Bicentennial Moment - Hannah Chase Kimball, Champion of Female Education in the 19th Century
Hannah was born in Sutton, MA, on February 7, 1758, the third child of 14 born to Moses and Hannah Brown Chase. Her father and his older brother Samuel left home in 1750 to become early pioneers in the settlement of Cornish, NH. Moses returned to Sutton in 1752 and married Hannah Brown only to return to Cornish with his wife and six children in 1765. The Chase families were among the most prominent and educated citizens of Cornish; two of Hannah’s brothers and five of Samuel’s sons graduated from Dartmouth College. Samuel’s grandson, the Rev. Philander Chase, an Anglican priest, was instrumental in building Trinity Anglican Church in Cornish and became founder and first President of Kenyon College in Ohio. Samuel’s great-grandson was Salmon Portland Chase who served in President Lincoln’s cabinet as Secretary of the Treasury and became the sixth Chief Justice of the United States. Both men were Dartmouth graduates.
In the KUA General Catalogue 1815-1880, we learn that Hannah was a teacher before and after her marriage to Daniel Kimball. Dr. Frost [of Frost House], arrived in Meriden in 1808 and boarded with the Kimballs for several years. He wrote in his diary that Daniel had a large property and knew he wished to endow an “Academical Institution in Meriden” and once heard him say, “ … his relatives would never be much richer for his property.” According to the catalogue, “In the founding of the Academy she [Hannah] was in hearty sympathy with Mr. Kimball, and tradition says that she advised him, in making the institution his residuary legatee.”
After the dedication of the first Academy on January 9, 1815, seven pupils were in class the next day although we know, in time, others came – along with four young women listed in the class of 1816. We know little about these women, but one could believe that Hannah was influential in females studying at an all male school.
Daniel died in 1817, but Hannah lived on for another 30 years and it is said, “She watched over the interests of the schools as long as she lived, with a lively and motherly interest.” She wrote in her will in 1836 that most of her husband’s estate was signed to the Trustees of KUA for “the benefit of a certain class of male students” and that “I have since his death been desirous of leaving a portion of my small property for the benefit of females at an institution in this place.” She approached friends and neighbors with the proposition that she would give $1250 for a Female Seminary if they would raise the same amount. Then she would immediately will the principal part of her estate to the school as long as she had the right to choose its location. The proposition was accepted and the money was raised. Hannah chose a site on land nearby owned by Samuel B. Duncan, a trustee and treasurer of KUA.
Although bricks and other material for the building were on site, Hannah changed her plans when KUA’s trustees convinced her to join her school with theirs creating the Third Academy. The trustees reported, “ … by enlarging the present buildings and procuring additional and suitable instruction for females … she does not contemplate a distinct and separate institution but expect both males and females as heretofore to be under the Superintendance of the principal of the Academy with the understanding however that the board will in addition to the proper number of male teachers provide such female instruction or instructions as may be necessary in their opinion for the best education of the young women who may wish to enjoy the privileges of the institution ….and in making such provision as will most certainly answer the great purposes to which her husband and herself have devoted their estate and most effectually subserve the improvement of society and the glory of God.”
Hannah added that her estate would be, “ … appropriated towards the expense of instructing females exclusively…. It being my expectation that all females of good moral character will be admitted to said institution and my desire is that all such may be equally entitled to the benefit of this my donation without regard to their pecuniary circumstances or religious opinions …” The Female Department at KUA opened in the fall of 1840.
According to the General Catalogue, “Mrs. Kimball was worthy of the position she occupied, and the Academy owes equal honor to her memory…. She was a lady of marked ability and Christian worth, and her memory should be cherished by the multitudes who have shared and may hereafter share in the benefits of her intelligent Christian zeal and liberality.” Hannah died on June 17, 1847, secure in the knowledge that she and her husband had used their considered wealth for the good of humankind.
Next time: General Marston, class of 1833
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