The late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were a time of
great change in terms of the evolving social, economic, and governmental
structures in the United States. Two major wars occurred, the American
Revolution and the War of 1812. The economy shifted from a barter market
to a cash one. As a result of these and other changes, education
received greater emphasis. Americans viewed the ability to read, write,
and compute mathematical equations as necessary to take part in modern
society. Likewise, the new nation needed an informed citizenry.
Education was seen as a means to achieve these ambitions. It was during
this time that women, usually elite white women, gained access to a
variety of higher educational opportunities. Hundreds of academies and
seminaries, coeducational and single-sex, shaped the landscape. (1) In
addition, state normal schools opened and flourished. (2)
It was at the first state normal school established in Lexington,
Massachusetts in 1839 that Rebecca Pennell began her studies and
thereafter launched her professional career in Massachusetts"
common schools. (3) According to historians Robert Riegel, Lucile
Addison Pollard, and Paul Buchanan, Pennell became one of the first
women professors in the United States when she taught at the
coeducational Antioch College in Ohio. (4) She also was one of the
earliest women faculty members in the United States to earn equal pay
with her male colleagues. (5) Before her retirement, Pennell also had a
ten-year career at the Mary Institute at Washington University in St.
Louis. (6) In addition to the groundwork that Pennell laid in the
advancement of women in higher education, she was described as strong
and innovative in the area of sciences. (7) This paper explores
Pennell's remarkable life experiences and the opportunities and
challenges she encountered as she held positions historically denied to
most women. The paper suggests that Horace Mann, a notable educator and
relative, along with members of his circle, supported Pennell's
career; and she was further sustained by a network of women whom she met
during her initial studies. This paper considers these various social
affiliations in an effort to make sense of and view more broadly
Pennell's undertakings and advancement in the education profession.
Rebecca Pennell was born in 1821 in Utica, New York, the daughter
of Rebecca Mann Pennell and Calvin Pennell, who married in 1815. (8) She
had three siblings--an older brother, Calvin, and two younger sisters,
Eliza and Marcia. As a young child, she lived in Deerfield, New York,
which was an area of growing commerce. When Pennell was four years old,
her father died and her mother moved back to her childhood home in
Franklin, Massachusetts. (9)
Rebecca's mother was the sister of the prominent Horace Mann
and had a strong relationship with him. She faithfully listened to Mann
recite his lessons from a Noah Webster grammar book when he was a child,
typically while she undertook her chores. (10) Mann took a particular
interest in the education of his nieces and nephew after their
father's death, and provided them with financial support. (11)
Pennell remembered him as a loving figure during her childhood years,
someone she and her siblings fiercely admired, though this also was a
time when Mann was busy beginning a law career. Pennell's mother
once wrote to Mann, "I do not wish anyone to love you more than my
children do." (12)
During Pennell's childhood Mann married his first wife,
Charlotte Messer, who was the daughter of the president of Brown
University. Messer died two years later at the age of twenty-three. (13)
This was a tragic period for Mann, though Pennell recalled that he
continued his career which led to his appointment as Secretary of the
Massachusetts Board of Education in 1837, leadership in the common
school movement, and the development of many normal schools. (14) These
events not only shaped Mann's life, but Pennell's as well.
Teacher Training Experiences
On November, 18, 1839, at the age of eighteen, Pennell began her
studies at the first state normal school, along with her younger sister,
Eliza. (15) This institution, as well as the others that followed, were
established to provide regulated teacher preparation and produce an
assemblage of trained educators to meet the needs of the growing common
school movement. Mann introduced Pennell to the normal school as he was
involved in the school's founding and was a regular visitor.
Pennell, who had started to work as a substitute teacher at the age of
fourteen, was eager to continue her studies there. (16)
The school located in the center of the town of Lexington, was a
two-story, white building topped with an attic. (17) In front of the
building stood a tall granite monument that had been erected in memory
of the American Revolution. A Unitarian church was located nearby as
well as a tavern. The setting was a quintessential nineteenth century
New England village.
On her first day of enrollment, Pennell participated in natural and
mental philosophy classes as well as physiology. She met the school
principal and teacher, Cyrus Peirce, as well as his wife, Harriet.
Pennell also was introduced to other members of the first class of
students, including Mary Swift, Lydia Stow, and Louisa Harris, with whom
she quickly formed a social network. (18) These young students, from
Quaker, Unitarian, and Congregationalist backgrounds, were intrigued by
their studies. They also were extremely aware of the role of their class
within the larger normal school movement. Indeed, Norton noted, "A
bitter controversy raged about these institutions [normal schools]
during their early years, and especially during the years 1839-1842.
