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Wellesley College

Wellesley College is a private women's liberal-arts college in the town of Wellesley, Massachusetts, United States, west of Boston.


106 Central St

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College History


Wellesley College is one of the original Seven Sisters Colleges, a group of independent female colleges founded to parallel the formerly all-male Ivy League colleges. Wellesley was founded by Pauline and Henry Fowle Durant, believers in educational opportunity for women. Wellesley was founded with the intention to prepare women for "...great conflicts, for vast reforms in social life." Its charter was signed on March 17, 1870, by Massachusetts Governor William Claflin. The original name of the college was the Wellesley Female Seminary, and its renaming to Wellesley College was approved by the Massachusetts legislature on March 7, 1873. Wellesley first opened its doors to students on September 8, 1875. The first president of Wellesley was Ada Howard. There have been twelve more presidents in its history: Alice Elvira Freeman Palmer, Helen Almira Shafer, Julia Josephine Thomas Irvine, Caroline Hazard, Ellen Fitz Pendleton, Mildred H. McAfee (later Mildred McAfee Horton), Margaret Clapp, Ruth M. Adams, Barbara Wayne Newell, Nannerl Overholser Keohane (later the president of Duke University from 1993�2004), Diana Chapman Walsh, and H. Kim Bottomly. The original architecture of the college consisted of one very large building, College Hall, which was approximately 150 meters in length and five stories in height. The architect was Hammatt Billings. From its completion in 1875 until its destruction by fire in 1914, it was both an academic building and residential building. On March 17, 1914, College Hall was destroyed by fire, the precise cause of which was never officially established. The fire was first noticed by students who lived on the fourth floor near the zoology laboratory. It has been suggested that an electrical or chemical accident in this laboratory�specifically, an electrical incubator used in the breeding of beetles�triggered the fire. A group of residence halls, known as the Tower Court complex, are located on top of the hill where the old College Hall once stood. After the destruction of the central College Hall in 1914, the college adopted a master plan developed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., Arthur Shurcliff, and Ralph Adams Cram in 1921 and expanded into several new buildings. The campus hosted a Naval Reserve Officer training program during the Second World War and began to significantly revise its curriculum after the war and through the late 1960s.

College Specialty


"Not to be ministered unto but to minister," proclaims Wellesley's motto, capturing in four Latin words the College's mission: To provide an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world. Smart, serious women choose Wellesley because it offers one of the best liberal arts educations�and total learning environments�available anywhere. But they graduate with more than a highly regarded degree and four memorable years. They leave as �Wellesley women,� uniquely prepared to make meaningful personal and professional contributions to the �real world��and to be major influences in it. The world�s preeminent college for women, Wellesley is known for intellectual rigor, its belief in the enduring importance of service (and putting that belief into practice), and its cultivation in students of an inclusive, pragmatic approach to leadership.



Many of Wellesley's alumnae work in a variety of fields, ranging from government and public service to business to the arts. They include mountain climbers (Heidi Howkins, class of 1989, the only woman to lead expeditions to both Everest and K2), authors (such as Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, class of 1914, pen name Carolyn Keene), astronomers (including Annie Jump Cannon, class of 1884, who developed the well-known Harvard Classification of stars based upon temperature), astronauts (Pamela Melroy class of 1983), screenwriters, (including Nora Ephron, class of 1962, famous for such films as When Harry Met Sally... and Sleepless in Seattle), journalists (Linda Wertheimer, class of 1965, Lynn Sherr, class of 1963, Diane Sawyer, class of 1967, and Cokie Roberts, class of 1964, being a few notable examples), entrepreneurs (including Robin Chase, class of 1980, the co-founder of ZipCar), mathematicians (Winifred Edgerton Merrill, class of 1883, was the first American woman to ever receive a PhD in mathematics), judges (including Jane Bolin, class of 1928, the first African-American woman to become a judge, and current federal appeals judges Reena Raggi, Amalya Kearse, and Susan P. Graber). From the field of communications, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, class of 1991, CNBC Chief International Correspondent. Secretaries of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, class of 1969, and Madeleine Albright, class of 1959, have spoken with enthusiasm about the formative impact their Wellesley experiences had on their later careers. Soong May-ling (also known as Madame Chiang Kai-shek or Madame Chiang), the former First Lady of the China, attended Wellesley College studying English literature and philosophy; she graduated as one of the 33 Durant Scholars on June 19, 1917. On February 18, 1943, she became the first Chinese national and the second woman to address both houses of the U.S. Congress. She played a prominent role in the US-China relationship during World War II.



Suburban, 450 acres