Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
College History



Martha E.W. Vose

When Eliza Knight became the principal in 1838, she brought with her as a teacher her prize pupil from Ipswich Seminary, Martha Vose. Vose’s connections to Wheaton included her aunt, Catherine Vose, who attended the seminary in Norton during its first year. It made sense that Miss Vose would succeed Knight when the opportunity presented itself.

Miss Vose maintained or exceeded normal enrollment rates during her term according to the Board. She also stressed that her teachers advise their students to realize “one thing well learned, is better than a dozen, half committed and not half comprehended.” With this as her motto, it is no surprise that her pupils were required to write reviews of all four subjects every third or fourth lesson.

Martha Eliza Waldo Vose (1816-1903), a 6th generation descendant of Pilgrim John Alden, was born in Lancaster, MA in 1816. She resigned from Wheaton's principalship in 1842, and on Oct. 18, 1847, she married the Reverend Alfred Emerson, in Andover, MA.  Emerson was a grandson of the Reverend Joseph Emerson, the famous mentor of Mary Lyon and advocate for women’s education, whose teachings influenced the seminaries in Bradford, Ipswich, Norton, and South Hadley.

Martha herself continued to influence the Seminary via her friendship with Mrs. Wheaton, including promoting the hiring of Elizabeth Cate as principal in 1847, and of A. Ellen Stanton as principal in 1880. Alfred Emerson became one of the most influential of Wheaton Seminary’s trustees, and the couple were frequent visitors in the Wheaton Homestead. Their two daughters graduated from and taught at Wheaton. Annie Austin Emerson, born in 1851 in Reading, MA, graduated from Wheaton in 1871, and taught Mathematics and English Branches from 1872-1876.  She died in Dorchester, MA, in 1898. Frances Vose Emerson was born in Hudson, OH in 1855, graduated from Wheaton in 1872, taught Literature, Rhetoric, and History from 1881-1886, and became a Wheaton Trustee. She died in 1949.

Martha Vose Emerson died in Brookline, MA, in 1903. Emerson Dining Hall, built in 1908, is named for the family.

A later alumna commented on the “queenly” Martha Vose’s “flashing eyes and nimble wit.” At her funeral service, Martha Vose Emerson was described as a “woman of unusual strength and sweetness,” and a “power for good in all the relations of life.”

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