Their success in Massachusetts was uncertain; hence they were set up at
first merely as a three-year experiment." (19)
In addition to participating in the study of core academic
subjects, Pennell studied the art and science of teaching. She took part
in the model school, located on the first floor of the normal school
building, where she taught children practice lessons. In the evenings,
she participated in study periods, sewing circles, and reading groups.
Pennell's grounding in science dated back to her normal school
education, when she learned about botany with Harriet Peirce, wife of
Cyrus Peirce. Mrs. Peirce, a kind woman with dark, penetrating eyes, was
well liked by the students. (20) She had a keen interest in botany,
which was one of the most popular scientific studies at this time.
Female writers explored the subject in books such as Botanical Catechism
by Jane Welsh and Wild Flowers, Drawn and Colored from Nature by Almira
H. L. Phelps. (21) Though Harriett Peirce was not officially a normal
school teacher, she interacted with the students on a recurring basis.
Pennell also studied other science courses such as natural philosophy
and astronomy with Cyrus Peirce. The middle of the nineteenth century
was marked by an increased interest in the sciences, an area in which
Pennell excelled. (22)
Scripture was woven into the daily prospectus for normal school
students. It was typical for Cyrus Peirce to start each day with a
reflection on a reading of the Bible. In addition, the students listened
to lectures on transcendentalism and phrenology that were facilitated by
leading educators such as George Combe, author of The Constitution of
Man in Relation to External Objects and Moral Philosophy. (23) Students
also visited the common schools at which their peers were offered
positions, traveled with them, and stayed with their families. Pennell,
along with her sister, Eliza, stayed with Lydia Stow's family on
one such occasion. The following entry was recorded in Stows journal:
Cyrus Peirce encouraged the students "to live to the
truth," a statement the students embraced and often repeated during
the years that followed. (25) As the bonds grew among the students, they
captured and incorporated Peirce's philosophical ideas into their
sense of sisterhood.
For fourteen months, Pennell arose each day at 6 a.m., attended to
chores, studied and taught, walked with normal school students for
physical exercise on breaks, as well as participated in appropriate,
albeit limited leisure activities. On December 22, 1840 she completed
the program, unsure of the future course of her life. Her sister, Eliza,
had been sick during the weeks prior to the completion of their studies,
adding to a sense of unsettledness. Perhaps, however, there was some
foreshadowing as to where Pennell's path would lead. On December 2,
1840, a few weeks prior to her departure from the normal school, Peirce
commented on Acts 11:26 of the New Testament. "All the disciples
were called Christians first in Antioch." Though Pennell did not
yet know it, she too would come to know her own Antioch located in
Yellow Springs, Ohio--a place where she would serve as professor. After
Peirce had read the scripture, Pennell offered a sentiment.
"Goodness without greatness is better than greatness without
goodness." (26) Pennell, however, perhaps did not envision how
one's life trajectory could be marked by both.
Teacher in the Common Schools
After finishing her normal school studies, Pennell and her sister,
Eliza, eventually secured joint positions at a school in New Bedford, a
growing Massachusetts city with a thriving whaling industry. Pennell was
recommended for that position by Cyrus Peirce, who considered her a
Pennell did not immediately accept the position, but instead waited
for consultation with her mother and "Uncle," as suggested in
a letter from George Baker to Horace Mann.
Pennell's family was a powerful network in her life. In the
case of this career opportunity, Mann negotiated a salary of two hundred
dollars for Pennell, and after a series of conversations she also was
named the principal of the school which served ninety girls.
Pennell's sister, Eliza, became an assistant teacher. (29) Pennell
also taught in positions in Franklin, Mansfield, and Walpole. Her
teaching evaluations were consistently excellent and noted as such in
school committee reports. (30)
Horace Mann and the individuals with whom he formed new
relationships also mentored Pennell. In 1843, Mann became engaged and
married a second wife, Mary Peabody. (31) After a year-long honeymoon
abroad, they set up house and lived in West Newton. Through Mann's
marriage, Pennell furthered her connections to notable educators of the
time. Mary Peabody Mann was the sister of Elizabeth Peabody, a teacher
and founder of the kindergarten movement in the United States. Mary also
was the sister of Sophia Peabody, a painter, who married Nathaniel
Hawthorne. (32) Following their honeymoon, Horace Mann and Mary began a
family which yielded three sons--Horace, George and Benjamin. Pennell
met and interacted with members of Mann's extended family and in
the process was exposed to nineteenth century ideas about a variety of
topics, including education.
