The following information comes from the Catalog for the Connecticut Literary Institution at Suffield of 1846. Several teachers are listed as “Female teachers.” The list is all women but we don’t know if they taught the women or both women and men. It is interesting that they earned less than men and they didn’t work for many years. The least paid men earn about 400 dollars. The highest paid man earned 700 dollars. The average woman earned 500 dollars. In today’s dollars that would be 11,573 dollars. Teachers were not paid well at Connecticut Literary Institution. There are also assistant teachers. We don’t know what assistants did compared to full teachers. It doesn’t seem like many teachers compared to today.
When I was researching and writing about my blog post “First Female Graduate of the Connecticut Literary institution, Today’s Suffield Academy,” I tweeted the archivist at the University of Connecticut Library and asked if they had any sources that would help me write the history of women in the early days at CLI. I was learning the story about how the women’s department began in the first building at CLI that later burned down. The women lived on the first floor; female teachers and pupils occupied 20 private rooms according the Sheldon’s history. When the women’s department opened on February 25th, 1846, there are 41 females who started the first term. I also researched about population of Connecticut and found the percentage of how many females came to Suffield Academy. Then I tweeted UConn Archives and asked them for help with any sources on the Connecticut Literary Institution. They reply the next day; they found out the book call “Suffield Academy Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow, 1945.” This source did not help but they were helpful in giving us the information they had about Suffield Academy. They also looked up information about Suffield Academy on the Connecticut Historical Society webpage and tweeted back historic images of Suffield Academy. Interestingly, an important one they found was the picture of old Fuller Hall that included in the corner of the image the well that is now established in front of Memorial Building. I enjoy #doinghistory because I love working by myself and discovering new stuff.
Image from University of Connecticut Historical Society
Cropped image highlighting the well now in front of Memorial Building
(here is the well in the olden days- This fall it is seen again due to the new construction)
After looking at the origin of how Suffield, Connecticut, in 1832, was able to acquire many donations by the people in the town, we found out how Suffield won a competition to have an institution placed in their town. Martin Sheldon, a top donor during the time, donated $350.00 to the town. This would be the highest paid donation by anyone during the competition. Luther Loomis, who was the second highest donor, donated $300.00 to the town as well. These large donations along with many smaller donations were able to give Suffield the money it needed to win. I think it would be interesting to find out more about this and the process of the school being created. In fact, our class now realizes how the town of Suffield prioritized education in the early 1800’s. To obtain this information I must research more about the town of Suffield, CT and when the Suffield Literary Institute was created. We have contacted local libraries for the towns of Suffield and Bristol, who were competing for the prize, to see if any new information could be discovered. As the libraries look into this matter after viewing our tweets, we try to piece together as much information as we have available. We are also investigating the donors in the town of Suffield who were responsible for giving the town enough money to win. Donators in the town were the people who believed an institution would be a good addition to their town. Finding new information can be difficult considering the amount of time that has passed since the creation of the school. Nearly two centuries of history about the school is a large amount, some information may have been forgotten or lost. It is my job to try and recover this as best as possible.
In the future to help create history and gain more insight into women’s history and Suffield history, I would like to interview Elaine Sarsynski and keep a record of our interview. I have made a list of questions which I will double check with Mr. Yuan again to make sure they are all ok. I plan on asking her about many questions related Suffield, Women’s history, and maybe a bit of her personal life to shed some further detail on the whole topic. I will make a detailed list of questions and go through them with Mr. Sullivan, the class, and Mr. Yuan before the interview. The main question that I want to answer is what hardships did she encounter on her journey to the top. First, I want to know what hardships she faced because she was a woman when she was young, and in high school and college. Then I want to know if it was harder for her to make her way in the workforce because she was a woman. Then if being a mother complicated her career path more. Then, I want to know why she made the decision to leave the corporate life to make her attempt at politics, did this have anything to do with promoting women’s rights? When she was running for First Selectwoman, what challenges did she face. What challenges did she face just because she was a woman? After winning the position of First Selectperson, what initiatives did she implement were any of them aimed at promoting women’s rights? Are the political parties in local politics much different than the political parties in national politics?
Oral History Methods
Oral history is not folklore, gossip, hearsay, or rumor. Oral historians attempt to verify their findings, analyze them, and place them in an accurate historical context.
Formulate a central question or issue.
Plan the project. Consider such things as end products, budget, publicity, evaluation, personnel, equipment, and time frames.
Conduct background research.
Prepare questions for interviews
Review questions with classmates and teacher
Evaluate research and interviews and cycle back to step 1 or go on to step 7.
In May of 1820, the Connecticut Baptist Education Society was established in Suffield, Connecticut (1). This society was geared to educate young men for the ministry. The society secured funds twelve years later for a Literary Institution. Suffield and Bristol competed for a sum prize of five thousand dollars. The prize was to be awarded to the town that presents the best inducements. This award promised better education for the town who won. Martin Sheldon was the active leader of the Suffield committee and was able to secure five thousand dollars from the people of Suffield. The prize money was awarded to Suffield the following year and with the funds were able to build the Suffield Literary Institution. The place for this new institution was at one time the home to a settler in 1676, Sergeant Samuel Kent. I will investigate sources in Bristol to see if there is any more information to add to our school’s opening chapters of history.
Source: Suffield Academy Archives
Skills required: This research requires looking at an old pamphlet documented and stored in the archives during the time the Suffield Literary Institution was built. An old book about the history of Suffield was discovered as well that reveals information about the origins of this event. Researching this requires patience and a keen eye for details.
Driving question: Why did Suffield win the competition against all the towns in Connecticut for a new institution?
Many people have heard of the big international women’s groups like the National Organization for Women. I would like to investigate women’s organizations here in Connecticut. Through my preliminary research I have come upon local chapters of the big women’s organizations. I want to know who started them and if anyone of interest joined any of these organizations. The organizations I would like to look into are: Daughters of the American Revolution, The Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defense, Connecticut Branch of the Housewives League, and Connecticut Women Suffrage Association.
Newspaper article from the Hartford Courant talking about the different Woman’s Organizations meeting and the different women who head them up.
How much did women organizations do to improve the life and rights of women?
Image from Connecticut Literary Institution, Suffield Academy Archives
Hezekiah Spencer Sheldon’s History of the Connecticut Literary Institution lists the female students at CLI, which is today’s Suffield Academy. The school year opened on February, 25th, 1846, and 41 females started the first term. Thirty three of the students were from Suffield. It is also interesting to look at their names. Many appear to be related; they may be sisters or cousins. These names also are from many famous families of Suffield Academy like: Bissell, Hathaway, Kent, King, and Loomis. Some of our buildings are named after these families.
In 1852, the first females were awarded diplomas. Five young women earned diplomas that year, including Lydia Fuller. I wonder if she was related to Fuller family who created Fuller Hall.
Driving Question: Is Lydia Fuller related to any of the Fullers in our community? What happened to her after graduation?
Skills Required: The next steps are to research these first female graduates and their families. I will use research skills and try to find out why they chose (CLI) Suffield Academy. I will also use Networking skills to find out why did their families choose to send their daughters to high school in that time period? Another step is to understand why 41 females started in 1846, but there are only five graduates in the first graduations class in 1852.