On Display: The Original Course Catalog

On Display CatalogOnly twelve pages long, the catalog details each course for the three levels of study: junior, middle, and senior. At the time, students did not specialize in one subject area; instead every student followed the same curriculum based on her level.

The school year was divided into three terms equaling forty weeks, with an additional twelve weeks of vacation. Students passed from year to year “according to their progress, and not according to the time spent in the Institution,” reads the catalog. While a typical student graduated in three years, more advanced women could complete their studies in as little as one.

Tuition, room, and board cost $20 a term. However, fuel and lights were an extra expense. Aside from clothing, the catalog instructs each young woman “to bring with her one table spoon and one tea spoon . . . and if convenient, a pair of sheets and pillow-cases to be used on her bed.”

The catalog has a brief section on domestic life, including the expectation that “all members of the school aid to some extent in the domestic labors of the family.” But students were expected to arrive at Mount Holyoke with these skills intact, as the catalog also states, “It is no part of the design of this Seminary to teach young ladies domestic work. This branch of education is exceedingly important, but a literary institution is not the place to gain it. . . . Home is the proper place for daughters of our country to be taught on this subject; and the mother is the appropriate teacher.”

—By Taylor Scott

This article appeared in the spring 2014 issue of the Alumnae Quarterly.


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One response to “On Display: The Original Course Catalog”

  1. Amy McCoy Aliberti '78 says:

    I just love this!! 12 Seniors…very rigorous studies…lovely explanation of domestic work for one’s health…and bring your own spoons to school! As my daughter heads off to college this fall, I would welcome sending 2 spoons, some towels, and the convenient sheets, instead of the packed carload I am anticipating. We’ve come a long way, baby! Thanks for sharing this.

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