New York City – Hunter College – 1870-1920

HUNTER COLLEGE celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of its founding February 14th, 1920, and continued the celebration for four days. It was founded as a school for the higher education of girls, and when opened as Normal College in 1870 was the only public high school for girls in the city. Nothing illustrates the wonderfully rapid progress of women toward equality with, or perhaps we should say superiority to, men than the history of this college. Commencing on the third floor of the building at Broadway and Fourth Street with only a few class rooms separated by sliding doors, the institution has grown to its present commanding position as one of the most important and necessary public institutions in the city. It was just about this time, too, that women’s clubs began to take root. Sorosis, which included the female talent of our old city at that time, was becoming famous, and was sharply challenging the intellectual prowess of men; and there were others, some weak and some strong, but all giving evidence of that new force coming into the life of the world which has already brought about such unexpected and amazing changes.

So that the men who conceived the idea of a school for the higher education of women had long-sighted vision and sensed the need of their time with perfect accuracy; but like all men of vision they were beset by a host of obstructionists who could see no good in such a movement. After all it is the young men who dream dreams and see visions that lead the rest of us up to the heights. And such a young man evidently was Thomas Hunter, a teacher in one of the public schools. He recognized the need of the higher education, particularly for those young women who aspired to become teachers, and it was for this purpose primarily that Normal College was established. He agitated the subject in season and out of season, until ultimately the Board of Education authorized the establishment of a school for girls in 1869, and on February 14, 1870, it became an accomplished fact, It was no sooner opened than its success became apparent even to the most obstinate objectors; and the enthusiasm of Mr. Hunter, who became President of the college, and the devotion of Miss Lydia F. Wadleigh, his assistant, really the first woman worker in the movement, carried the work along with such gratifying results that within a year a new building adequate to the needs of the school was decided upon. The site obtained was that of the present Hunter College, and the brick building which stands there now was erected. The opening of the college took place September, 1873.

The name of Normal College was changed to that of Hunter College in 1914 in honor of the man who founded it and was its president from the beginning until he retired in 1905. His successor, Dr. George Samler Davis, is a man of erudition and well qualified to direct the greater and broader work of a college of the twentieth century. He was a superintendent of education under Dr. William H. Maxwell, and acquitted himself in that position with distinction. He continued the work of his predecessor and carried it to its logical conclusion by giving the college the full four-year collegiate course leading to an A. B. degree. This important work President Davis accomplished in 1909, and the college under his direction has become the chief source of teacher sup-ply and, consequently, a great influence in our public school system.

A feature of the four-day celebration was the exhibit of a photograph of the graduating class of each year from 1870 to 1920, showing the styles of wearing apparel of women, from the hoopskirts and wide sleeves of the early days to the distinguishing cap and gown of our own time. Hunter College has made a fine record and New Yorkers are justly proud of the institution.