precious intervals in my life. Never to be forgotten intervals. So I love to think about you at Rockport, so different from lonely and lovely Cape Rosier, listening to those gulls and remembering, too, remembering with nostalgea [sic] and love the gulls of cold Penobscott Bay.
Compared to Hutchins, there is a distinct silence surrounding Rochester's two years at Bryn Mawr from 1897 to 1899. Rochester did not hold leadership positions in clubs or organizations, and there is no record of any extracurricular participation. Relatively shy and less outgoing than Hutchins, it seems Rochester invested less in the community. However, her eventual decision to leave Bryn Mawr concerned her mother's well-being when her father died unexpectedly over Thanksgiving, 1897, during one of her first visits home. Roswell's death was very hard on Louise, who, throughout the many years that she wrote the "AR Annals" had commented about her own ill health and loss of sight. Eventually the strains of widowhood were too much for her, and, demonstrating those classic feminine, upper-class, Victorian traits of delicacy and nervous sensibility, she responded with a mental and physical collapse. At first, Rochester stayed on at Bryn Mawr and her mother survived her absence, though only barely. In the journal Louise used many conventionalized appeals to sympathy in reporting this difficult period of her life. Her daughter was the dear child likened to an angel, her departed spouse, the beloved husband. Her own role was that of the grieving, abandoned widow attempting to carry through on her husband's dying wish. There was much intense feeling in her representation of these emotions; the reader is invited to share her feelings of nostalgia and wistful loneliness in being parted from both her husband and her child, and to experience her great joy when she was together again with Anna: "the visit is like that of an angel of joy and comfort." In this writing between 1897 and 1899, Louise comes across as chronically ill, fragile, and dependent: a conventionalized role for middle-class widows of this period.
In the fall of 1898, at the beginning of Anna's sophomore year, Louise had to face seeing her daughter return to college. Then, after the Christmas vacation, Louise suffered a swift emotional and physical deterioration and eventually another nervous collapse. This led to Rochester taking on the classic role of the devoted care-giving daughter, evident in her writing to her mother about leaving Bryn Mawr after the second term of her sophomore year in order to take full responsibility for Louise's care: "I do so wish that you would let me do what I want and not come back to college but devote myself to making you happy." Louise's condition seemed to have been caused more by depression and loneliness than physical factors. In the following quote, the question mark after Louise's use of the term "misfortune" to describe her plight leaves ,open for speculation whether she eventually saw her collapse as less of a Misfortune than a blessing since it led to her daughter's return home:
Anna's mother had the misfortune (?) to show unmistakable signs of nervous collapse about April first.... On the dear daughter's return from college May 7th—the enclosed letter [in the "AR Annals"] was sent to her mother. It is needless, perhaps, to recount that her mother prized that letter above all things that the daughter had ever written before. The solicitation of friends and relatives were so strongly in favor of Anna's plan, that with many a pang of being obliged to give up the cherished hope of fulfilling the beloved husband's desires regarding her education, [she] has decided to stay here.... May God who directs our paths, grant that the noble sacrifice made by the dear child may so enrich her character, that the loss of the two subsequent years of college may be as nothing compared with the joy of the sacrifice.
Despite this interruption in her studies and being cast in the role of companion and caretaker, events proved somewhat fortuitous for Rochester as she and Louise left Englewood for extended travels in Europe. The summer of 1899 was spent in England, and then travels continued to Austria, where they spent the winter, and where Rochester was schooled as a concert pianist. Alongside her studies, she "had to be nurse as well as student and performer at the galleries and opera houses, [since] her mother collapsed, utterly, and stayed in bed six full months." After visits to Antwerp, Paris, and several cities in Italy, Louise and Anna returned to their new home at Pine Lodge, Englewood, in November 1900.
Louise continued to express guilt and regret that her daughter was not able to graduate with the class of 1901. Her writings on this issue are loaded with sentimental and nostalgic thoughts. No doubt the journal was a place for her to record feelings of remorse that her daughter had been prevented from receiving her degree, and to assuage any guilt feelings through sentimental expression, attempts to invoke the sympathy of the reader, and appeals to a higher power. In May of 1901, while Rochester was visiting her classmates at the college prior to their graduation, Louise wrote,
As the time for the graduation draws near, she little knows, with what regret and sorrow her mother mourns again that she (the dear child) can not take her place with the others, where she would have shone brightly, and receive her diploma which the dearly beloved husband and father had planned for her to hold—But He knows best.
When Rochester was setting out for Europe with her mother, Hutchins had just returned from European travels with her family. Both were launched into adulthood as dutiful daughters: religious, genteel, educated and well traveled. As the first decade of the twentieth century came to an end, Hutchins and Rochester faced relatively bright futures, even though these futures were bordered by the constraints of nineteenth-century femininity. And they were in good company: thousands of similarly placed women had graduated from women's colleges and were looking forward to productive careers. While, unlike Hutchins and Rochester, most of these women did eventually marry, the precedent had been set for women to anticipate a lifetime of service outside the home in the company of other women. Single women devised new ways of living in community with each other: in settlement houses, religious communities, and women's colleges, as well as in less structured communal arrangements, where they were able to enjoy emotional benefits and an environment conducive for networking and mentoring. In these segregated spaces, women like Hutchins and Rochester learned to live in community with each other, developing bonds of emotional intimacy and important networks for public service. Their desire and ability to live in community with each other were influenced by the frequency and acceptance of same-sex pairing, which, at that time (prior to the 1930s), was not necessarily equated with sexual love. Not yet having met each other, Hutchins and Rochester most likely sought to escape the constraints of marriage and enjoy such companionship of women through their personal ideologies of religious duty and service.
In this way, Hutchins and Rochester emerged into the twentieth century loaded with the gendered and class-related baggage of late-Victorian society. However, at the same time, privileged and educated, they were able to enjoy the precedent set by the hoards of educated, unmarried women who were moving into public life in service of others. This notion of service, inherited from families concerned with philanthropy, was a way of reconciling the contradictions between their personal and professional ambitions and their feminine upbringing. It was a paradox for them to be so situated as religious, devoted, and so thoroughly grounded in the delicacies of middle-class femininity, yet bright, ambitious women who did not (perhaps unconsciously) want to replicate their mothers' lives. The discourses that emerged with the unfolding of a new century allowed women like Hutchins and Rochester to be constructed as historical markers for this emerging modern period, integrating the contradictions of the period and working through them by putting energies and ambitions into feminine areas of public service. Rochester began reform work with children and families and Hutchins embarked on missionary work overseas.
|Part One: Dutiful Daughters|
|1. Early Years||11|
|2. Social Reform||35|
|3. Missionary Zeal||53|
|Part Two: Christian Socialists|
|4. Sisterhood of the Smiling Countenance||73|
|5. Christian Justice||97|
|6. The Happy Travelers||121|
|Part Three: Old Left Loyalists|
|7. A New Faith||151|
|8. Party Intellectuals||177|
|9. What's Past Is Prologue||203|
|About the Author||291|