Teacher in the Normal Schools
In October of 1846 Pennell transitioned to teaching in the
coeducational Westfield Normal School, which was the second state normal
school established in Massachusetts. Pennell worked with a small number
of other faculty members under the leadership of Principal David Rowe.
(33) Rothermel, a Westfield historian, described the coeducational
environment at Westfield as one where teachers, regardless of gender,
were seen as "molders of community--as shapers of moral and civic
consensus--in and out of the classroom." (34) At Westfield the idea
of teacher as nurturer ran alongside the idea of teacher as intellect.
(35) Students undertook advanced work in subjects such as philosophy,
natural sciences, and rhetoric. These were subjects that Pennell had
studied when she was a student at the normal school in Lexington.
Pennell continued her work at Westfield until 1849. She then joined the
faculty of the West Newton Normal School where she taught until 1853.
The West Newton Normal School located near the Mann residence,
actually was the first state normal school at which she initially had
studied. It relocated from Lexington to West Newton as a larger building
was needed for the students. The location in West Newton also was
promising as it was near a train station. For a short time, Pennell may
have worked with Cyrus Peirce, who resigned from the school in 1849. She
then worked with the new principal, Eben Steams, who tightened the
admission requirements. It was at West Newton Normal School that Pennell
taught and then later worked with Lucretia Crocker, a gifted student and
colleague. Indeed, when Stearns took a leave of absence from the school
for health reasons, Pennell and Crocker along with another faculty
member, Ms. Whittemore, were left in charge of the normal school. (36)
One student reflected on them as a "trio of gifted and lovely women
whom I was so fortunate as to call my teachers." (37)
During Pennell's tenure at the West Newton Normal School, she
resided with Mann and his family. Her mother died in 1850 and Pennell
turned to Mann increasingly as a father figure. This proved to be a
difficult living arrangement, however, as Mary Mann was upset over
Horace Mann's affectionate inquiries about Pennell. (38) Mary Mann
also was guarded about Pennell's interactions with her own
children, as suggested in a letter that she wrote to Horace Mann
regarding Pennell's travels with their son, George.
This difficulty between Mary Mann and Pennell was a preview for
more that would develop between them.
During this time, Catharine Beecher and Henry Ward Beecher were
guests at the Mann household. Their visits enabled Pennell to interact
with notable educators and further exposed her to diverse ideas about
the role of women in education. Catharine Beecher, for example, believed
that single women could express their feminine virtues by teaching. She
further believed that women were natural teachers. Beecher's
sentiments about the role of women in education were similar to those of
Pennell's Move to Antioch College and Work as a Professor
In 1848 Horace Mann resigned from his post as Secretary of
Education and became a member of the United States House of
Representatives. In 1852 he accepted the role of president of the newly
founded coeducational Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Mann
initially was unsure about accepting the post, cautioned by friends such
as Catharine Beecher who was wary of the quality of the students the
college would attract. Mann, however, lost a gubernatorial election in
Massachusetts during this time and was searching for a new career. (40)
Once he accepted the role of president of Antioch, he appointed Rebecca
Pennell and her brother, Calvin, as professors. On April 10, 1853,
Louisa Harris, one of Pennell's normal school peers, visited her at
the Mann residence and discussed Pennell's future work at Antioch,
as well as considered relocating herself.
Though thirteen years had passed since they had completed their
normal school studies, they continued to meet and support each other.
Calvin also wrote to his sister at this time regarding his
expectations for joining Antioch and reservations about his
Pennell was appointed to the college with excellent teaching
evaluations; however, those of her brother were less exemplary. For
example, in 1848, he was accused of whipping one of his students. (43)
As the first woman college professor on the faculty at Antioch, and
likely one of the first women professors in the United States, Pennell,
at age thirty-one, taught physical geography, natural history, civil
history, didactics, and drawing. Her selection of courses expanded over
time to include subjects such as botany and zoology. (44) As a result of
Mann's negotiations with the trustees, Pennell was one of the
earliest women college professors in the United States to be awarded the
same salary as her male colleagues. Equal salaries at Antioch College,
however, were not to be a reality for other woman faculty who joined the
institution, an inequality which Pennell noticed. The trustees suggested
that the men be paid eight hundred dollars a year, and the women
faculty, only five hundred. (45)
According to historians John Rury and Glenn Harper,
"Coeducation at Antioch was to be a 'Great Experiment' in
correcting the wrongs that women's education had suffered."
