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Cowles papers

Identifier: MS 0718

Scope and Contents

The Eunice Caldwell Cowles Papers include correspondence, writings, biographical information, Caldwell and Cowles family papers, and a photograph. Much of this material concerns Cowles's connections to Mount Holyoke Female Seminary and to Ipswich Female Seminary, where she spent most of her career. The correspondence, dating from 1833 to 1888, includes letters by and to Cowles. Some early letters in the collection are addressed to friends and family members. Other letters concern Mount Holyoke Female Seminary at its inception, including a letter, dated March 8, 1838 and entitled "Washing Day at Mount Holyoke Seminary," that describes the students' weekly cleaning routine. Later letters by Cowles are more general in nature and are addressed mainly to friends. Also included are letters written by Mary Lyon to Cowles. One letter, dated July 3, 1836, concerns Cowles's appointment as associate principal at Mount Holyoke. Another, dated November 29, 1855, concerns a student at Ipswich Female Seminary. The writings include two journals that Cowles kept while she was a student at Ipswich Female Seminary from 1831-1832. One describes her academic routine and makes reference to Mary Lyon, her teacher at Ipswich. The other journal contains Bible passages. Also included in the writings is a pamphlet by Cowles entitled "Our Maidens," from a lecture she delivered in 1879 at a meeting of the Women's Board of Missions in Boston, Massachusetts. The pamphlet discusses the training of women missionaries and Mary Lyon's role in this field. Also included are documents written by Mary Lyon but apparently copied by Cowles. These documents include spiritual writings, letters, a ledger of cash received from Mount Holyoke for furniture, and some compositions on education. The biographical information consists of an obituary and a biographical note, ca. 1903. The family papers include a notification, dated July 30, 1835, of the drowning death of Cowles's father, Captain John Caldwell. The series also includes two receipts belonging to Cowles's husband, John Cowles, as well as a short note from Mary Lyon to Cowles's mother, Eunice Caldwell. The photograph is a formal portrait of Cowles, possibly dating from the 1850s. It appears to be a copy of a photograph that was published in a newspaper or magazine.


  • Creation: ca. 1821-1903

Conditions Governing Access


Biographical Note

Eunice Caldwell was born on February 4, 1811, in Ipswich, Massachusetts. She was the daughter of Captain John Caldwell and Eunice Stanwood Caldwell. Her father, a sailor, drowned in the Kennebec River in 1835. She attended Ipswich Female Seminary from 1828 to 1829, where she met and began a lasting friendship with Mary Lyon, a teacher and an assistant to Zilpah P. Grant, the school's principal, from 1828 to 1839. She graduated from Ipswich in 1829 and was a teacher there from 1830-1835. She served as the first principal of Wheaton Female Seminary (later Wheaton College) in Norton, Massachusetts in 1836. She left her position at Wheaton for Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, where she was Associate Principal from 1837-1838. She married the Reverend John Phelps Cowles in 1838 and followed him to Oberlin College, where he was professor of Hebrew. In 1844 they returned to reopen Ipswich Female Seminary which they ran until it closed in 1876. The Cowles's had three daughters. Cowles died at the age of ninety-two on September 10, 1903 in Ipswich, Massachusetts.


0.21 Linear Feet (1 half Hollinger box)

Language of Materials



Cowles, Eunice Caldwell, 1811-1903; Teacher. Mount Holyoke Female Seminary Associate Principal, 1837-1838. Papers contain correspondence, writings, biographical information, Caldwell and Cowles family papers and a photograph. Chiefly focusing on her connections to Mary Lyon and Zilpah P. Grant Banister through both Mount Holyoke and Ipswich Female Seminaries and her activities and social events at each institution.


Arranged in 5 series. Series 1. Correspondence. Series 2. Writings. Series 3. Biographical Information. Series 4. Family Papers. Series 5. Photograph.

Cowles papers, ca. 1821-1903.
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Repository Details

Part of the Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections Repository

50 College Street
8 Dwight Hall
South Hadley MA 01075-6425 USA