Transcription of letters from Bertha Brown to Louise Coburn, Undated and 5/18/1901

Miss Louise H. Coburn,
Skowhegan, Me.,

Dear Miss Coburn, –
At the same meeting
of the trustees when the petition
requesting the exclusion of women
students from Colby is to come
before them, there are also to be
presented to them several petitions
and expressions of opinion
from those who favor the oppo-
site side of the question. The
resolutions unanimously passed
by the New York Alumni Association,
expressions of opinion from
prominent friends and supporters
of Colby, also from the trustees
of the various fitting schools,
as well as a petition from the
alumni who favor the continu-
ation of the present method, are
all expected to come before the
trustees at that time.

When all friends are thus exerting
themselves in our behalf, it seems
fitting that the body of the alumnae
should show their interest in the
question at issue by presenting the
enclosed petition. Friends of the
college have advised and indeed
requested that we should take such
action. It is believed that several
petitions from different sources
will be more effective than one,
which all should sign.

I trust this move will have
your hearty support.

In order to cover the expense
of printing and circulating our petition,
all interested are asked to contribute.
If each one so interested will enclose
a dime when returning the petition
the bills can be met.

As the time is now short, you are
requested to return the petition, with or
without your signature, as promptly
as possible to my address.

Yours in loyalty to Colby,
Bertha L. Brown,
53 Court St., Bangor, Me.

53 Court St.
Bangor, Me. May 18, 1901,

My dear Miss Coburn,

Yours of the 17th received
this morning and I hasten to

It was my impulse to write you
a letter more fully explaining
this move of the petition when I
sent it to you, but I thought per-
haps you might have heard
from your brother-in-law about
what the general plan was, and
so understand. As we had so much
writing to do, accordingly, I sent
only a copy of the letter which we
are sending to all.

Miss Bertha Soule ’85 and I are
the ones who have undertaken to
circulate the petition, and I will
explain how it came about.

At the time of the Boston
Alumni meeting and the issuing

of that petition asking for the ex-
clusion of women from the college,
Miss Soule (who is teaching in
Bangor this year) and I, naturally,
had many talks on the subject,
and also met with several of the
younger alumnae who are in or
near Bangor. We came to the con-
clusion which seems to have been
very general that the best course
was for the alumnae to preserve
“a dignified silence”, and let the
matter work itself out.

Just at that time it happened
that Mr. Owen, the financial
agent of Colby, was in the city
and we talked with him several
times. He was very encouraging,
and very warm in his espousal
of co-education. It seems that he
with Mr. Cornish (who seems to
be really at the back of other petition)
with one other are the special

committee of the trustees who
are in charge of the question of the
woman’s college. Mr. Owen also
advised that the women make
no direct move, as he assured us
that it would be unnecessary,
since he said that the trustees
would never vote to exclude either
the women or the men students
from the college.

As he was going about among
the churches of the state he had
an especially good opportunity
of hearing opinions from many
sources, and he promised to
let us know if at any time he
should change his idea about
the best methods of procedure.

Accordingly a few weeks later
when he happened to be again in
the vicinity of Bangor he sent word
to Miss Soule and me that he

would like to have a meeting of all
alumni and alumnae near here,
who would be likely to be interested
in the question. With Mr. Owen came
also Rev. Mr. Dunn of Waterville.
As they had talked matters over
together and with some of the friends
in Waterville, among others Dr. Butler,
they had come to the conclusion
that it would be better for a counter-
petition to be sent in, as it would
simplify matters for the trustees
who would surely decide to pay no
heed to the petition against women.
But if there were petitions on the
other side as well, it would free
them from the charge of being
arbitrary and disregarding the
wishes of the alumni, as might
have been said if the wishes of the
alumni were represented only
by the petition for exclusion of women.

The plan, then, was for some

prominent alumnus whose
name would carry influence
should to circulate the counter-petit-
ion among all graduates, both
alumni and alumnae. For my
own part, I liked that plan better
than any other.

Miss Soule and I offered to do
some of the drudgery work in
writing etc which must attend
the circulating of the petition; and
that is the reason, I suppose, that
when they changed the plan, they
happened to ask us to attend
to the petition from the alumnae.

About this time Miss Soule
in going home for a vacation was
able to stop off in Waterville, where
she talked with Dr. Pepper and
with Prof. Hall, both of wome ap-
proved and advised that some of
form of petition come in on our

After the very satisfactory meeting
of the New York Alumni, Mr. Owen
wrote us that they had decided to
change the plan a little. They thought
it would make a more impressive
array on the side of co-education,
if several petitions from different
sources should come in. It seems
that your brother-in-law, Mr. Smith
and Mr. Frank Padelford undertook
to circulate a petition among the
alumni. We have seen the petition
which they have issued and it
certainly is a very good and strong
one. Probably you have seen it too.
Mr. Owen + Dr. Dunn are to gather
expressions of opinion from
prominent friends and parents,
and from the trustees of the fitting
schools. Mr. Owen wrote us, that
of course, it lay with the alumnae
to do as they thought best, but

that they would like to have a
strong petition, as unanimous
as possible come from them.

The time was now down to
the present weeks and Miss Soule
and I thought some haste was
necessary as many of the returns
from the petitions are sure to come
in slowly. We framed the petition
which Mr. Owen saw and approved,
had it printed and in the last few
days have been rushing to get
the petitions circulated.

We had previously consulted
with a few other of the alumnae
with whom we were corresponding,
Miss White & Miss Winslow 86,
Miss May Gould & Miss H. Bragg,
also Mrs. Donovan as Pres. of
the Alumnae Association.

Mrs. Donovan wrote about the
meeting of the Boston Alumnae

and that there the general sentiment
was that it were best for us to
make no move, but she said that
she changed her view in the
light of the present development
as we were able to explain to her,
and said she agreed that the
alumnae should manifest their
interest and loyalty by this petition.

Now we are striking out the word
‘present’ in the petition where it
speaks of the “present policy of
admitting both men and women”
as some one has suggested that
it might be interpreted to mean
that we were petitioning for the
continuance of the system of
co-ordination now in practice.

That is not at all the meaning
that it was intended to put into
the words but rather, that the
“present policy,’ i.e. admission of
both men and women. The

question before the trustees to decide
now is simply whether or not
women should be excluded, and
so our petition should bear only
on this point, as the other petitions
will which will come in on our

I think all the older alumnae
would be glad to see a return to the
old system of co-education, though
I think there is little hope that it
will ever be made.

Hence, if we strike out ‘present’
from the wording of the petition
it will surely remove all sugges-
tion such as has been remarked.

I hope my long explanation
has made clearer to you the position
Miss Soule and I are in, and why
we were the ones to undertake this
thing. Had the time been longer
we should have consulted

previously with more of the older

We have already received returns
from several, Miss Matthews 79,
Miss White, Miss Winslow,
Miss Gould, Miss Bragg, Miss Farr ‘96,
and a few others. We have distrib-
uted the petitions, so far, to about half
the number of alumnae and hope
to finish the work of distribution
very soon.

I hope you will approve of what
we have done. Of course your name
should be one of those to head the
petition. If you think that some
of the alumnae around Boston
would need more definite explanation
it would help us greatly if you will
lend you influence and aid.

We thought that we ought not to
bring in the names of any trustees in
the general statement which we circulate
as I suppose they are presumed to be impartial.

Let me hear from you again.

Very sincerely, Bertha L. Brown, ’88.