(46) This, however, did not mean that men and women were educated as
equals. Mann, influenced by his Calvinistic upbringing, developed rules
to "govern the relationships of men and women students, which
abrogated much of the spirit of coeducation even if it did not affect
formal matters of curriculum or what occurred in classrooms." (47)
Women, for example, were not allowed to travel to the village by
themselves, nor were they allowed to exercise on the men's
gymnastic equipment. In addition, the expectation was that men and women
would form separate literary societies. "The decision not to permit
men and women to meet together in the same literary society aroused a
good deal of hard feeling, particularly on the part of women
students." (48) For Pennell, this was a sharp contrast to her
experiences at Westfield Normal School where male and female students
participated together in the literary society. Indeed, Rothermel noted,
"In its early years Westfield offered its female members
significant opportunities to participate in mixed company in typically
masculine rhetorical activities like public debate." (49) The
literary society at Westfield later became a more gender-conscious
organization that closely resembled that of Antioch.
In general, Pennell's teaching evaluations at Antioch were
excellent. Her science classes were particularly innovative. She often
would take her students outside where they would examine plant
specimens. Though Pennell's work at Antioch primarily focused on
teaching, she also assisted with the recruitment of new faculty. In
August 1854, she wrote to Mann from New York to let him know that a Mr.
Craig had agreed to join the faculty.
This letter pleased Mann as he admired Craig and his religious
ideals. He also thought that Craig would make an excellent president of
Antioch at a future time. (51) Pennell was joined at Antioch by her
former student and colleague from the West Newton Normal School,
Lucretia Crocker, who became the head of the mathematics department.
(52) Pennell undoubtedly facilitated Crocker's introduction to the
college. In recruiting some of the faculty, Pennell drew on the social
networks she had formed with other normal school peers.
At the age of thirty-four and to the surprise of her family and
peers, Pennell married the assistant treasurer of Antioch, Amos Dean.
From the beginning, the Mann family thought he was not suitable for
Rebecca. Indeed, on the day of Pennell's wedding, Mann was visibly
upset. (53) His relationship with Pennell's husband continued to
Though Pennell was content with her choice of a marriage partner,
her life was filled with tension during this time. Disagreements arose
between the religious groups at Antioch College, which led to a general
sense of unsettledness. There also were tremendous financial problems,
which led to a lack of regular salaries for the faculty. (55) The
financial worries consumed Pennell, even while she traveled overseas
with her husband during the summer of 1856, following their wedding.
Pennell wrote home with possible suggestions for fundraising.
During this stressful period, Pennell's husband was accused of
falsifying financial records. His commissions were scrutinized and
probed. Subsequently the reputation of Pennell was questioned which led
to conflict between Pennell and Mann and subsequently between Pennell
and Mary Mann. Some questioned whether Pennell, and not Mann, served as
president of the college. (57) Pennell, it was suggested, grew
accustomed to speaking for her uncle, expressing his wishes and
apprehensions, even when not requested by Mann to do this.
Pennell's stress also was accompanied by great grief.
Pennell's sister, Eliza, and her husband, Gardiner Blake, along
with their child, Henry, moved to the college from 1855-1856 from their
home in Brooklyn, New York. Mann hired Eliza's husband to serve as
the assistant treasurer of the college. (58) Shortly thereafter, in
1857, at age thirty-five, Eliza died. Pennell adopted her son and began
to raise the child. (59) Pennell wanted a child and once confided to her
sister that she would be unhappy not to have children. She feared that
she might lose the chance. (60)
Pressures at Antioch continued to increase. Horace Mann became worn
out from the worries that resulted from his work at the college. Due to
the debt it was unclear whether the college would remain open. At times,
Mann's speech was slurred. His weariness led to fever and chills.
Then, in 1859, he died. (61) Along with Mary and his children, Pennell
was at his bedside during his final hours. She recorded notes about his
death in which she reflected on how he asked for the rate of his pulse,
the words that he spoke to his wife suggesting that there was enough
money for her and the children, and his final words to family and
friends. (62) Mary Mann, in contrast, wrote a biting letter to her
sister, Sophia Hawthorne, regarding Pennell's interactions with
Mann during his final hours.
After Mann's death, Mary Mann returned to Massachusetts and
resided in Concord. She was through with all communication with Rebecca.
