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Quotes from a 1906 letter by M. Carey Thomas
and her 1916 opening address to the academic year

As material accompanying the Diversity Friday Noon Conversation on November 18, 2005, "Examining Our History: Inclusion/Exclusion at Bryn Mawr"

Discussion Summary - November 18, 2005


1906 – In response to a teacher in Washington , D.C. , M. Carey Thomas suggested that black students would be uncomfortable among Bryn Mawr's largely Middle Atlantic/Southern students. [From the letters of M. Carey Thomas. Bryn Mawr College Archives]

“As I believe that a great part of the benefit of a college education is derived from intimate association with other students of the same age interested in t he same intellectual pursuits, I should be inclined to advise such a student to seek admission to a college situated in one of the New England states where she would not be so apt to be deprived of this intellectual companionship because of the different composition of the student body. At Bryn Mawr College we have a large number of students coming from the Middle and Southern states so that conditions here would be much more unfavorable.”

[Note: From 1909-1910, approximately 51 of the 337 undergraduates were from Southern states – less than 1/6 th of the undergraduate student body.]

1916 – Selected from President M. Carey Thomas' address on the opening of the academic year. [From the papers of M. Carey Thomas. Bryn Mawr College Archives]

“If the present intellectual supremacy of the white races is maintained, as I hope that it will be for centuries to come, I believe that it will be because they are the only races that have seriously begun to educate their women . . .

It seems to be only in a strictly limited temperate zone, only on a very small part of the earth's surface that men can maintain continuous intellectual activity. Roughly speaking this zone includes Great Britain, Scandinavia, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Holland, probably the greater part of the United States and Canada, some parts of Russia and South America, and perhaps parts of certain other countries that have not yet been sufficiently investigated . . . One thing we know beyond doubt and that is that certain races have never yet in the history of the world manifested any continuous mental activity nor even any continuous power of organized government. Such are the pure negroes of Africa , the Indians, the Exquimauz, the South Sea Islanders, the Turks, etc. . . .

These facts must be faced by a country like the United States which is fast becoming, if it has not already become, the melting post of nations into which are cast at the rate of a million a year the backward peoples of Europe like the Czechs, t he Slavs, and the south Italians. If the laws of heredity mean anything whatsoever we are jeopardizing the intellectual heritage of the American people by this headlong intermixture of races . . .

. . . if we tarnish or inheritance of racial power at the source, our nation will never again be the same. . .

Our early American stock is still very influential but this cannot continue indefinitely. For example, each year I ask each freshman class to tell me what countries their parents originally came from and for how many generations back their families have been on American soil. It is clear to me that almost all of our student body are early time Americans, that their ancestors have been here for generations, and that they are overwhelmingly English, Scotch, Irish, Welsh, and that of other admixtures, French, German, Dutch largely predominate. All other strains are negligible. Our Bryn Mawr College students therefore as a whole seem to belong by heredity to the dominant races. You, then, students of Bryn Mawr, have the best intellectual inheritance the world affords.”

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