Sophia Smith
Sophia Smith late 1860s.jpg
Smith, 1868
BornAugust 27, 1796
DiedJune 12, 1870(1870-06-12) (aged 73)
Known forFounding Smith College

Sophia Smith (August 27, 1796 – June 12, 1870) founded Smith College in 1870 with the substantial estate she inherited from her father, who was a wealthy farmer, and six siblings.[1]

An avid reader, Smith attended schools in Hatfield, Massachusetts, and Hartford, Connecticut. She later attended Hopkins Academy in Hadley, Massachusetts.[2]

Early life

Born as the first daughter into a family of three boys, Sophia Smith soon became the caretaker for the following three children (all girls). A resident of Hatfield, Massachusetts, the 1800 census states that the town had 153 homes, 11 of which were owned by her relatives both on her father's (Smith) side and her mother's (White) side.[3] After the death of her mother, the care of the household became the sole responsibility of her sister Harriet. After Harriet's death, she relied on her eldest brother Austin who managed to acquire a sizable fortune; following his death in 1861 the fortune that would soon found Smith College accrued to Sophia Smith.[4]

Founding Smith College

Deaf since age 40 and unmarried,[2] Smith initially considered endowing her fortune to an institute for the deaf, but changed her mind when the Clarke School for the Deaf opened in Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1868.[5] Encouraged by the Reverend John Morton Greene, she decided to endow a women's college instead. Upon her death on June 12, 1870, her fortune of $387,468 was willed to endow Smith College,[2] which was chartered in 1871[6] and opened its doors in 1875 with 14 students.[1] She also left money for the establishment of coeducational high school in her hometown of Hatfield, Massachusetts.[3]

The Last Will and Testament of Miss Sophia Smith

Beginning in the thirteenth section of her will, Smith outlines the provisions for what would soon become Smith College:

THIRTEENTH: I hereby make the following provisions for the establishment and maintenance of an Institution for the higher education of young women, with the design to furnish for my own sex means and facilities for education equal to those which are afforded now in our Colleges to young men.

It is my opinion that by the higher and more thorough Christian education of women, what are called their "wrongs" will be redressed, their wages adjusted, their weight of influence in reforming the evils of society will be greatly increased, as teachers, as writers, as mothers, as members of society, their power for good will be incalculably enlarged.

It is my wish that the Institution be so conducted, that during all coming time it shall do the most good to the greatest number. I would have it a perennial blessing to the country and the world.

FOURTEENTH: I hereby order and direct that said College shall be located in the Town of Northampton, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, provided the citizens of said Town of Northampton shall within two years after the probate of this Will raise and pay over or cause to be raised and paid over to the said Charles E. Forbes and George W. Hubbard, Trustees as aforesaid, or the Board of Trustees of said College, if the same shall have been incorporated and organized, the sum of Twenty Five Thousand, (25,000,) Dollars, to be added to the permanent fund of said College, and subject to all the regulations, requirements and restrictions, hereinbefore made, for the investment and expenditure of said fund. But if said Twenty Five Thousand, (25,000,) Dollars shall not be raised and paid over as aforesaid, then I order and direct that said College shall be located in the Town of Hatfield, aforesaid, and the provisions and directions hereinbefore made for the establishment of said College, for its regulation and management, the investment and expenditure of its funds shall be applicable to the same so located in said Town of Hatfield.[3]

Awards and achievements

In 1942, the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College was established as a repository of manuscripts, archives, photographs, periodicals, and other primary sources in women's history. Its first director was Margaret Storrs Grierson.[7]

In 2000, Smith was inducted posthumously to the National Women's Hall of Fame.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Sophia Smith". Archived from the original on January 27, 2013. Retrieved December 26, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c "Who Was Sophia Smith?". Five Colleges. Retrieved December 26, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c Quesnell, Quentin (1999). The Strange Disappearance of Sophia Smith. Northampton, MA: Smith College.
  4. ^ "Sophia Smith." Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1936. Biography in Context. Web. 4 Mar. 2014.
  5. ^ "Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech".
  6. ^ "Smith History". Smith College. Archived from the original on December 27, 2013. Retrieved December 26, 2013.
  7. ^ "About the SSC". Sophia Smith Collection. Smith College. Retrieved December 26, 2013.

Further reading