Pennell left Antioch College and relocated to St. Louis where she worked
at the Mary Institute in Washington University. Her brother, Calvin,
secured a job there as school principal, enticed by the promise of a
larger salary. Indeed, a historical publication of the Mary Institute
reported, "In the very year that Mary Institute was founded there
died, at Yellow Springs, Ohio, the seat of Antioch College, one of the
greatest educational reformers that America has known." (64)
Transition to the Mary Institute and Washington University in St.
Louis and Retirement
The Mary Institute, a school for girls, was founded by William
Greenleaf Eliot, a Unitarian minister in St. Louis who cofounded
Washington University in 1853. A goal of the school was to provide an
education that equaled what men received at that time, as well as
prepared women for college. Access of women to higher education was a
theme that had permeated Pennell's own schooling. The school's
mission appealed to her. Though married, Pennell continued to teach, her
husband following her to the new position. At the Mary Institute,
Pennell drew on her experiences at Antioch and developed a strong
science curriculum. The catalogues from 1859 to 1868 listed her as a
teacher of physiology, natural sciences, natural history and drawing.
Though Pennell enjoyed her teaching at the Mary Institute, the
Civil War transpired which led to a period of tension and unsettledness.
A centennial publication of the Mary Institute recorded, "St. Louis
in 1861 was not the most orderly of cities, for it was torn by the
tempers and partisanship of the Civil War." (66) Pennell's
husband, who became a captain, died. Pennell continued to teach until
1868, at which time she resigned. She then relocated to St. Paul,
Minnesota where she lived with her nephew, Henry, whom she had adopted.
Pennell's interest in science, in botany in particular, was
sustained. She acquired a large botanical collection from Samuel
Botsford Buckley, a naturalist. After keeping the collection for years,
she sold it to the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, Missouri. It
represented "one-third to one-half of the entire collection."
(67) Pennell remembered the education in botany that she had received
from Harriet Peirce and remained in communication with her about the
subject. Upon Harriet Peirce's death, it was written:
These specimens undoubtedly were brought by Pennell's hands,
for she lived in Minnesota at that time.
Pennell's Social Networks Throughout Her Career
Pennell's teaching and subsequent career trajectory were
remarkable. She was a student in the first class of the first state
normal school, as well as a teacher at this institution at a later time.
She was a teacher at the first coeducational state normal school at
Westfield. When she transitioned to Antioch College, she was among the
first women to serve as a professional in a coeducational college, where
she and her male colleagues received equal pay. She excelled in the
sciences. As Pennell progressed on this journey, her sense of self
unfolded. She moved from the role of student to one of exemplary
teacher. She moved from one about whom negotiations were made to one who
became a skillful negotiator. Though Pennell encountered challenges, her
career was remarkable in all of these respects.
Pennell's career was influenced by individuals in her social
networks. Her connections with her uncle, Horace Mann, and those in his
circle were central to her studies and career advancement. Mann enrolled
her in the normal school, settled her salaries and offered her teaching
positions. Mann's marriage to Mary Peabody further connected
Pennell to a wider circle of notable individuals. If not for
Pennell's connections to Mann and his circle of acquaintances, it
is questionable whether she would have become a professor. In some
respects, nepotism functioned during Pennell's journey. Though
Pennell consistently was described as a superior teacher, she was still
the niece of Horace Mann.
Pennell's work also was shaped and supported through her
associations with a more quiet but strong group of women whom she met
during studies at the first state normal school, a group of women who
often are placed on the margins, if they appear at all, in the
discussion of educational history. This network of students also is a
prism through which to explore and consider Pennell's journey.
The first group of women who studied in Lexington pursued
significant endeavors following their studies. Mary Swift, one of
Pennell's normal school peers, went on to teach at the Perkins
Institution with Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe and was the primary teacher of
Laura Dewey Bridgman, a deaf and blind student who became known
world-wide for her success in learning to communicate. Swift later wrote
a book about her work with Bridgman. Swift also met with Helen Keller
and was credited with encouraging her to pursue oral communication. (69)
Lydia Stow, another peer of Pennell, became involved with the
abolitionist movement. She housed individuals such as Sojourner Truth,
Frederick Douglass, and William Garrison at her house in Fall River. She
was a founder of the Fall River Women's Union which was an
organization that provided educational opportunities, housing and
daycare for the working women in the city mills. Other normal school
peers, such as Louisa Harris and Adeline Ireson, taught in a variety of
positions for the remainder of their lives. (70)
This group of women provided Pennell with an identity. As an
eighteen-year-old student, she became a normalite. Normalites not only
supported each other during their studies, but became friends, and wrote
letters and poems to each other. Pennell, for example, wrote one such
poem to a normal school peer regarding an album she was given.
