Co-Education At Oberlin -- By: James H. Fairchild

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 046:183 (Jul 1889)
Article: Co-Education At Oberlin
Author: James H. Fairchild


Co-Education At Oberlin

Rev. James H. Fairchild

Since the establishment of Oberlin College, in 1833, the system of co-education, first introduced here, has been widely adopted in the land, and now prevails in most of the western colleges, including the state universities. The older colleges have not generally adopted the plan, but in the newer institutions, even as far east as Boston, the system has been hospitably entertained; while in the older colleges, by means of annexes and similar appliances, the effort is made to extend the advantages of the higher education to young women. Doubtless the success which has attended the arrangement at Oberlin has had some influence in promoting this extension; yet it is true that the plan of co-education as introduced into many of the larger schools, especially the state universities, is quite a different system from that which has been maintained here during the fifty-five years of the existence of the College. It has been thought that a statement of the methods employed in the experiment at Oberlin might be, in a measure, useful at this time; and I have been asked by the editors of the Bibliotheca Sacra to prepare such a statement.

Co-education at Oberlin did not originate in any radically new idea of the sphere and work of woman. The movement in this direction in the country is later than the establishment of co-education here. It is doubtless true that the work here has been modified more or less by the general change of view upon the subject abroad. But the original idea of the founders was, to bring young

men and young women together in the school, essentially after the fashion of a New England academy. The earliest circular makes the following announcement: “The Female Department, under the supervision of a lady, will furnish instruction in the useful branches taught in the best female seminaries; and its higher classes will be permitted to enjoy the privileges of such professorships in the Teachers’, Collegiate, and Theological Departments as shall best suit their sex and prospective employment,—Pupils may enter the Female Seminary for one term only, but none can enter the higher departments without expressing the determination to pursue such a course as the Faculty shall direct…..The Preparatory School and Female Seminary may be entered at any age above eight;1 the Teachers’ and Collegiate Departments cannot be entered under fourteen.” The idea undoubtedly was, to have a female seminary which should constitute a distinct department of the school; but this idea was never realized. In a letter by Mrs. Dascomb, the first principal of this department, in which she gave to her friends at the...

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