Friday, September 25, 2009
Elmira: Cradle of Women's Rights
Elmira: Cradle of Women's rights
In 1855, Elmira opened the first regularly chartered school in the country for women. "The Elmira Collegiate Seminary" had its beginnings in Auburn, NY, (home of William Seward and Harriet Tubmann). Rev. and Mrs. Harry A. Sackett obtained the charter for the school, but moved the plans to Elmira where the idea was welcomed warmly.
Situated in the heart of Elmira's north side amidst newly renovated and beautified grounds, Elmira College campus hearkens to its 19th Century roots with lovely old stone and brick buildings named after influential people in its founding, such as Simeon Hall, honoring its founder Simeon Benjamin, Esquire, and Cowle's Hall, after its first president A.W. Cowles.
Mark Twain's study is a popular attraction, cresting the slope overlooking a fountained pond. The octagon-shaped bricks that compose the walkway meandering about the pond and campus echo the shape of the famous study used by Twain to write portions of Huckleberry Finn.
Also credited with developing the idea for the college is a married couple of physicians who lived on Elmira's East Hill, along Watercure Hill Road. Dr. Gleason and his wife ran "the Elmira Water Cure", a sulphur spring infirmary and resort believed to contain healing properties when it was built in 1852. Because of Mrs. Gleason's remarkable accomplishements for her time as a trained physician, the couple was instrumental in developing and championing the idea of an all-women's college.
The Elmira Water Cure was one of hundreds of facilities at the time espousing hydrotherapy, but was "one of the first and longest lived" of the facilities of its kind, according to K. Patrick Ober's book "Any Mummery Will Cure". Hydrotherapy was espoused by the influential Langdons, whose property Quarry Farms bordered the Water Cure to the North. According to Ober, "Hydrotherapy's doctrines went beyond a focus on the role of water as a therapeutic agent, and its committment to temperance and women's reform made it attractive to socially liberal families such as the Langdons. The prominent clientele of the Elmira Water Cure included the likes of Susan B. Anthony, Vice-President Schuyler Colfax, and the mother of Emily Dickinson."
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