Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
College History

Academics

1834

Wheaton is born

Eliza Wheaton Strong, the only daughter of Judge and Mrs. Laban Wheaton, died at the age of 39, on March 25. The judge's daughter-in-law, Eliza Baylies Chapin Wheaton, educated at the Boston Ladies High School, convinced him to found a female seminary in memory of his daughter. The family consulted noted educator Mary Lyon about curriculum, rules, and policies for the fledgling seminary. Laban Morey Wheaton, son and only surviving child of the Judge and Mrs. Wheaton, and husband of Eliza Baylies Chapin Wheaton, oversaw the construction of a classroom building, later called Seminary Hall.

Seventy years later, Eliza Baylies Wheaton described the circumstances of the Seminary's founding somewhat differently.

Clara M. Pike, a teacher in [the] Seminary, to whom Mrs. Wheaton was deeply attached, asked her if the thought of such a school was first suggested to her by Mrs. Strong's death. "Oh, no! no!" she said with emphasis, and added that even before her marriage she had felt the need of better education for girls. It was, therefore, her earnest outlook on life, even in girlhood, her sincere desire to realize her high ideals, both for herself and for other girls, that made her ready for the opportunity when it came; and, when it came, there was no flinching from it, though we may doubt if it was altogether easy for her to make that suggestion to the dignified and grief-stricken old man. That she could make it, and that it was acted upon, speaks eloquently for the place she had already won for herself in her husband's family. No doubt it was her unselfishness that made her plea effective, for in the end all the portion of Judge Wheaton's property that was to have been Mrs. Strong's was given to the Seminary, whereas, in the natural course of things, it would have come to Mrs. Wheaton's own husband, so that in a certain sense, the money itself may be said to have been the gift of Mrs. Wheaton. Both Judge Wheaton and his son yielded completely to her influence in this matter, and the Seminary became one of the chief interests in their lives.

[Harriet E. Paine, The Life of Eliza Baylies Wheaton, Cambridge: The Riverside Press, 1907, p. 64-65]

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