|Oread Institute 1853|
Once upon a time, in my college days back in the last century, I lived on Castle Street in Worcester. Behind our little street rose a hill*), which we learned was Castle Hill. Queries about the name evoked responses like, "I heard there was a castle on the hill. Or a school or something.” That was about as much as I ever learned, until recently, when a vintage postcard arrived at our house. It showed a castle, and its title, “Oread Institute,” connected in my mind with my old neighborhood, because I recalled a street by that name not far away.
As my husband I have been learning, Worcester was a happening place in the 1800s and first half of the 1900s.This was why I wasn’t completely surprised when I read here why Worcester was chosen as the site for one of the United States' first higher education institutions for women. It was built by Eli Thayer, and modeled on his alma mater, Brown University. Founded in 1848, it opened 14 May 1849.
|History of Oread Institute|
|Oread Institute in 1870s|
As this piece in Gleason’s Pictorial of 19 March 1853 points out, “Here woman enjoys exclusively those privileges which some have regarded as the rightful prerogative of the other sex, having the advantages of a collegiate course of study, if she chooses. And in the attainment of that to which she has long aspired, she is happy.”
Here's a view of Worcester from the Oread Institute in 1858, and here is a detailed study of the college. It
closed in 1881. From 1898 to 1904, it was the Worcester Domestic Science Cooking School.** In 1934 it was demolished.
We’ve located the grave of one of its graduates, about whom I’ll post at a future date.
Image at top: Oread Institute 1853, courtesy Yale University Art Gallery. The photograph below it is described thus: "The Oread Institute, in Worcester, Massachusetts, was an important and popular women's school from 1848 until it closed its doors in 1881. This ca. 1870's photograph is significant not only because it captures the school in its final years, but because it was taken by a woman, Ms. Augustine H. Folsom." Image and quote courtesy American Antiquarian Society, Worcester MA.
*This is the case with most streets in Worcester: level ground is in short supply.
**It's believed that shredded wheat was invented there.
Clicking on the image will enlarge it. Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.