Life at Simmons
Simmons in the 1910s
When Olive Ruby Henty (ORH) enrolled as an undergraduate at Simmons College in 1911, there were 256 students in her class, and the institution was in its early days. Simmons College was incorporated in 1899 according to the wishes of John Simmons, who died in 1870 leaving instructions in his will for the establishment of "a college for women which should give instruction in such branches of art, science and industry as would enable its students to maintain themselves. It was thus to be a technical college for women, the first institution of its kind in the country" (Fifty years of Boston, 486). Loosely speaking, Simmons was envisioned as a sister to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), at that time an all-male institution. The opening of Simmons was initially delayed by 30 years when, in 1872, half of the buildings were destroyed in a fire.
Simmons College provided a combination of professional preparation and cultural foundation for young women. "At the outset, instruction was offered in domestic and institutional arts and sciences, in secretarial and business practices, in library work, and in various natural sciences" (Simmons College Archives). The College soon expanded its curriculum to include more areas of study in response to the increasing desire of women to enter vocational fields.
During ORH's four years at Simmons, the school was rapidly growing and changing. Notably, Simmons was in the middle of expanding its graduate and undergraduate programs. In 1912, the Boston School for Social Workers first offered the master of science degree in addition to a bachelor of science degree. Just a few years later, in 1916, the name changed to the Simmons College School of Social Work. Also during the 1910s, Simmons joined with the Women's Educational and Industrial Union to offer the Lucinda Prince program for preparing teachers of salesmanship. This program became the School of Salesmanship in 1915, and in 1918, the School of Education for Store Service. By 1917, Simmons began its physical therapy program, and the School of Public Health Nursing was established in 1918. It was not all serious study and work at the College during the early years. Outdoor sports were made possible in 1910 when the playing field behind the Main College Building was enclosed by a high fence. Basketball was also played indoors in the small west wing gymnasium of the Main College Building.
1912 was a year for establishing traditions. It was in that year that the first Founder's Day Convocation (later Honors Convocation) was held for the entire College. The service was scheduled for the Wednesday closest to the anniversary of John Simmons's birthday, October 30. Also beginning in 1912 was May Day, the longest continuous Simmons tradition. Students rose at dawn and started their day with the most enjoyable part of the celebration, the strawberry shortcake breakfast. The breakfast has been served each year since, to the delight of all students. Other traditions, such as Step Singing and the Olde English Dinner, served in December, also began around this time.back to top
Boston ( MA) Tercentenary Committee, Subcommittee on Memorial History. (1932). Fifty years of Boston: a memorial volume issued in commemoration of the tercentenary of 1930. Boston.
Mark, K.L. (1945). Delayed by fire being the early history of Simmons College. Concord, N.H.: Rumford Press.
Simmons College Archives. (2006). A brief history of Simmons College: the early years, 1899-1919. Retrieved November 17, 2007, from http://my.simmons.edu/library/collections/college_archives