One hundred years ago today, on Sept. 23, 1915, The Collegiate School for Girls opened its doors to 75 girls at 1133 W. Franklin St. in downtown Richmond.
What was going on in 1915? Babe Ruth hit his first career home run, the Lusitania sank, Frank Sinatra was born, the first stone of the Lincoln Memorial was laid and World War I was under way.
The uncertainty of wartime did not deter our founder Miss Helen Baker, a South Carolina native who earned her master's degree at Columbia University and had long dreamed of starting her own school. She left her position as dean of Women's College (later called Westhampton College) to start the Collegiate School for Girls with no help from the likes of today's Kickstarter or Go Fund Me. In fact, her budget was meager and nearly led to the School's closing five years later.
The School's start, however, was strong. Following a summer of frequent advertising of her new venture in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Miss Baker and her colleague Miss Mary Carter Anderson, greeted newly enrolled girls at our first location at 1133 West Franklin Street. They promised a Lower School, Upper School and an Art School program that included instruction in drawing, basketry and metals. Using her Columbia and University of Richmond connections, she assembled a formidable faculty.
"It was almost like starting a whole new world," said Edmonia Beattie McKinstry '18 of the early days. Miss Baker's ideas about the new world were made clear when she wrote to the first graduating class, in 1919: "...above everything else, I would have you live for humanity's sake. I would have you good citizens in the widest sense."
Indeed, scholarship and citizenship remain our bedrock as we enter our second century, starting tomorrow. We'll continue to focus forward, inspired by the strength of our past and opportunities that await in our future.
Interested in the people, places and artifacts of Collegiate's past? Pick up a copy of Collegiate: 100 Years, our special Centennial book, at the Cougar Shop (741-9768). Packed with hundreds of photos and details about our evolution as a School, the book is a great read and makes a perfect gift for yourself or anyone who loves Collegiate.