Though the focus of the poem is not significant, the signature is.
Pennell suggested that she felt a sense of sisterhood with the other
normal school students. They became a social network to which she
belonged. It was through this group that they shared their joy of
teaching as well as enthusiasm for particular academic subjects. If
Harriet Peirce is considered an adjunct member of this group, it is
clearly seen that she was an influence in the development of
Pennell's love of botany. If Lucretia Crocker is considered an
adjunct normal-school peer, as a student of Pennell and then colleague,
it is seen that she too had academic aspirations like those of Pennell.
This group of women was an important source in Pennell's life
experiences. This is evident through her participation in class reunions
that occurred even when she was older in life and the distance required
to travel to such events was significant. She took part in the first
reunion in 1850 when she lived in West Newton and then again in 1852. In
1874, she traveled to a reunion from St. Paul, Minnesota and then again
in 1884 from the same location. In 1889, she was one of the eight
members of the surviving eleven to take part in the semi-centennial
celebration and was described as one of the most honored guests. (72)
Like Pennell, normal school students encountered controversy with their
undertakings, experiences that they shared in their letters and during
visits and in meetings.
Pennell was an early woman faculty member in a coeducational
college who received pay that was equal to that of her male colleagues.
Her teaching techniques were excellent and her curriculum, particularly
in the field of science, was innovative. Her access to higher education
began as a member of the first class of the first state normal school in
Lexington, Massachusetts. It evolved into work as a founding faculty
member of Antioch College in Ohio in 1853. It concluded with a ten-year
career at the Mary Institute at Washington University. It was a life of
opportunity and challenge, supported and sustained by a variety of
networks. She had the benefits of strong mentors during her life and
subsequently became an exemplar in educational history.
Kelly Ann Kolodny
Framingham State University
(1) Margaret A. Nash, Women's Education in the United States
1780-1840 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).
(2) Christine Ogren, The American State Normal School: "An
Instrument of Great Good" (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).
(3) Mary Swift Lamson, Records of the First Class of the First
State Normal School in America: Established at Lexington, Massachusetts
1839 (Boston: Printed for the Class, 1903).
(4) Robert E. Riegel, American Women: A Story of Social Change
(Rutherford: Farleigh Dickinson University Press, 1971), 159; Lucille
Addison Pollard, Women on College and University Faculties: A Historical
Survey and a Study of Their Present Academic Status (New York, Amo
Press, 1977), 120; Paul D. Buchanan, The American Women's Rights
Movement: A Chronology of Events from 1600 to 2008, (Boston, Branden
(5) Pollard, Women on College and University Faculties, 120.
(6) Madeleine B. Stern, We the Women: Career Firsts of
Nineteenth-Century America (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press,
(7) Deborah Jean Warner,"Science Education for Women in
Antebellum America," ISIS 69 (1978): 58-67.
(8) Stern, We the Women, 149.
(10) Jonathan Messerli, Horace Mann: A Biography (New York: Alfred
A. Knopf, 1972), 12.
(11) Louise Hall Tharp, Until Victory: Horace Mann and Mary Peabody
(Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1953), 169.
(12) Rebecca Mann Pennell to Horace Mann, 4 April 1843, Horace Mann
Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
(13) Messerli, Horace Mann, 160.
(14) Tharp, Until Victory, 233-234.
(15) Mary Swift Lamson, The First State Normal School in America:
The Journals of Cyrus Peirce and Mary Swift (Cambridge, Harvard
University Press, 1926), 139.
(16) State Normal School at Westfield, Mass., Semi-Centennial and
Other Exercises of the State Normal School at Westfield, Mass. (Boston,
Wright & Potter Printing Co., 1889).
(17) Lamson, The First State Normal School in America.
(18) Ibid., 139.
(19) Arthur O. Norton," Introduction," In The First State
Normal School in America: The Journals of Cyrus Peirce and Mary Swift
(Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1926), XIV.
(20) Lamson, The First State Normal School in America, 40.
(21) Jane Kilby Welch, A Botanical Catechism Containing
Introductory Lessons for Students in Botany (Northampton [MA] : Printed
by T.W. Shepard and Co., 1819. Almira Phelps' book is mentioned in
Deborah Jean Warner, "Science Education for Women in Antebellum
(22) Ibid., 58.
(23) George Combe, The Constitution of Man in Relation to External
Objects (University of Michigan Library, 1835); George Combe, Moral
Philosophy or the Duties of Man Considered in His Individual Domestic
and Social Capacities (New York: Kessinger Publishing, 2007).
(24) Lydia Stow, Journal, Lydia Stow Papers, Framingham State
(25) Lamson, The First State Normal School in America.
(26) Lydia Stow, Journal, Lydia Stow Papers, Framingham State
(27) Cyrus Peirce to Rebecca Pennell, 12 March 1842, Horace Mann
Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
(28) George Baker to Horace Mann, 14 March 1842, Horace Mann
Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
(29) Horace Mann to Rebecca Pennell, 1842, Horace Mann Papers,
Massachusetts Historical Society.
(30) Stern, We the Women, 154-155.
(31) Messerli, Horace Mann, 384-385; Tharp, Until Victory, 189-190.
(32) Megan Marshall, The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited
American Romanticism (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005).
(33) Robert T. Brown, The Rise and Fall of the People's
Colleges: The Westfield Normal School, 1839 to 1914. (Westfield, MA
Institute for Massachusetts Studies, 1988), 38; M.B. Whitney, A.P.
Stone, J.W. Dickinson, General Catalogue of the State Normal School
Westfield, Mass. 1839-1889 (Boston, Knight & Potter Printing
(34) Beth Ann Rothermel," A Sphere of Noble Action: Gender,
Rhetoric, and Influence at a Nineteenth Century Massachusetts State
Normal School," Rhetoric Society Quarterly 33, no. 1 (Winter 2002):
(35) Ibid., 40
(36) Ednah Dow Cheney, Memoirs of Lucretia Crocker and Abby W. May
(Boston: Printed at the Request of the Massachusetts School Suffage
Association, 1893), 3.
(37) Ibid., 4.
(38) Stern, We the Women, 157.
(39) Mary Mann to Horace Mann, 5 December 1852, Horace Mann Papers,
Massachusetts Historical Society.
(40) Messerli, Horace Mann, 538-539.
(41) Louisa Harris, Journal, Louisa Harris Papers, Framingham State
(42) Calvin Pennell to Rebecca Pennell, 17 October 1852, Horace
Mann Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
(43) Calvin S. Pennell, 12 March 1848, Horace Mann Papers,
Massachusetts Historical Society.
(44) Stern, We the Women, 155.
(45) Ibid., 163-166.
(46) John Rury and Glenn Harper, "The Trouble with
Coeducation: Mann and Women at Antioch, 1853-1860, "History of
Education Quarterly 26, no. 4 (Winter 1986): 481-502.
(47) Ibid., 486.
(48) Ibid., 495.
(49) Rothermel, "A Sphere of Noble Action," 43.
(50) Rebecca Pennell to Horace Mann, 10 August 1854, Horace Mann
Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
(51) Tharp, Until Victory, 265.
(52) Cheney, Memoirs of Lucretia Crocker and Abby W. May, 3.
(53) Tharp, Until Victory, 282-283.
(54) Stern, We the Women, 168-169.
(55) Messerli, Horace Mann, 571.
(56) Rebecca Pennell to Horace Mann and Family, 22 June 1856,
Horace Mann Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
(57) Stern, We the Women, 171.
(58) Tharp, Until Victory, 285.
(59) Ibid., 170.
(60) Ibid., 289.
(61) Messerli, Horace Mann, 586-588.
(62) Rebecca Pennell, Notes on the Death of Horace Mann, 2 August
1859, Horace Mann Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
(63) Mary Mann to Sophia Hawthorne, 5 September 1859, Horace Mann
Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
(64) Mary Institute: 1859-1934, Mary Institute Papers, Washington
(65) Catalogues of the Officers and Students of Washington
University 1859-1868, Mary Institute Papers, Washington University.
(66) From Mary to You: Centennial 1859-1959, Mary Institute Papers,
Washington University, 18.
(67) Laurence J. Dorr, "The Samuel Botsford Buckley -- Rebecca
Mann Dean Mystery," Taxon 46 (November 1997) 661-687.
(68) Lamson, Records of the First Class of the First State Normal
School in America, 153.
(69) Kelly Kolodny," Mary Swift: Member of the First Class of
the First State Normal School," Vitae Scholasticae 25 (2008):
(70) Lamson, Records of the First Class of the First State Normal
School in America.
(71) Louisa Harris, Journal, Louisa Harris Papers, Framingham State
August 12th 1839
A bright morning has dawned upon us and how many happy hearts are
beating. The stage arrives and is soon filled and on its way.
Misses Pennell and Harris & Wyman & myself called upon Miss
Stodder. She invited us to accompany her to Mr. Parker's.... At
half past three the Misses Pennell and myself were seated in the
cars for Dedham. Reached home with great delight. Found my friends
all saying the greatest of earthly things--health. Rebecca and
Eliza passed the night with me and remained the next afternoon when
they left for Wrentham. (24)
March 12, 1842
My dear Miss Pennell,
Mr. George W. Baker of New Bedford called on me yesterday in
pursuit of a teacher for a District School. I referred him to one
Rebecca M. Pennell of Wrentham. Saying at the same time that he
would find in her "everything he wished." No doubt you'll hear from
him before this reaches you--and now, my Jewel, you are going to a
province, populous, wealthy.... You will not fail, I need not be
March 14, 1842
By request of our committee, I yesterday went to Lexington in
pursuit of a teacher.... My friend Peirce named to me Rebecca M.
Pennell (who I have since learned is a niece of Horace).... I
proceeded yesterday afternoon to South Walpole where I found the
young lady and had a few minutes conversation with her on the
subject. She told me that she did not like to engage till she had
consulted her mother & her uncle. (28)
December 6, 1852
I received no letter from you this morning, and no Rebecca &
Georgie have appeared tonight--So I feel exceedingly anxious for
she sent me a note, which I received this morning, saying that her
face is inflamed & if she did not come this afternoon, I might know
that she was detained by it. I expected them so certainly that I
cannot well bear the disappointment if she is detained by illness,
how shall I get my baby back again? He is very well off there, I
suppose, but I long to see the little thing again. (39)
Since my last entry I have been out to W. Newton with Adie and
Hannah D. [two other normal school students] to visit our friend
and classmate Rebecca Pennell who has been honored with a
professorship in Antioch College. Mr. Mann who is President invited
us to join the institution which I for one would very gladly do if
such a thing was practicable for me. How I would like to put off
the pedagogue for a season and become a pupil again. I build air
castes to that effect sometimes but I am confident they can never
become substantial fabrics. (41)
Sunday, October 17th 1852
My Dear Sister
I should want them to pay me a thousand for going. I consider it a
great sacrifice. We certainly should be obliged to be on salt pork
and wear cow hide shoes. When anyone speaks of his going, they say
well, I suppose he will have a much handsome salary. I say nothing.
You have a new institution like that is of slow growth and probably
would not increase for some time. (42)
August 4th --54
My Dear Uncle, I had a long talk with Mr. Craig & said everything I
could think of, to make him regard Yellow Springs as a pleasant
field of labor, because it promises rich harvests of usefulness. At
first he seemed to think it would be entirely out of the
question.... I thought his feelings changed somewhat before he left
& have since heard that he concluded to accept the invitation to go
to Antioch. (50)
June 22, 1856
Dear Ones at Home,
You will be glad to know that I am ... on board, & feeling
wonderfully calm ... informed ... that every teacher had refused to
return ... & that the only hope of avoiding the catastrophe of
suspending the college for the fall term was control on his staying
& raising money.... What do you think of trying for some money in
September 5, 1859
My Dear Sophia,
Since I received your letter I have reviewed those last days to
give you some account of them.... From the delight or ... time
allocated with some of the peculiar trials. Rebecca was very ill
part of the time & could not come in & when she got a little better
she could not stay in the room because all the windows were open.
This was fortunate for him because she was so absorbed in her own
troubles that she could not help recurring [sic] them & reporting
to him unpleasant remarks made in the neighborhood & then her
husband was always as near to her as her shadow & the sight of him
was most distracting to us both. My beloved knew how I detested the
man beside [sic] not wishing to see him or hear him talk about
things that can not be remedied. (63)
To the last, her chief intellectual delight was in botany which she
studied from a girl of sixteen, when with a few others her own age,
she began to collect, observe, and record her conclusions. At
eighty-four she helped to form and joined a new botanical class. I
have before me a valuable contribution written by her, at that time
and read at the meeting; and this summer, at the age of ninety,
rare specimens brought from Minnesota by loving hands were received
and examined with great delight. (68)
Remember love, there is an album
That thou can't only fill;
Unto thee, it is committed
To improve with outmost [sic] skill.
By thee only can be guided
By thee kept from sorrows shall
Every line by thee indicted
Every page marginal.
With great care may you preserve it.
Free from errors, baneful strife
That fair album is thy life.
Your affectionate normal sister, Rebecca M. Pennell. (71)